Remember our story about Jack and his troubles with heating his large winter home when he’s staying there alone although he has a brand new central heating system? Well, this story might be very similar to that. Portable air conditioners are not only a great way to quickly and inexpensively solve your air conditioning issues but they also might come as a really handy solution even for those who already have a kind of a central air conditioning unit in place.
Portable ACs are easier to install than any other air conditioning solutions so they are a kind of on-demand air conditioning that can be quickly operational anywhere either as a main AC or a backup solution when the other conventional air conditioning methods aren’t applicable due to technical, economical or some other reasons.
These ACs are perfect for those who don’t have any tolerance towards possible surprises with how they will perform after the installation, would all the parts get mounted correctly etc. Portable AC models are something that once you receive it, it either works perfectly or doesn’t. There is not much space left to blame on wrong installation or something similar if the unit isn’t working as described. Simply, these are a kind of what-you-see-is-what-you-get units and if you find a good one, you can’t go wrong with it.
NOTE: If you are looking for the quietest portable air conditioners, you might want to check a list of our picks that we made taking the noise-level as the main factor while deciding about the best picks.
OUR TOP PICK: Haier HPN12XCM 12000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
This 14000 BTU unit from Haier has everything you can expect from a portable air conditioner.
It has a stylish design that will make it blend with the rest of your furniture.
With its 14000 BTUs capacity, this AC is expected to work best in rooms of up to 525 square feet however, this may vary with this kind of ACs depending of various conditions.
It comes with a full function remote and a basic display on the casing of the AC. It has a built in thermometer which will let you to digitally adjust preferred temperature of the room. There are three cooling and three fan speeds. Another handy feature is a built-in timer which lets you to program this AC to turn off after some times which is great option to use when you go to sleep.
One of the cool features is a slide-out washable mesh filter that is easy to be removed anytime you need to clean it. Also, the auto evaporation feature will save you from the manual draining work that is usually necessary with air conditioners of this type.
It comes with the built-in wheels and is easy to move around the room. However, you should be aware that this unit is not something that you can easily carry around without using the wheels. You will probably need some help if you need to move them to another room or floor.
This air conditioner comes with the installation kit and the plastic window-mounted panels are made of stronger materials than what is usually expected from the ACs of this type.
The provided hose is 6 feet long when fully stretched and it is very flexible and easy to handle.
This AC, as the most of the portables ACs can be also used as a very handy dehumidifier i.e. you don’t have to turn the cooling on while using it for this purpose.
- Cheaper than the competitors of same capacity and features
- Nice stylish design
- Easy to remove washable filter
- No need to do the manual draining
- Easy to move around the room
- Not the quietest portable AC – you will probably need to spend couple of days around it before getting used to the noise that it produces
- Not easy to move downstairs or upstairs
- Can struggle to cool larger rooms, make sure you have the proper cooling capacity for your room
OVERALL IMPRESSION: This portable AC unit is a great combination of features that puts this AC among the best units of this type and size.
BEST FOR BUDGET: Koldfront PAC802W 8000 BTU Portable AC And Dehumidifier
This 8000 BTU unit from Koldfront is a great small companion to anyone who needs to cool their small room quickly. This particular model with its all features is a great buy for the price, compared to the ACs with similar features.
With its 8000 BTU capacity it can cover the area of up to 250 square feet.
For a small unit like this one, it has more than what you would expect when it comes to options and features.
It has a full control remote, a range of programmable options such as built-in 24h timer and the sleep mode, three fan speeds, a built-in digital display on the casing and easily removable and washable filter.
One of the cool features is the option that makes the louvers to auto swing i.e. to move upwards and downwards continuously – something that can’t be always found within the ACs of this price range. Of course, this option can be turned of to the static mode if you don’t want it to change the direction of the airflow.
It comes with an installation kit that is simple to use and easy to install. This is a single-hose AC and with its dimensions of 34.5″ H x 18.75″ W x 15.75″ D it will fit nicely into the smaller rooms and take less space.
It has a built-in thermometer so you can set up your own preferred temperature that you want to achieve and this little unit will work diligently to make it happen.
This AC has built-in wheels and is easy to move around. When it comes to the noise-level, this AC isn’t the quietest one however, it isn’t the loudest either. Once your room gets cooled to the desired temperature, the condenser will get turned off which will leave only the fans working thus producing much less of the unwanted noise.
- Great buy for the price
- Good to be used within smaller rooms
- A wide range of control options for an unit of this price and capacity
- Auto-swing louvers
- It has its limits regarding the cooling capacity, this unit is primarily built for smaller rooms and also it can start struggling to beat the heat if the ambient temperature is above 90 degrees.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: This is a great buy for the budget. Has all of the standard features that you can usually only find in more expensive ACs. It is a great buy for smaller rooms but beware of the fact that it is a small AC which has its own limits.
BEST FOR LARGE ROOMS: Whynter ARC-143MX 14000 BTU Portable AC With Dual Hose
This 14000 BTU portable air conditioner can cool rooms up to 800 square feet which makes it one of the better choices for large rooms.
Besides the fact that this model is expected to offer a good performance in large rooms, it also has a wide range of other features which make it to deserve its place on the ours best picks list.
One of the coolest features is the auto-drain function. This means that, in most cases, you can forget about manual removal of the collected water inside. This technology ensures that the condensated water is exhausted automatically through the process of recycling and reusing it for cooling of the air.
