How To Choose A Portable Air Conditioner

by Véronique Raymond
portable air conditioner

Portable air conditioners are extremely popular products for getting rid of hot air in small rooms or houses/apartments without central air conditioning.

Their cost, maintenance demands, and energy efficiency are superior to that of standard whole-house air conditioning units too, so they are great options for people who need cooling power on a budget.

Whether you are getting advice from an associate in a store or doing your own shopping on Amazon, there are some questions you need to consider and a long list of features to prioritise.

Overall, there’s a lot that goes into choosing a portable air conditioner; let’s investigate.


Questions To Ask Yourself

How Many Square Feet Do I Need It To Cover?

Most portable ac units are window air conditioners, and they will require a fixed position for an exhaust hose to expel all of the heat and moisture it collects. As a result, you won’t be able to move the machine easily on a daily basis. Considering the coverage area you need taken care of is therefore an important step before you start browsing, as you’ll need to have an idea of the window unit’s ideal size and cooling capacity.

What Do I Need A Portable AC Unit For?

Portable air conditioners actually have two functions; the main is to create cool air and the other is to dehumidify the air. Deciding the importance of each of these functions is a step you should take before committing to a purchase. Some models will have dehumidification as a minor secondary function that happens as a by product of cooling the air. If you have a real need for a machine that relieves the humidity in your home in addition to cooling the air, you’ll want to prioritise your search with machines that can actively dehumidify without changing the air temperature simultaneously.

Will It Be Working With An HVAC System Or As A Standalone?

Some people purchase a portable air conditioner as their sole relief from summer heat, but others choose to use it in conjunction with their central air system in order to target certain rooms that aren’t cooling as effectively, have an excess level of warm air production from machines or appliances, or that require a cooler temperature than the rest of the home. Making this distinction before shopping for a portable window AC unit will help you narrow down the market to models that suit your airflow and square footage needs.

How Portable Does It Really Need To Be?

The best portable air conditioners are not always as portable as you’d expect, so it is a good idea to understand your needs before you start shopping. If the machine needs to be movable on a regular basis, you’ll want to avoid a model that comes with a window kit because it will be more difficult to get it mobile. Instead, a simple exhaust hose draped out an open window or sliding door will be best. If a more permanent solution is needed, a venting kit unit is more ideal.

Will A Professional Install It Or Is This A DIY Project?

Most portable air conditioners can be installed with minimal hassle by the average individual. However, some machines will require a slightly more complex or permanent installation that you may be more comfortable handing off to a professional handyman. Being aware of your capabilities is important in order to ensure that you experience a successful and painless installation process.


Features To Consider

portable air conditioner

There is a wide range of portable air conditioners on the market, and they will all have their own collection of features. Since it would be almost impossible to find a single unit that fits your budget, room size, and comes with all of the features you want, you’ll have to prioritise.

BTU Rating

The BTU (british thermal units) rating of a portable air conditioner is a representation of its power and cooling capacity. For small rooms, a minimum of 7500 BTU is ideal. Medium rooms should be managed by a 10,000 BTU machine, and large rooms will require a machine with a rating of 15,000 BTU or more.

Single-Hose Vs Dual-Hose

The two main model types for portable air conditioners are single hose and dual hose. Single hose units will be less expensive and simpler to install, but they will also be less effective due to their simpler design. Dual hose models are chosen more often for larger spaces due to their superiority in efficiency. They will be more expensive and more difficult to maintain, however.

Programmable Timer and/or Thermostat

Most modern portable air conditioners will have a built in thermostat and/or timer that offers you the convenience of a set it and forget it machine. For example, most timers will have a range of less than an hour to multiple hours that can allow you to effectively cool down a room when you need to leave without wasting any energy. Thermostat control allows you to set your ideal temperature and have the machine maintain it for you; this system will use more energy as the machine is always on to some degree, but it is the more convenient of the two.

Self-Evaporative Vs Gravity Drain Vs Tank System

Air conditioners work by using a compressor to generate refrigerant, and then cycling that refrigerant through condenser coils to draw moisture out of the air and cool down the temperature. There are three ways that a portable AC unit can get rid of this moisture. The most common option is a self-evaporative method; the moisture will be sent by evaporator coils to turn it back into water vapor so it can be expelled with the hot air. A gravity drain system uses a hose to constantly drain the water from the machine; this will require a bit more setup but is also quite convenient. Tank systems aren’t all that popular anymore, but there is still the chance that you’ll come across a model that uses a water reservoir to contain the water until you dump it out. This will require vigilance on your part to ensure that it doesn’t get full.

Remote Control or Wifi Connectivity

It is not uncommon for portable air conditioners to come with a remote control. This enables you to control various settings without needing to physically touch the machine; the convenience of this speaks for itself. If you’re looking for machine control that goes a step farther, you may want to investigate units that offer WiFi connectivity. You’ll be able to use an app on your smartphone to adjust settings rather than relying on a physical remote that you may end up losing.

Dehumidifying Capacity

The dehumidifying function of portable ACs is not a static feature. It varies depending on the size and purpose of a unit. Some models will function as passive dehumidifiers, meaning they only remove as much moisture as is naturally removed as the air is cooled down. Other machines can take a more active role and are actually capable of dehumidifying the air without adjusting the temperature.

Noise Level/Decibel Rating

If you plan on leaving your portable AC unit running constantly, especially overnight, the noise rating of the machine is an important consideration you need to make. Many Frigidaire, Whynter, and Black+Decker models use thoughtful designs to limit the noise of the machine and reduce the disruption to your life. The noise level of the fan is usually balanced in order to cover the noise of the compressor but not affect your daily living.

Fan Speeds

Most portable air conditioners are outfitted with multiple fan speeds in order to adjust to the air quality and temperature. If the room air is very hot and humid, the machine should run at full capacity. If the air is just a bit warm and not overly humid, the lower settings will be more than capable of handling the job effectively and with limited waste of power.

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is an important factor to consider when looking at a machine that is going to be running for long periods of time. You should always look for a unit that is Energy Star certified in order to ensure it is efficient with its energy usage and won’t be too damaging on the environment or your wallet.


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