An Easy Guide on How to Drain a Portable Air Conditioner

by Véronique Raymond
portable ac with drain pipe

Using a portable AC unit is a valuable way to cool your home, but you must know how to drain a portable air conditioner. Every portable unit has a water tank to hold any drainage (similar to a dehumidifier) and emptying it is an important part of air conditioner maintenance. Let’s review the various methods you can use to empty the water.

Ways to Drain a Portable Air Conditioner

There are four different ways that you can use to drain a portable air conditioning unit:

  • Drain into a Pan
  • Drain into a Sink or Bathtub
  • Use a Hose
  • Use a Condensate Pump

How to Drain a Portable Air Conditioning Unit

When the reservoir is full, it will shut down automatically to stop it from overflowing. Your device will let you know that it’s time to drain the excess water, usually by troubleshooting an indicator light, alarm, or error code. When you see or hear this warning, it’s essential to drain the water for the unit to continue working properly.

Let’s take a detailed look into the steps you need to follow to drain your AC. The first step is always to disconnect all power connected through the appliance.

Drain into a Pan

Put a drain pan under the drain port on the back of the unit. Remove the drain plug and allow your device to drain. When the plug is removed, the water should flow freely. After the unit has finished draining, replace the plug and plug the unit back into the outlet.

Note: Use towels to clean up any water that has spilled on your floor.

Drain into a Sink or Bathtub

After you’ve unplugged the air conditioner unit, carry it carefully to the bathtub or sink. To prevent leaking, take it slow and keep the unit level as you’re moving it. Set the unit on a flat surface, like the counter or the side of the bathtub. Once it is positioned, remove the plug and let the water run down the drain. Once the unit is empty, replace the plug, return the unit to its original place, and plug it in.

Use a Hose

A few AC units come with an option to use an exhaust hose for draining, so make sure you read the manual before choosing this option. Drain hoses remain connected and depend on gravity to drain out the water, which means the hose has to travel downwards. Utilize a drain hose whenever the AC is located in an area with a floor drain, like in a basement.

Before you start, make sure that the hose is secure and has a watertight fit to your drain port to avoid any leakage. It is possible to utilize the standard garden hose, but if it doesn’t fit properly, buy a suitable hose at a hardware store or an adapter (depending on the model of your air conditioner) for a proper fit. Then, connect your hose to the unit to ensure continuous drainage.

Use a Condensate Pump

You can also connect a condensate pump to the AC unit and remove or condensate water without relying on gravity. The pump is equipped with two hoses. One connects directly to the AC unit, and the second connects to the pump with an open end for water drainage. The drainage end of the hose goes outside a window, and the condensate pump automatically switches on when a certain amount of water accumulates within the AC unit. Then, it automatically shuts off after all of the water has drained.

portable ac in an exibition

Source: Flickr

Why Do You Need to Drain a Portable Air Conditioner?

As the unit cools down the room, it collects moisture. While most of the water evaporates, some remains inside the unit. If the surrounding air is humid, the AC cannot remove the water as fast as it collects it. The water collects inside a water reservoir, and you must drain it for the unit to work appropriately.

How Frequently Should You Drain a Portable Air Conditioner?

You might be thinking: How often should I drain my portable air conditioning unit? How often you have to empty the reservoir depends on how humid the air is in and around your home.

High humidity and heat can cause your AC unit to work harder and produce more condensation, which means you’ll have to drain it more often. It could be as frequently as every eight hours or once a month; it all boils down to the humidity levels.

What Are the Best Options for a Portable Air Conditioner?

Choosing an air conditioner to accommodate your needs can sometimes be a confusing and challenging task. If you want to buy an AC unit and are searching for the best portable air conditioner, take a look at our guide.


You can drain your portable air conditioner using any of the four simple ways we reviewed above; drain in a pan, drain in sink or tub, use a hose, or use a condensate pump. Remember, always unplug your unit from power before draining the water and consult your product’s manual guide to select the method that suits your model.

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