Besides the standard air conditioner mode, this AC can also work in fan-only or dehumidifier-only modes. It has a built in thermostat which lets you control the desired temperature of the room to achieve. Needless to mention, this model comes with a full control remote.
Although you might be buying this model for regular use in home, you might want to know that it has been also specialized for use in server rooms and data centers. This makes it a serious competitor on the market of larger capacity portable air conditioners.
This model has also some nasty filtering features. It has a built-in pre-filter which prevents large particles to get anywhere close to the inside of the AC. And then, there is the antimicrobial air filter inside.
For an unit of this capacity, the maximum power consumption of 1250 Watts sounds like a pretty good deal.
It is a dual hose unit which makes it a better choice when it comes to efficiency.
And the noise level of this particular unit is around 56 dbA which is not the quietest unit out there but still is reasonably quiet.
- Built for serious usage, good for cooling larger rooms
- Self-evaporative technology ensures hassle free draining
- Has two layers of air filtering
- Acceptable noise-level for an unit of this type
- Might be harder to move around as it is a larger model
- Cooling capacity might vary from being able to cover 400 to 800 square feet of surface, depending on your place and how do you install it
OVERALL IMPRESSION: Whynter has really worked hard on making this particular model special and for serious use. The fact that the model is also specialized for commercial use in data centers is also very encouraging. All of the given features and options make this unit a good choice for cooling larger rooms.
BEST FOR MID-SIZED ROOMS: Black + Decker 10000 BTU Portable AC
This Black + Decker portable AC, with its capacity and features is a great fit for use in medium-sized rooms.
This 10000 BTU unit has expected to work best in 150 to 250 square feet space.
It is a single hose AC unit with all the standard features that you might expect from a model of this capacity and price. It has built-in led display, programmable set of controls with a full control remote.
The filter is easy to remove and is washable and can be reused after cleaning.
It comes with the installation kit that contains the hose, side panels and other accessories needed for easy installation.
Note that the hose is only 5 feet long and the side panels wouldn’t cover larger windows.
- A nicely designed and efficient unit perfect for mid-sized rooms, can cool your room very quickly
- Easy to move around
- Comes with a full control remote controller
- The digital display can be too bright during the night so you have to cover it
- The side panels provided in the installation kit might need some extra insulation to prevent the leaking of the air from the outside
OVERALL IMPRESSION: This portable air conditioner has all the standard features and if you are in search for something to efficiently cool down a mid-size room, this might be a good buy for you.
BEST FOR SMALL ROOMS: Honeywell MO08CESWK 8000 BTU Portable AC
When buying a portable AC, Honeywell is one of the brands that can offer something different and still very efficient.
This 8000 BTU unit is a perfect buy for smaller rooms but it can actually cool even mid-sized rooms. This unit should perform the best in rooms of up to 350 square feet surfaces.
This might be a small unit but it has all the best features that you can find in even more expensive models.
It is easy to maintain with simple to remove washable filter that alerts you when needed to be cleaned. The maintenance is even easier with the auto-evaporation feature that will minimize the need of manual draining of the condensed water from the AC.
It has a dual and durable filtration system to filter both large and small particles from the air.
Compared to other competitors of this capacity, this air conditioner is pretty lightweight and easy to move around, weighing only 45 pounds.
Can be used also in a fan-only or dehumidifier-only mode and has built in digital thermostat to easily adjust the desired temperature.
This is a single-hose unit and comes with easy to install window kit.
- Small and lightweight unit with pretty solid cooling capacity
- Can fit anywhere (14.6 x 13.5 x 27.7 inches)
- Easy to move around (45 pounds)
- Reasonably quiet
- Has all the standard programmable options with a digital thermostat and remote controller
- The installation kit might be an easy to install one but it seems that it is not built from the best materials, you need be prepared to do some DIY insulation as a reinforcement to what you get from the basic installation kit.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: This small but powerful AC can surprise you positively with its performance. However, since this is a single hose AC you need to make sure that your room is well insulated and check for all the possible gaps where the air could leak into the inside of your room. Based from what we found while reading other buyers’ reviews, this is pretty crucial for this unit to be fully operational and achieve its best performance. If the rooms insulation is weak, this small unit will not manage to cool it properly. Other than that, this should be a great fit for a smaller room.
RISING STAR: Honeywell MM14CHCS 14000 BTU Portable AC + Heater
If you carefully read all of the above reviews of our picks regarding the best portable air conditioners, you could have noted that we haven’t included there any of the models that can be used also as heaters. Although we decided to focus on the cooling units primarily, this list would be incomplete without at least one model that can do the heating as well.
This AC from the Honeywell brand, however, can be also used as a heater.
This unit has 14000 BTU cooling capacityand 13000 BTU heating capacity. It is recommended to be used within up to 550 square feet rooms.
This model performs pretty well as a dehumidifier also, with the capacity of up to 79.2 pints per day.
With its stylish and unique design and reasonably low operational noise-level (up to 55 dbA), this portable AC can be a great fit for any home.
It has all the standard features including washable filters, thermal overload protection of the compressor, built-in 24-hour timer, built-in thermometer and a digital display. Also comes with the full control remote.
