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Portable AC Buying Guide

Consider the benefits of purchasing a portable air conditioning unit. A portable air conditioner can easily deliver cool air to a non-ventilated room such as an upstairs area that may need additional cooling. Our air experts have done the research, now see the results with helpful hints that will aid you when you purchase your next portable air conditioner.

Portable AC Units
Convenient, self-contained, freestanding air quality control at your fingertips. Reduce cooling costs.
Portable AC
Perfect solution for apartment complexes or homeowner associations that have certain restrictions.
Portable Air Conditioners
Mobility provides air circulation in any room you choose, adding to portable air conditioner versatility.

How Do Portable Air Conditioners Work?

Portable Air Conditioner

Portable Air Conditioners are a convenient, self-contained, freestanding appliance that once you have chosen the right model for you, it will provide your home, garage, sunroom or work shop with just the right amount of cooled air, heat and/or dehumidification. Most portable air conditioners on the market dehumidify as they cool. There are also models that double as heaters, air purifiers and fans. Central air can be very expensive and inefficient. Not always do people have the option of installing standard window units in their homes such as in apartment complexes or homeowner associations that have certain restrictions.

Portable air conditioning units are an effective solution that can be used in all applications where other cool air producing applications will not suffice. Although each Portable AC will vary in size, color, special features and BTU output, they all aim for the same end result. Portable Air Conditioners all rely on the circulated air within them that is drawn from surrounding areas to produce the desired temperature you ask it for. The warm damp air is drawn in and replaced with "cycled" cool air and then produced into the designated area.

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What Size Portable Air Conditioner Do I Need?

When choosing a portable air conditioner, it is very important to take strong consideration as to what size will best fit your needs and the area you are using it in. If the air conditioner is too small for the desired area it will not be able to keep up with the cooling demands of the environment. Each portable air conditioning unit has its own specific rating of BTUs (British Thermal Unit), which is an indication of its cooling capacity. This does not mean that basing your purchase on the highest BTU rating is the route to go, as you can just as well buy a unit that has too many BTUs for your space as you can buy one that does not have enough, both of which have negative results.

Learn more about calculating the BTU requirements for covering your square footage on the chart below.

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Portable Air Conditioner BTU Calculator

BTUs Heat Load (Ambient Temp.) Room Size (Sq Ft.)
8,000 BTUs or Less Moderate 150 - 200
8,001 - 10,000 BTUs Moderate High 250 - 300
10,001 - 12,000 BTUs High 350 - 400
12,001 - 14,000 BTUs Very High 450 - 500

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How Do I Use Hoses For Portable Air Conditioners?

  • Single-Hose - The single hose portable air conditioner units work by pulling in air from a particular space, cooling it, then returning most of that air back into the room. The portion of the air not returned into the room will be used to cool the air unit and will be blown out of the unit's exhaust hose. It is suggested to pull this needed air from adjacent spaces, such as under a door or from a gap in a window. The name says it all, the single hose units require one hose to vent that comes from the back of the air conditioner to the vent kit.

  • Dual-Hose - The dual hose portable air conditioner units have a constant air circulation between two hoses. One hose that is designated as the exhaust hose to vent hot air and the other as the intake hose to draw in additional air (usually from the outside). Double hosed units are the models that usually provide more cooling power and have a higher BTU output. Because of the higher BTU capabilities of the dual hose air units, the intake hose is required to draw in extra air because it is cycled in larger amounts and the hot air is expelled at a faster rate. This causes a negative air pressure in the room and the solution is to have an intake hose bring in additional air into the room to stabilize the air pressure.

  • Vent Kit - Included with most all portable air conditioner units, a window vent kit usually consists of a window plate and an adapter for the plate. The adapter is used to fit the hose into the window plate which is then set into your window frame.

There are pro's and con's to each the single and dual hose applications. If you are uncertain about which unit to purchase, remember that some of the dual hose systems can be modified very easily to become single hose portable air conditioners.

