Portable Air Conditioner Buying Guide

Portable Air Conditioner Buying Guide
Portable air conditioners not only help keep you cool during hot summer months, but they also help allergy sufferers keep their allergies under control by regulating indoor temperatures and humidity levels. Dust mites and mold spores are two of the most potent and prevalent allergens that can flourish in warm, damp environments. These two menaces, which can aggravate both allergy and asthma symptoms, can be more easily controlled by keeping temperature and humidity levels low.

Controlling humidity levels and keeping allergies under control go hand-in-hand. Allergy sufferers should monitor humidity levels and use portable air conditioners and dehumidifiers during the spring and summer while using humidifiers during the winter and falls months to keep humidity levels between 40 and 50 percent. This range keeps your indoor climate comfortable but inhibits mold and dust mite growth while maintaining enough moisture in the air to prevent flare ups associated with dry skin and nasal passages.

How Portable Air Conditioners Work

Portable Air Conditioner InstallationA portable air conditioner operates the same way as a window air conditioner does. They both lower the temperature by cooling the hot air in your room and exhausting the heat byproduct out the window. Hot air from the room is passed over a coil cooled by refrigerant gas. This cool air is then circulated back into the room with excess heat and moisture byproducts being exhausted outdoors.

A primary difference is that portable air conditioners come with an exhaust hose (or two) that directs the hot air from the back of the unit through a window. You could also cut a hole in a wall for a more permanent exhaust option. Window air conditioner units do not have this feature, because the exhaust is already outside. Most portable air conditioners also have a water tank to collect the excess condensate, or water, from the air. Each portable air conditioner we offer features some sort of self or auto evaporation whereby the warm exhaust air captures the condensate that is extracted during the cooling process. Then this moist, warm air mix is pushed out of the room via the exhaust hose. While most portable models will expel the majority of the condensate in this manner, in more humid conditions, excess condensate settles in an internal tank. This tank needs to be emptied occasionally to keep the unit working properly. Another important distinction is that overall, portable air conditioners require slightly more BTU's to cool the same space as a window air conditioner. This is primarily due to the design, and though the difference is not enormous, there is a distinction. The trade of is portability and easier installation for a unit that cools slightly less efficiently.

Control Mold by Controlling Humidity If you are allergic to dust mites or mold, or if you smell a musty, mildew-like odor in your home, or see condensation on windows, walls, or floors, then you should seriously consider using a portable air conditioner (PAC) to improve the indoor air quality during the summer months. Some allergens, such as mold, can turn into a serious and difficult problem to solve if allowed to grow unchecked in your home. In addition to health concerns, excess moisture speeds the natural process of oxidation. From metals to wood, every material found on this planet is subject to the process of decay and deterioration through oxidation.

While researching a PAC, there are some important factors to keep in mind before you make your purchase.

BTU Cooling Power

Air Conditioner BTUA BTU, or British Thermal Unit, is a unit used to measure energy. This is a common term used to describe how much heating or cooling energy an appliance will generate. As with BTU's in heating, the higher the BTU's in a portable air conditioner, the more cool air it can generate in any given time period. When you know the size of the room you can then more easily determine what BTU portable air conditioner will best meet your needs. For smaller spaces and less populated rooms, a Haier CPRB08XCJ with 8,000 BTUs is perfect. For larger or more populated spaces, the Royal Sovereign ARP-1400WW with 13,500 BTU is likely a better fit. The maximum BTU machine we offer is Haier CPN14XC9 with 14,000 BTU's of cooling power that can tackled the largest spaces in your home or office. One simple way to determine what size of portable air conditioner you need is to use this graph below.

Square Footage BTU
100 - 200 8,000 - 10,000
200 - 300 10,000 - 12,000
300 - 400 12,000 - 14,000
400+ 14,000+

These are only rough guidelines. Keep in mind that several factors can increase or decrease the BTU's you will need to effectively cool your space. Kitchens are particular warm areas, so if you are buying to cool a kitchen, plan on purchasing an air conditioner that is about 4,000 BTU's higher than one based on space alone. Shaded areas reduce the BTU load as opposed to sunny areas or second story rooms where your BTU load will have to be higher to compensate for the additional heat. Lastly, keep in mind how many people will be in the room. Our bodies are a perpetual source of heat and our BTU ratings are more suited for two people being in the cooled room. You can expect to increase your BTU requirement by approximately 500 BTU's per additional person in the room. In all, this is a bit of a balancing act. You can factor in all of these things but if you don't have properly insulated room, it will likely never get as cool as you would like. For importantly, keep all of your heat sources in mind when selecting an air conditioner.

Portable AC Installation and Maintenance

Proper installation, maintenance, and cleaning of a portable AC unit is very important to keeping the unit in proper working order. Check out our article on installing a portable air conditioner for a step-by-step preview of the set up process.