This is a dual hose model however the provided installation kit might contain only one hose that is used as exhaust. If you don’t get both of the hoses, make sure you purchase additional one and put it in place since these units will perform way better if both of the hoses are attached properly.
For this capacity, it is not that large measuring only 15.7 x 16.5 x 29.3 inches and weighing 79 pounds.
The auto-evaporation feature, which will save you from doing the draining work, makes this unit’s feature list fully complete and puts this model as one of the best options for those who are looking an all in one solution for air conditioning their home.
- Can be used as cooler, heater, fan and dehumidifier
- Has great cooling and heating capacity that can cover even larger rooms
- Nice and stylish design
- Relatively small, lightweight and quiet
- The heater might not be the perfect solution for larger rooms, if you plan to use it in a larger room, depending on how harsh the winters are in you area, you might want to do so only if you are using it as a supplemental heating unit
- The noise of the fan might be the same level as for the low speed and high speed setting
OVERALL IMPRESSION: This portable air conditioner has all the features and options that you might need from an unit of this type. The fact that it also comes with the heat pump gives it advantage over other competitors if you need an unit to use during the whole year.
Everything That You Should Know About Portable Air Conditioners – The Pros, Cons, Alternatives And Guides
In this article we are going to get you closer to finding the best portable air conditioner, if you are here to find one.
Truth to be told, portable air conditioners might not be the greatest solution for cooling your space but, if they weren’t any good they wouldn’t even exist, right?
There is a specific use case for each of the ACs on the market. In other words, what might look just crappy to you could be someone else’s treasure.
Not everyone will find window air conditioners that cool to be used just because they make a slightly more noise than mini-split ACs for example, however, you will see them installed everywhere. Why? Because they are cheaper and much easier to install than the split systems.
And if you ask those who use window ACs why wouldn’t they buy the much quieter and in general more reliable split systems, they would probably tell you that the split ACs are too complicated to install and to complicated to remove.
So before you end up writing a negative review on Amazon for your newly purchased portable air conditioner, you might want to get to know more about them, find if they are really something what you need and eventually find a better alternative that might cost just the same amount that you would pay anyways.
Here we prepared for you an in-detail guide regarding some of the most crucial aspects of portable air conditioners that you might want to know before buying one.
Portable Air Conditioners vs Window & Mini-Split ACs
Portable air conditioners, as their name reveals it all, are primarily made to be portable so you can move them around quickly and easily and put them just anywhere you want and turn them on to do what they are designed for.
Sounds too simple right? Yes, but this might be the single most important feature that someone might be looking for when buying one.
This type of ACs might look weird and you could start thinking that this would be rather a kind of a toy among air conditioners than a serious device that can really cool the room but, these devices actually can be pretty efficient and they can cost as much as a smaller mini-split system (which is not the cheapest air conditioning solution on the market, btw).
So, the main feature of this kind of ACs is portability. But, honestly they aren’t all that portable as you might think. Actually, they are very similar to window air conditioners.
While the whole machinery is indeed placed into a single casing that you can move around your room as you wish, they still can’t cool your space without getting somehow connected with the outside. So, these units come with at least one hose that goes from the AC to a specially designed hook which is placed onto a window. In essence, they are still a kind of a window air conditioners, because they need this window-mounted part to work properly.
The hose is connected with the window-mounted hook so it can blow the hot air that originates as a result of internal heating of the AC parts while they are working i.e. the hose primarily serves as a heat exhaust to cool down your AC.
So, if we consider only this criteria, i.e. the ease of the installation, the portable ACs would still be at the first place, before window and mini-split ACs.
When it comes to their weight, you should know that this depends of the size and capacity of the particular model. There are larger portable ACs that will be extremely hard to move upstairs or downstairs while they should be all easy to move around the room since all of them have built in wheels for this purpose.
NOTE: If you thought that you can use a portable AC without connecting the exhaust hose to the window, you are wrong. You can leave it to work like that but its efficiency will be really low and you might end up with a device that, instead of cooling your place, will be heating your room.
Some could say that window ACs aren’t either that hard to install, which is also true, but when we consider all the available sizes of portable ACs and window ACs, we can tell that portable ones are still easier to install. Of course, following this criteria, the mini-split systems would come as the last on the list of the air conditioning units that are easiest to install.
Now, when it comes to efficiency, portable ACs aren’t that great as the other models. These units might be a great solution for a smaller room, however, they are pretty limited when it comes to cooling / heating capacity.
While mini-split systems and some lager window units can have enough of capacity for air conditioning even a large house, portable units are rarely good to be used in spaces that have more than a single room.
According to what’s currently offered on the market, the maximum cooling / heating capacity to expect from these ACs would be up to 15000 BTU. Anything above that would simply be too noisy and would produce too much of internal heat that would cause serious issues to itself while operating.
Another cool feature that portable ACs have is the fact that they can run as dehumidifiers only. This is usually not the case with window units though. You can put most of the portable models into the dehumidifying mode without having your room cooled and that might be a great pro for someone who gets to deal with a lot of humidity inside their spaces.
This can be a really helpful feature to use even during the winter as well, especially if you have a small room where you spend a lot of time with some well sealed windows and you want to keep your room nice and warm – you can get of unwanted moisture and humidity using some of these portable AC devices.
