How Long Can You Run a Portable Air Conditioner Continuously? Your Ultimate Guide

by Véronique Raymond
Portable Mobile Room Air Conditioner

A portable air conditioner can be the perfect solution to your cooling needs if you lack adequate room to fit a window or central AC in your home. If your portable air conditioner comes in handy to elevate the quality of the cool air indoors, you might be curious, ‘how long can you run a portable air conditioner continuously?’ After all, indoor air quality can be worse than that of the outdoors due to the numerous pollution sources in your home.

An air conditioning unit can elevate the quality of hot and cold air indoors since most pollutants are water-soluble. With the HVAC eliminating water from the atmosphere, it also effectively gets rid of these pollutants. Not quite like a dehumidifier, but similar. Portable air conditioners with a high-efficiency particulate air filter (HEPA) are more efficient because of their uncanny ability to eliminate pollen and particulate matter.

Nevertheless, you can reap the perks of improved cooling and air quality with proper AC maintenance. Keep in mind more frequent use leads to more strain which is why your AC also calls for maintenance and care.

Besides answering the popularly asked question, ‘how long can you run a portable air conditioner continuously?’ we’ll also answer how to do it safely. Read on!

Factors That Affect the Duration Your Portable Air Conditioner Runs

Let’s explore the factors that affect how long a portable AC should run.

Temperature Outside

It’s equally as important as the temperature indoors. If the temperature outside is hotter than indoors, the heat will penetrate the walls and force your AC to work harder and longer. Likewise, humid conditions will put a strain on your AC.

Thermostat Settings

Assuming you decide to keep your thermostat low during the humidity and heat of summer, your portable AC will work harder and longer to keep your home cool and comfortable.

Portable AC Size

If your AC is overly large, it’ll keep short-cycling, and its efforts to get rid of humidity in your home will prove futile. Contrarily, if your AC is too small, you’ll experience no change after 20 minutes as it might not be large enough for your home.

The State of Your AC

With proper care of your AC unit, it will serve you well for years down the road. If your unit is not frequently serviced and filthy, then the running cost will increase in the long run. That’s because it works harder to keep your home cool.

The Size of Your Space

The bigger your space is, the longer your AC will have to operate to keep it cool. For instance, a living room will require longer to cool than a bedroom. To avoid wastage of power and money, ensure you get the ideal-sized AC for your home.

Insulation Levels

Insulation plays a crucial role in the temperature regulation of your home. With minimal insulation, heat can easily seep into your home, forcing your AC to work for longer to keep the room cool.

Why It Is Unwise to Run a Portable AC Continuously

illustration of mobile air conditioner

Source: Shutterstock

Although you might be tempted to keep your AC running every day, it might not be the smartest move. How long can you run a portable air conditioner? A multitude of people usually runs their portable ACs anywhere between 5 and 12 hours continuously.

Each unit undergoes 15-minute cycles up to thrice per hour. With proper maintenance, rest cycles, and care, most portable ACs can provide great service for up to a decade.

Keeping your machine running for an extended duration will not only waste electricity and money but will strain the components and significantly reduce its lifespan. In some instances, the portable AC might become hazardous with prolonged use.

Many people run their AC for days on end, especially during the heat waves of summer. We recommend running your AC continuously for up to 12 hours at a time before you switch it off for a few hours to let it cool.

Common Portable AC Mistakes

To keep your unit working seamlessly for up to 10 years, avoid the following common mistakes.

1. Choosing the Wrong Portable AC

Various AC units are best suited to different environments as they come with modes, timers, and customized features.

2. Disregarding the Size of the Space and BTU Ratings

The BTU of an AC unit measures its capacity. Machines with greater BTUs can function for extended periods. Investing in a weaker unit for a large room will significantly reduce its lifespan.

3. Failure to Consider the Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER)

Before hastily purchasing a portable AC unit, take the time to read and understand the features, including the EER. Doing so means you’ll select a machine that can provide the ideal satisfaction levels for your home.

4. Ignoring the Ventilation Requirements

The venting system of an AC unit is the key to optimum function. Ensure that its ventilation system is a great fit for your home to prevent the unit from overheating and becoming a hazard.

5. Failure to Factor in the Power Considerations

Check the AC power requirement and FAQ beforehand to make sure you have the ideal outlets at your disposal.

6. Overlooking Filter Changes

Failure to replace the AC filters and checking your refrigerant frequently (as per the manufacturer’s instructions) strains the unit as it’s forced to work harder to operate at a fundamental level, diminishing its lifespan and cooling power. You’ll probably notice hot or warm air blowing through the exhaust hose if the AC starts to fail.

7. Setting the Thermostat Overly Low

Think of your thermostat as an aid for your portable AC unit. It should be gradually adjusted weekly to avoid straining the machine.

8. Poorly Positioning the Vents and Thermostats

Keep the vents and thermostats away from direct sunlight to make sure they don’t produce inaccurate readings that prevent the unit from functioning properly.

9. Keeping the Doors and Windows Open

While it might seem like a no-brainer to open the doors and windows while your portable AC unit is running, it has the opposite effect. That means you’ll waste your money and power. Instead, find a quiet machine that’ll allow you to keep all the doors and windows in your home closed. The only time you should have a window open is if you have a window AC, in which case it’ll have to sit in the window.

10. Cooling Empty Spaces

If you’re not going to be in a particular room for an hour or more, it’s pointless to cool it. You’re wasting electricity and wearing out your portable AC unit.

11. Failure to Drain the Unit

All AC units create condensation that’s placed in a reservoir or sucked out of the system and must be drained for optimal function.

How to Extend the Life of your Portable AC Unit

Let’s explore a few pointers to keep your air conditioning system working seamlessly for years down the road.

Position the Unit in the Ideal Location

Unlike a window air conditioner, positioning your portable unit by a window or door, in an empty room, or in direct sunlight is a surefire way to waste money and power. Instead, keep the doors and windows closed and remember to shut the blinds or curtains while in an AC room to avoid unnecessary strain on it.

Use the Recommended Power Source

It’s a no-brainer that with the ideal level and type of power, it will function optimally. Using the wrong power source will waste your time and deter the AC unit from functioning as it should. While smaller units usually require standard voltage requirements, there’s no harm in double-checking with the manufacturer.

Frequently Replace the Filters

Set a reminder to replace the filters as per the manufacturer’s instructions to prevent your portable AC unit from overheating due to extra strain. To cut down on costs, you can opt for reusable filters.

Proper Storage During Winter

Elements such as mould and frost can penetrate your AC’s components and damage them while the unit is in storage during winter. To avoid this, ensure you store it in a dry, sheltered place when it’s not in use.

To Wrap Up: How Long Can You Run a Portable Air Conditioner Continuously?

Air conditioners work very well are keeping airflow clean and cool, but there’s no fixed timeframe to use your AC unit. While you can leave the central air running for an entire night or day, like other electric devices, its components will wear out prematurely, and you’ll have a hefty electricity bill to pay. Homeowners should always be aware of how long your system is running, what your desired temperature is, the room size and square feet of the house to ensure a long-lasting AC unit.


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