The air filter should be cleaned every 2 weeks or every 100 hours of use to maintain proper air flow. Take the filter out of the unit. Most of the air filters can be cleaned with soft cloth or with a vacuum cleaner attachment. You can use a mild detergent on most filters. Make sure the filter is completely dry before replacing in the unit. Some models, like the Delonghi PAC-T110P have a 3M filter in them. Though this does mean better air filtration while you run your air conditioner it also means a little more in maintenance costs since Filtrete filters cannot be cleaned and must be replaced. Some Sunpentown portable air conditioners have a thin layer of activated carbon. Replacement can be done once per year or when you feel the unit is not filtering odors as well as normal.

To clean the outside of the your portable AC. Turn the unit off and unplug. Wipe with a soft, damp cloth. You can use a mild detergent. Be sure to allow the unit to dry completely, and do not use harsh chemicals on the surface. Some models have glossy finishes that harsh chemicals can damage. Also, avoid splashing water on or into the portable AC unit. As with any electric appliance, this can severely damage the unit and put you at risk of shock.

Dual vs. Single Exhaust Hose

Hose type is a distinct factor between portable air conditioners. There are single and dual hose units. Dual hose portable air conditioners have two separate air intakes and one outtake hose. From one intake air is pulled from inside the room, cooled then expelled back into the room. The process to cool the air and power the fan, creates heat. To remedy this generated heat, a hose pulls air from outside the room or home into the unit to specifically cool the compressor and motor. The outtake, or exhaust, hose expels all warm air from the unit. This differs from single hose units in that a single hose portable air conditioner pulls air in only from inside the room. Once it is cooled, some of this cooled air is then forced over the compressor to cool it. From here, the air is expelled though the outtake hose.

The problem with a single hose method is that ultimately you are removing air from inside the room. This creates a negative air pressure, and air, from cracks under doors, around windows and other places, will enter the room to rebalance the air pressure. This means warmer outside air is indirectly being pulled back into the room or home. While dual hose units are ideal, they are not always the best option depending for your particular situation. And in general, dual hose units tend to be more expensive.

Portable Air Conditioner Energy Usage

Energy Usage

Like all appliances, different portable ACs use different amounts of energy for operation. Typical air conditioners can use anywhere from 800 to 1000 watts. (For comparison sake, a typical lamp uses about 60 watts, while a typical computer uses about 365 watts). None of the portable air conditioners that we offer are energy-star rated. While comparing portable air conditioner models, pay attention to the Energy Efficiency Ration (EER). This is a simple ratio calculated to determine how much of the energy being used it actually creating cool. The higher the ratio, the greater the amount of consumbed energy is actually being used to cool your room, as opposed to other functions of the machine.

Portable Air Conditioner Noise

Noise Level

All of our portable air conditioners are relatively quiet, but they are going to make some noise. Most of these units use technology and quality components to combat vibration and keep the noise level down. However, you are going to be able to hear these running especially when they are cooling. The noise level is very similar to a window air conditioner and roughly equivalent of most air purifiers. In fact, one of the quietest air conditioners that we sell is the new Friedrich Kuhl window air conditioner. This ground-breaking and advanced window unit was engineered with noise reduction in mind.

Ease of Use

Easy to Use and to Set Up

Most portable air conditioners are designed to be user friendly and to be portable! All of these machines come on casters (wheels) and they all have hand grips to make them easier to maneuver. Portable air conditioners are relatively easy to set up and you do not have to lift and maneuver a heavy window air conditioning unit. One model, the Royal Sovereign ARP-2412 has a fully retractable exhaust hose. This makes moving it from room to room even easier.

For example, Haier portable air conditioners feature electronic controls, a remote control, the new R-410A refrigerant, a removable and easy-to-clean air filter, a window kit with exhaust hose, and a drain outlet. Look for these features that will make your life easier:

  • BTU cooling power
  • LCD display with remote control
  • 24 hour On / Off Timer
  • At least three fan and cooling speeds
  • Maneuverability - PACs come with wheels or casters for easy transport and nearly all come with built in handles.
  • Dehumidifier functionality

Manufacturer's Reputation

Manufacturer's Reputation

Portable air conditioners are still a relatively new product in the marketplace. Like any other air conditioner, dehumidifier, or air purifier, some manufacturers make a better product than others. A manufacturer's reputation and the experiences of past customers deserve consideration in your decision.

Certain manufacturers and products are highly respected in the industry for a reason—and the same goes for products which have garnered less respect. So whether it is a review or award issued by a nationally recognized magazine or simply an excellent review from someone just like you, it pays to do your research before buying.

Portable Air Conditioners Warranty


All of our portable air conditioners come with a one year warranty. A one-year warranty is the industry standard. There are some units that have longer warranties on the compressors. Take into account what the warranty covers — motor, fan, electrical components? Warranties are your insurance policy against defect and malfunction, so it is prudent to take these into account when choosing a dehumidifier for your home.