Understanding portable ACs
There is plenty of misconception regarding these units even among the people who already use them for a longer time. Portable ACs aren’t just for fun. These aren’t fancy toys that you put in your room only for good looks. This stuff really works and some of these models that we presented you today are actually even specialized for commercial use in server rooms and data centers.
If understood and installed properly, these units can be excellent choice since they are way easier to maintain and they can be installed where putting a different type of AC would be either impossible or too expensive.
These models are very sensitive to the fact how well your room is insulated from possible leaks of the air from outside. This is especially the case with the single hose units which do not pull any extra air from anywhere but are constantly sending some hot air to the outside. If your room is not well insulated for air leaks, then a single-hose unit can perform really bad in it.
Knowing this and other facts that you can find in this article regarding how they work is crucial to know if this type of ACs is a good fit for you and once you buy it to know how to properly handle it so you get the best out of it.
How much of space do they really take
There is one really important thing to know about portable ACs (considering that you never had one or newer saw someone using them), and that is the fact that they might look nicer on pictures than in real life.
Why? Well, the hose (there is at least one and better models even have two of them) has to carry out the internal heat from the AC to the outside. So, what you usually won’t see in the pictures is the hose and how it is mounted onto a window. These hoses might really take plenty of space and they might look like an old-fashioned furnace with weird pipes coming out of it. And all this can unexpectedly add up to the total space they take.
So, the design is probably not the best side of these units. If we compare these three earlier mentioned types of ACs by their design, portable ACs wouldn’t really be at the first place.
While they might look like a nice little things that are easy to move anywhere, the reality is a slightly different – you still have to place them as close to the windows as possible and preferably to put them to the windows that aren’t that high from the floors so the hose could be hidden behind the AC properly.
They can be great as supplemental or backup AC units
If you have a larger split air conditioning system or a window unit and you don’t need it always turned on, the portable units can come as handy as supplemental units to be used when you don’t want or can’t use your main air conditioning solution.
Also, you can use them as an aid to your existing air conditioner if there’s a need for that.
They can also be good to use in cases where you have plenty of rooms and if you, for some reason, need something that is quick to move between the rooms and easy to turn on.
Portable AC units require less effort to install
Another great thing about these ACs is that almost anyone, even small kids, can move them around the room and install where needed.
The installation process is so simple that you really won’t need more than 10 minutes to make this unit operational anywhere where it is applicable and even less to remove them when you don’t need them. This is not the case neither with most of the window units and especially with the split systems where you really need to be a true handyman to handle the whole installation process properly.
They might be good if you need them as heaters as well
There are portable ACs that can be used both as coolers and heaters and while they might not be always the best solution to use as coolers, they might be actually surprisingly good as heaters.
So, if you need a solution like this one that can also heat up your space and you don’t want to spend your money on buying an additional portable heater, there’s another pro to add up to the list.
Don’t forget the windows
As we said it earlier, although they are called portable air conditioners, they still need windows or some kind of vent hole to operate properly. Of course, they can’t be called window unitsbecause they aren’t – except the fact that there’s a hook to be installed onto a window to get the hose placed properly.
Beware that you will need to have a sliding window in order to install these ACs properly.
Most of these models will come with an installation kit that contains everything you need to install them quickly. You will get some foldable PVC panels to cover the side gaps and a hook mounted on them where the hose coming from the AC gets connected.
If you don’t have a sliding window or any vent-hole in your room, you will either have to invent a way how to get the hose out or to look for a better model. Using your portable AC without mounting a hose is not really an option at all.
Are they easier or harder to maintain?
Every type of air conditioner requires at least some maintenance. Whether it be recharging it with the refrigerator, cleaning the filters or draining the condensated liquid water.
While it is hard to decide what type of ACs is the easiest to maintain once when set up, we could say that portable ACs might not be at the top of that list. Unlike window units or mini split systems which you can usually set and forget for a longer time, portable ACs require more attention around them.
The fact that all of the parts are placed inside your room makes them more needy when it comes to the maintenance.
You need to care about the draining (removing the condensated liquid water from inside if it is not evaporated automatically) and you need to clean them from inside at least once every year.
You don’t really have to do this with the window units and especially not with the mini split systems.
If you want to reduce the maintenance work, when choosing a portable AC look for those who have strong auto evaporation features and for those who have very good filters.
What to look for when buying portable air conditioner
Portable air conditioners are probably the trickiest purchase among all of the ACs on the market. This is mainly due to plenty of misconception among reviewers regarding how they work and where they should be used.
There might be a large number of reviewers who dislike the concept of portable ACs at all. However, there is many more of those who find this kind of air conditioners useful. So, whom to trust?
Why not trust the both of the sides at the same time? Even though if you have already decided that you want to buy a portable AC, paying some extra attention to the negative experiences from other people who previously bought similar units can help you choose the unit that will be a good fit for your place.
When buying a portable air conditioner, there are couple of things that you should take in account before buying.
Choosing the proper capacity that will work best for your space
It is not uncommon to see a complaint like this one, from the existing buyers of portable ACs:
- I bought a 12000 BTU unit which was said to be enough to cool my 400 square feet garage only to find out that it can’t get even close to cooling it.
And this is pretty true with this kind of ACs. The way they are built makes them not so much reliable regarding the ratio between the BTUs and the surface of your space where you plan to use an unit like this one.