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Where To Use A Portable Air Conditioner

Portable air conditioners are used for concentrated areas and typically will only provide a direct area temperature decrease by approximately 10-15 degrees F. Several factors play a role in the effectiveness of these air units such as the temperature in the room they're being used in, the climate you live in and the size of the space you are trying to cool. Portable air units work best at cooling the immediate area it's placed in. An area or ceiling fan will help the concentrated air travel further down hallways or into other rooms.

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How Do Portable Air Conditioners Drain?

While cooling, your portable air conditioner is also going to dehumidify and remove the water from the air. Depending upon the brand and model, your unit will handle the process differently.

  • Manually - This consists of an internal container such as a bucket that you will need to remove manually and empty regularly. Depending on the area you live in and the extent of use, this might need to happen every 8 hours to once a month.

  • Self-Evaporating - The more advanced portable air conditioning units can evaporate a lot of moisture into their hot air exhaust. That being said, there is very little if any water to empty dependent upon your usage.

  • Fully-Evaporating - A handful of portable air conditioner models are completely evaporative. This means there will not be any excess water to dump, which makes these units more desirable when you want the freedom to leave your unit running unattended.

Condensation Pumps are also available for some units to help pump the collected water through a drain hose. These pumps can move water upward if need be to drain water up and out through a near by window.

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What Are The Electrical & Power Requirements For A Portable AC?

Most portable air conditioners use the standard 110/120-volt power outlet and require no special wiring at all. Because air conditioners draw a significant amount of energy, be careful not to overload your circuit with another "high energy-consumption" device such as your refrigerator. Portable air conditioners that cool with a 14,000+ BTU may require special outlets and wiring. Each unit will have specifications within the description to let you know the electrical and power requirements.

The energy efficiency and energy requirements should be taken into consideration very heavily when making your final decisions on your new air conditioner. A higher energy efficiency unit often costs less in the long run than a less efficient unit.

Also keep in mind to pay attention to what the CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute) rating is. This rating is a measurement of the volume of air that leaves the air conditioner into the desired area. A higher CFM means more airflow from your unit into your room.

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What Is EER?

EER stands for "Energy Efficiency Ratio". This measures how efficient your portable air conditioner will operate when the outdoor temperature reaches a certain level. Usually this temperature is at 95 degrees F. The measurement is calculated as a ratio of BTUs to the amount of power your portable air conditioner consumes in watts.

Whether for the sake of our environment or to save on monthly energy bills, you should look at a portable air conditioner's EER. The higher the EER, the more energy efficient your unit will be.

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What Do I Need To Know About Portable AC Noise Levels?

No matter the model of portable air conditioner, whether it is listed as a "quiet" model or not, you will always get feedback. Since these units consist of and run off of a motorized fan and compressor system that cool and circulate the air produced, there is no way around the noise. The noise from these units can be compared to the hum of your refrigerator or a stand alone box fan.

Each portable air conditioning unit is unique in the special features that they are accommodated with. When it comes to the noise these units do produce, most consumers are concerned with having one in their bedrooms while trying to sleep. Some of these units come with a shut off timer which will help to control when it comes on while you are sleeping. Another aspect to take into consideration in regards to the noise level of your air unit is what it is placed on, such as carpet, the fan speed and the distance of the furniture that surrounds it causing reverberation.

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Portable Air Conditioners: Helpful Advice

We hope that this information on Portable Air Conditioners has helped you in making your decision on the perfect unit for you. We want your new air conditioner to be a lasting investment for you, so please remember:

  • Maintenance - Change your air filters regularly (usually once every summer).

  • Troubleshooting - If your air unit freezes, defrost the unit completely. Do not use the unit until it has been defrosted. Many of the models include a defrost mode for situations of this nature.

  • Warranty - Read over your warranty and act accordingly.

  • Storage - Always remember to drain your unit before storing it away.
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