These ACs don’t have any outside parts. This means that it is harder for these units to cool the air in your room since they aren’t taking any from the outside. The inside parts that produce internal heat while working aren’t placed any close to the outside, as it is the case with other types of ACs.
All this and many other external conditions add up to the overall performance of the unit.
Your portable AC won’t perform the same if you put it into a small room stacked with all kinds of fancy furniture and if you put it into the same room but with more free space around it.
Even more powerful AC systems like mini-split ACs need to have clear space around them to operate properly.
Knowing that increased number of the owners of this type of air conditioners have been complaining that these units can happen to struggle to do the cooling properly for their room size, you should check twice if the given cooling capacity of the unit you want to buy is the one that will be enough for your room.
Of course you shouldn’t rush yourself into buying double amount of BTUs neither. Rather focus on reading all the reviews that might be covering this particular issue and then you can eventually go for taking an unit that has a thousand or two BTUs more than what you think that would be enough.
NOTE: How well a portable AC will perform also largely depends on how well your room is insulated from air leaks – if you leave the doors open or if there are any leaks of air through the gaps around the doors or windows, your portable AC might perform way worse than expected and this is especially the case for the single hose portable air conditioners.
Dual hose or single hose unit?
When buying portable air conditioners, you might get to the point where you need to make a choice between a dual hose and a single hose unit. We will try to explain it here how both of these types of portable ACs work.
Single hose portable air conditioners are working so they take all of the air they operate with from inside of your room. The most of the air they take from the room is sent back as cooled air to the inside of the room and this process is happening all the time. However, a small amount of that air is constantly being pumped out to the outside through the hose because your single hose AC uses this air to cool himself i.e. its inner parts that get too hot as a result of constant operation.
This way, your room gradually has less and less air left inside because there is no any other vent that lets the new air inside. This usually is not a big issue because from time to time you open the doors, the air leaks inside through all of kinds of gaps anyways. However, if you have a kind of a sealed room with strong insulation on windows and doors then your AC can build up a kind of negative atmospheric pressure within your room and leave you with less of the air.
Now the true problem here is that the single hose unit won’t work well if the room is not well enough insulated for air leaks however, when you have a 100% sealed room, you might have issues with the air pressure inside of your room, if using this kind of AC.
Unlike the single hose units, dual hose units have another vent hole which is used to bring the air inside.
A dual hose unit still takes the air from your room, cools it down and sends it back to the inside of the room. However, it doesn’t take any of it to cool down its internal parts. For this purpose serves the other hose which brings the air in then this air is used only to cool down the inner parts of the AC (which are usually hotter than the outside air anyways) and then the air gets sent back to the outside through the exhaust hose.
So, long story short, dual hose units should be performing better than single hose units because they constantly cool down the air which they take from your room and they do not send any of it outside, unlike single hose models. However, they can be a little bit more expensive and they might need more room to fit properly during the installation.
And here’s a fun fact, plenty of buyers of the dual hose ACs will actually rather use them as single hose units simply deciding not to install the other hose as it looks less weird with one.
Getting the proper size
Although they look like tiny ACs on the photos, when they arrive to your home, they will, in most cases feel like a lot larger.
These units aren’t tiny, there are smalls among them but bear in mind that the larger ones might be really large. So if you don’t want to get surprised regarding this, grab a measuring tape, see what are exact dimensions of the AC that you plan to buy and then try to depict how large it will be when it arrives. This way you can plan where to put it exactly and you will avoid getting surprised with how large the unit is – and this is actually something that happens often to the buyers of this kind of air conditioners.
Another thing to check for is the weight of these units. They are called portable but they aren’t all that lightweight as you might expect. Although most of the models of this type will have tiny wheels attached so you can move them easily around the room, moving it anywhere else where you have to lift it could be a true adventure especially when going downstairs and upstairs.
How the draining is done?
When buying an AC of this type, there is one more important thing to consider before you buy one – what are the options regarding the draining of the collected water inside.
As you might figured it out already, portable air conditioners while taking the air from your room and sending it back after cooling it, they also get some moisture out of it depending of the given setup. And also, you can use them fully as dehumidifiers even without cooling the air. This is pretty cool during the hot summer when there’s a lot of humidity in the air but this also requires a proper maintenance of the AC unit.
From time to time you need to remove the liquid water that collects inside. So although it might sound now as something that’s not a big deal to do, you could change your mind if you need to take care about this every couple of days. So, this is why you need to pay extra attention regarding how this process is done. There are plenty of various options regarding this on the market and the best option would be to have an unit that will evaporate the most of this water automatically and you will rarely have to remove it manually at all.
Do you also need it as a heater
Portable ACs aren’t only good as coolers, there are models that come with a built-in heat pump which means that they can work as heaters as well.
Even though portable ACs are designed to easily install during the summer and remove them during the winter, if you are looking for something that would stay in your room permanently, then you might want to consider buying a model that has the heating option as well.
You might hear some complaints that these units aren’t the best solution for heating but this really depends on the capacity of the heat pump in first place. Not all the portable ACs that can be used both for cooling and heating have the same capacity for these two modes. So, if you are buying one and plan to use it also as a heater, make sure you check if the heating capacity is equal the cooling capacity.
Another factor that can impact the performance of your portable AC when used as heater is how low the temperatures can go in your area. If you live in the area where the temperatures can go extremely low during the winter, you are probably already aware of the fact that an unit like this one might not be enough.
However, despite the fact that the heating feature might not be always perfect in portable ACs, you still can get some benefits out of it using it as a supplemental heater.
For example, if you already have a central heating system, you can use the portable AC as heater as long as it can hold the temperature to the desired level and keep the central system only for the coldest days.
A Step By Step Tutorial On How To Install A Portable Air Conditioner
You should already be aware by now that portable ACs still have to be installed to work properly – it is not enough just to bring them into the room and press the button to turn them on. But, the good news is that the installation process is fairly easy.
If you are still concerned about whether you will be able to install a portable AC that you just bought, you shouldn’t really be. The installation process for the portable air conditioning units is really simple so even small kids could probably do it.
Before you do anything
There is a very important thing to know for anyone who is buying portable air conditioners and this might be even applicable to any type of ACs on the market:
The air conditioner has to be shipped in an upright position. However, this isn’t always possible so often it might happen that you get it shipped in a different position than required.
This is still totally OK but you need to take some precautionary steps in order to make sure that your AC will work properly when turned on.
First, you need to ask the shipping guy to be honest with you and tell you if the unit was shipped in an upright direction as advised (always better to ask even if you see it standing in the upright position).
If there’s any doubt that the unit wasn’t shipped properly you need to put it upright and leave it to stay like that for at least 24 hours. This is very important to do with portable ACs since they are more sensitive to this kind of issues.
Many buyers actually do not notice this warning put on the box and not following these instructions can actually cause malfunctions to your device despite the fact that it is brand new.
Preparing for the installation
Before you bring the air conditioner into your room, you need to make sure that there is either a sliding window (both horizontal and vertical sliding windows are good enough) or a vent-hole where you can put the window-mounted hook which connects to the hose.
If you can choose between a vent-hole and a window, maybe you would rather want to go with the first one. Especially if it is placed somewhere closer to the floor so you don’t have to extend the hose too much to reach the vent-hole.
NOTE: If there’s neither a vent-hole nor a sliding window in your room, you still might find a proper way to install the AC. The hose needs to conduct the air from the AC unit to the outside, this can be through the window, vent-hole, doors or anything similar. The most important thing to know regarding this is that the surrounding of the hose has to be insulated properly i.e. there shouldn’t be any gaps around it and no air should be able to pass through from outside or inside.
There are some use-cases where you can see this kind of ACs installed so the hose goes above through the ceiling. This is, indeed, something that you could do if you really have to but in that case your portable air conditioner would suddenly become much less portable.
When choosing a location where to put your portable AC, it is really up to you. There’s not much difference where you are putting it except the fact that it will be quieter if put at the distance and you will feel the cooling effect better if you put it somewhere closer to you.
Some people buy these just because of this single reason – they can simply put the unit next to them and not care too much if the rest of the room isn’t properly cooled.
You also want to make sure that you got everything you need to do the installation successfully. The installation kit usually contains a short guide on how to do it on your own, the PVC panels that are used to fill the gaps and that are connected to the hose hook. This is pretty much everything that you will need to do the basic installation properly.
NOTE: If the installation kit doesn’t contain some self-adhesive weather strips for the windows, you should get some since these strips are a great way to insulate all the possible small gaps that can occur when mounting the side panels to the window.
Another thing you want to check before starting the installation is how far from the place where you planned to mount your AC is the closest electricity outlet. If anyhow possible, this should be your only option when it comes to connecting your portable AC to the power source. Using an extension cord is not recommended.
NOTE: It is very important to know that you should avoid using an extension cord for powering your AC since these are pretty powerful units that can pull a lot of watts of electricity from the circuit. You don’t want to deal with melted wires or similar. However, if you really have to use the cord, you need to make sure that you have a proper one with the thick wires and stronger insulation around them.
The next important thing to consider when choosing a perfect location to install a portable unit is if there are objects that would be too close to the unit. You want to avoid placing it close to anything that could block the needed airflow. Portable AC requires some free space around it so it can work the best.
Once you finally know where to put the AC, you can check if there are any instructions on how to install and connect the parts for your AC – this is good to do because these steps may be slightly different for every model.
Mounting the hose hook onto the window
First and hardest step to do regarding the installation is to mount the window adapter (i.e. the hose hook) properly.
Basically, you need to take the PVC panel with the hook and place it onto your window as it would fit the best. Then you need to measure if there’s need to either add an extra plate or to cut the basic plate. In both cases you might need to do some cutting but don’t forget that the plates are foldable and that if you need to extend the basic one, you should always avoid cutting if possible.
Once you make sure about how to position the window adapter, you can add some self-adhesive weather strips all around the adapter before putting it in place, in order to avoid any possible gaps that could occur between the parts of the window and the PVC panels. This will prevent unwanted leaking of the air from the outside.
If you don’t have any PVC panels provided within the installation kit, you can use some regular plywood to insulate the gaps.
Although this may vary from a model to model, the quality of these side panels provided by the manufacturer is usually pretty low. If you feel like you could do a better insulation on your own, you probably should go for that. Ideally, you could combine some extra materials as plywood and styrofoam to strengthen the low quality PVC plates.
Remember, proper insulation is very important when using portable ACs.
NOTE: If you plan to connect your hose onto an existing vent-hole, you can use anything that can help you insulate the gaps properly – even a good old duct tape can be enough to do this properly.
Connecting the hoose with the window adapter
For this step, you want to check the installation manual if provided. This is better to do because if you just go and try doing it without informing yourself about the way it should be done, you could end up breaking some parts of the installation kit which you probably don’t want to happen especially if you need your AC to start cooling asap.
When connecting the hose to the window hook, you need to make sure that hose is bent as advised in the user manual. You want to avoid any kind of bending where the air couldn’t flow properly through the hose.
NOTE: If you have a dual hose unit which has separate hoses for the air intake and outtake, make sure that you properly connect them both. Do not leave the intake hose not installed as many people do this thinking that it will improve the cooling but, the fact is that this way you will only decrease efficiency of your AC.
Maintaining Portable Air Conditioners
Any air conditioner that you buy will require some maintenance. With portable air conditioners, the proper maintenance is somehow more important than when using window units or mini split systems.
Portable ACs require some extra care and maintenance and the main reason for this is the fact that the whole unit is placed inside your room, there aren’t any parts that are outside except the hose which serves as exhaust for the hot air from the AC.
There are models which also have a tube that needs to go to the outside if you are using the portable AC as a dehumidifier. However, in most of the cases you have to deal with the collected water on your own. The collected moisture is generally one of the main concerns when it comes to the maintenance of this kind of ACs.
We will here give you a few tips regarding what you should take care of in order to properly maintain your portable AC.
Draining the collected liquid water
Every air conditioner, not only the portable ones, will produce some liquid water output while working. And, as you might already seen it (or felt it on your own skin while passing below an air conditioner on the street) the window or mini split units leak small drops of water constantly while working.
This happens because, while cooling your room, air conditioner also works as a dehumidifier. So, it is collecting the moisture from your place and turns it into a liquid water.
Portable air conditioners can do this even better than the other types of ACs (i.e. they can be used only as dehumidifiers which is hard to expect from window units for example) however given the fact that the whole casing is placed completely inside your room, the installation of the hose needed for the draining is not always possible.
These ACs can still work normally even if you don’t have this tube attached but you need to take more care about the liquid water that collects inside it.
Although portable ACs can get rid of most of this liquid during the evaporation process, it still might collect inside and you need to remove it from time to time.
So, if you need to do the draining manually, all you have to do is make sure that you turn of your AC, find a proper-sized bowl to collect the water and simply put it below the AC and remove the cap.
NOTE: While doing this you need to take care that the water leaks into the bowl and not over the parts of the air conditioner, you can use a stool to put your AC on it while doing this, to make it easier to collect all of the water properly.
Also, you should know that there are usually two different drain plugs. So when you finish with emptying the liquid water from the main drain plug that is somewhere at the middle of the back side of the unit, there should be also a small drain plug at the bottom of the back side. Once you have the bowl below it ready, you can remove the cap and the water will start coming out. You can tilt the AC to get all of it out but you need to be careful not to mess the main hose and other parts of the unit while doing this.
NOTE: Before you start with the draining, you might want to put a layer of a plastic wrap foil around the parts of the AC that might get wet during the process (usually, you will be able to wrap the whole body below the main drain plug).
Also note that the draining procedure might vary and won’t be the same for all of the models of portable ACs so, you might want to look for user manual before doing this.
Cleaning the filters
Dirty filters on your portable AC can prevent the normal air-flow which can cause your unit to perform worse in many ways.
Consider your portable AC as a kind of a vacuum cleaner for the air. If you ever cleaned the dust from your furniture, you know that it can collect quickly there and leave you wondering from where it actually came.
A portable AC works so it is sucking the air that is already in your room and then it cools it and spreads it back to the room. The hose is used to conduct only a small amount of hot air that originates as a result of internal heating of the AC while working. So, in essence, with its filters on it, it also serves as a kind of air purifier. This is why you need to take extra care about the filters.
The filters need to be cleaned regularly and this is why they made them easy to remove in first place.
Most of the newer models will have easy washable and removable filters built-in so this is something that you can easily figure out how to do on your own. If you need help with your particular model, you can always check the user manual.
NOTE: When washing a filter, make sure that you dry it outside of the cooler before you put it back inside. You might want to use a solution of warm water and some soap while doing this.
Cleaning the inside of the AC
If you, after using a portable air conditioner for a while, start feeling weird smells from inside, don’t get surprised. These units can get smelly and it is up to you to regularly take care about this.
Portable ACs, because of the fact that they are placed as a whole inside your room, they need to be cleaned from a time to time completely.
This means that you have to open the casing and clean some inside parts.
If you don’t know how often to do this, you could consider doing it at least once every year before you put it back in use for the summer days.
The main part to clean inside your AC is the condenser and evaporator which can collect a kind of moisturized dust that smells really bad.
The hardest part here is probably to open the casing of the portable unit and this is something that you need to figure out how to do on your own because this process of opening the casing can vary significantly from model to model.
Once you have your portable AC open, you can use a vacuum cleaner to remove all the dust from the condenser and evaporator.
While doing this, make sure not to move or damage the inside parts.
If your portable air conditioner is not being used as a heater during the winter, then you will probably have to remove it and store it somewhere until the summer comes again.
It is important to know what to do in case you don’t plan to use your unit during the winter.
One of the first things to do is to make sure that there is no any condensated water inside the unit. So, you need to drain the tanks. A great thing that you can do after you removed all of the inside water is to run the AC in fan-only mode for about half an hour in order to get rid of any moisture that might be left inside.
Of course, cleaning the filters and doing a complete clan up from inside as described in the step above, is something that is highly recommended in this case.
Note that when you leave your AC uncleaned and with some moisture inside, there are plenty ways how this can negatively affect your unit including bad smell from inside and even malfunction of some of the vital parts of the unit.
Wrapping It Up
There are plenty of misconceptions regarding the portable air conditioners – from how they work to how they should be used.
These relatively small portable units still can do their job – which is to cool your room in first place and yes, they can be used as heaters as well. They are great dehumidifiers as well.
In this article we tried to get the portable ACs closer to you, to help you understand them better and eventually get you closer to the model that would perfectly fit your needs.
Buying portable air conditioner is a challenge of its own kind but once you find the one that works well, you might be happy about it more than you expected.
We hope that you were able to find some useful information and tips while reading this in-detail guide on finding the best portable AC. Cheers!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a portable AC as efficient as a window unit?
Portable ACs, because of the way they are made, have generally less cooling capacity than what can be seen in window units. Although a 14000 BTU portable AC unit should be as efficient as a 14000 BTU window unit, the true cooling capacity of your portable AC might heavily depend on how good your insulation is and many other factors that portable ACs are more sensitive to.
Should I choose a portable AC over a mini-split or a window unit?
This depends on your needs and the limits of the place where you live as well as of your budget. Portable ACs are, for example, good for those who are renting and can’t do any modifications in their apartments. Mini-split systems however might be better for you if you own a house and you don’t mind paying extra money for the installation. And the window units are generally slightly cheaper than portable ACs. So, if you for some reason can’t install a mini-split or window unit, portable AC is probably the only solution left.
Are portable ACs small and easy to carry around?
While they are made to be portable in first place these units, most of the times, might not be neither small or lightweight to carry around. Yes, they have the wheels and are indeed easy to move around the room but, if you have to move them upstairs or downstairs you will need at least one person to help you because they can weigh as much as 100 pounds. There is also one thing that makes these units to appear even larger than they are – the hose (or hoses) which you have to install to make sure your portable AC works properly.
Can I use a portable AC as a heater as well?
Yes, if there’s a built-in heat pump, you can use it also as a heater during the winter. However, the heating capacity is usually smaller than the cooling capacity thus if you use it as a heater for the same surface as where you used it as a cooler, it might not be enough to keep your place as warm as expected.
Can I use a portable air conditioner without the hose?
Although you can do this technically, i.e. no one can prevent you from doing so, it is highly recommended not to do this. Simply because the hose serves as exhaust for the inner heat produced by your AC. Therefore if you don’t attach the hose, your portable AC will literally start to work as a heater.
Can I use a dual hose unit with only one hose installed?
Yes, you can. The dual hose unit can work efficiently with only the exhaust hose connected to the window adapter but using both of the hoses will improve its performance. The dual hose option is a feature that costs extra money so if you have it you should be using it.
Do I need to have a sliding window to install a portable AC?
In most cases this is what would be the best way to go. The most of the installation kits only support this kind of windows however, if you have a vent-hole you can use that as well to connect your hose.
Should I look for buying an unit with more BTUs when buying a portable AC?
Portable ACs should be as efficient as the other air conditioners when it comes to their specified cooling capacity. However, due to the fact that plenty of people don’t use them properly, they might seem as less efficient. So if you are not sure that your room is well insulated from air leaks, you should consider buying a slightly larger capacity when buying a portable AC.
Are dual hose portable ACs better than single hose ones?
Dual hose portable ACs are better because they will use the air from the outside to cool themselves i.e. to remove the inner heat which is a product of constant operating. This means that the air within your room will be intact with this process and your portable AC won’t use any of it for cooling its inner parts. This is not the case with single hose models which will everytime when they need to cool themselves pump a small amount of air from your room to the outside which can make your AC less efficient if you don’t have a good insulation.
Do I need to manually drain my portable AC?
Most of the portable ACs will come with some kind of self-evaporative feature that should reduce the need of manual draining. However, if there are places where the air from the outside can leak into your room, you might get plenty of condensate water and even have to drain it every couple of hours. This is especially the case with single hose models. Most of the models will have a vent at the bottom of the back of the casing where you can connect a pipe to get it drained to the outside.
What do I do if my portable AC was not shipped in an upright position?
It is very important not to turn on your portable AC if you aren’t sure that it was shipped in an upright position. Once you receive it, you should put it upright and leave it to stay like that for at least 24 hours before turning it on. Turning it on before doing this might cause serious damage to your portable AC and make it not perform as it should.
Are portable ACs easy to install?
Yes they are, the installation could be done by anyone since it doesn’t require any special skills nor lifting heavy parts. The installation kit will contain all the instructions and parts that you need and if you have a proper sized sliding window, the installation shouldn’t last more than ten minutes.
How should I maintain my portable AC?
Portable air conditioners are pretty easy to maintain. If you don’t live in a very humid area, you might not need to even drain the condensate water from it at all. You can also clear the filters from a time to time and you should open the casing and clean it from inside with a vacuum cleaner at least once per year. Other than this, there’s not much left to do when it comes to maintaining your portable AC.