When the summer is getting close and the temperature begins to rise, it’s time to think about how you can make yourself comfortable. If you already have an effective central system, you don’t need to do worry at all, just change the filters and you’re good to go.
But if you don’t have good air conditioning, it’s time to make some plans and fast, before the heatwave comes.
If you’re thinking about cool air, you have a few options, including a portable air conditioner. These have become increasingly popular in the past decade, but how good are portable air conditioners?
What is a portable air conditioner?
A portable air conditioner as the name indicates is an air conditioner that is mobile. Unlike window, through-the-wall, or central air conditioning units, portable units do not require permanent installation. Commonly, these units have caster wheels for easy portability, are relatively lightweight and are generally about 28″ to 34″ tall. (source)
How a Portable Air Conditioner Works
In essence, portable air conditioners thermodynamic principles are very much the same as with all other air conditioners.
The objective is to extract the heat out of a room and transfer that heat outside. That’s why every portable conditioner has 3 key components:
- Refrigerant (to cool the air).
- Compressor (to compress the refrigerant).
- Fan (to move the air).
Every portable air conditioner operates based on the refrigeration cycle. Here is a quick sketch of how the refrigeration cycle looks in theory:
This is basically how a portable air conditioner works:
- The fan sucks the hot and humid air from the indoor room inside the portable air conditioner.
- Inside the unit, the hot and humid air is cooled down by condensing on cold coils. This cools down the air and extracts the moisture. This is where the heat from the air is transferred to the refrigerant in the coils. That turns the refrigerant fluid into a gas.
- The cool air is vented back into the room.
- The moisture from the air is gathered and can be vented outside or you have to manually remove the bucket.
- The refrigerant in gas form is compressed by the compressor on the so-called ‘condenser coils’. The heat that is released by this process is vented out of the exhaust vent installed through the window/sliding door.
- This cycle goes on and on.
Factors That Will Determine How Effective Your Portable Air Conditioner
Air conditioners use a lot of electricity to keep your home cool, and that’s true regardless of what kind you use. Your total cost will be based largely on how often your portable or window air conditioner cycles on — and how long it stays on.
This will depend on several factors:
The hotter it is outside, the more hot air you’ll have to remove from your house. It doesn’t take as much energy to cool a room to 72 degrees on a 77-degree day as it does to get cool on a 95-degree day. You can mitigate how much you spend by turning your thermostat up on the hottest days.
For your air conditioning to have enough cooling power to actually make your rooms noticeably more comfortable, it needs to be sized properly. One window air conditioner, for example, will never provide enough cooling for an entire house.
To make sure your portable air conditioner is sized properly for the room you plan to cool, you need to look at its BTU rating, which measures the unit’s cooling power. For smaller rooms of 200 square feet, a unit with 8,000 BTUs should suffice. For a large living room of 600 sq. ft., look for a portable air conditioner with 14,000 BTUs.
The Cost of Electricity
These costs tend to rise with demand during the hottest summer months, so getting cool during a heatwave in May probably won’t cost you as much as seeking relief in August. If you’re subject to prices that fluctuate during peak periods, it may even be cheaper to run your portable AC at night than it is during the day.
There is two type of portable ACS:
- Single-hose a
- Two-hose units
Single-Hose Portable Air Conditioners
Single-hose portable air conditioners are the most common ones. They also tend to be cheaper too.
They have one single hose installed through a window, or even through a wall. That hose only has one purpose: to serve as an exhaust vent for the hot air.
In essence, the single-hose portable air conditioner sucks in the hot room air and vents it outdoors via a single hose.
While this is the simplest way of how a portable air conditioner operates, you can obviously see that the single-hose AC unit literally sucks the air out of a room without replacing it.
Here we have the best portable air conditioner for bedrooms with a single hose – The BPACT08WT Portable Air Conditioner
Double-Hose Portable AC Unit
Double-hose portable air conditioners are less common, more difficult to install, and more expensive. But they can achieve higher energy-efficiency ratings and replace indoor air with fresh outdoor air.
The way a double-hose portable air conditioner works is by using:
- First hose to bring the fresh air in from the outside.
- Second hose to vent the hot indoor air out (the single-hose portable AC units only have this one).
By having one hose to bring the air indoors, you don’t experience that lower pressure the single-hose portable AC units might cause. That means that the air is better conditioned inside the room where the double-hose unit is located.
On top of that, you get the additional benefits when operating a dual-hose portable AC unit:
- Higher energy efficiency. Because the unit doesn’t have to work against low pressure, the EER rating of dual-hose portable AC units can be above 10.
- Quicker cooling. Obviously, two hoses can condition the air much faster than a single hose.
Here we have the best portable AC with a dual hose – Whynter ARC-14S 14,000 BTU Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner
How Good Are Portable Air Conditioners? The Pros and Cons
- It gives you access to your windows. For apartments with only a few windows, blocking the only source of natural light with a chunky window unit could be a non-starter. Portable air conditioners also allow you some flexibility about where you place the unit to work with the traffic flow in your room. Window units, not so much.
- It’s ready to use right out of the box. You don’t need any help in in installing a portable air conditioner. You won’t even need any tools if you get a handy window kit to fit the exhaust hose in place with your window a few inches ajar. All you have to do is plug it in to beat the heat.
- It’s generally less efficient. Portable air conditioners often take more BTUs and therefore use more electricity. This is likely because they generate waste heat indoors instead of outside, creating more overall heat for the unit to deal with.
- It could get loud. Portable air conditioners have all their working parts right inside the same room where you may want to eat or watch TV, so the noise level may be disruptive.
How to install a portable air conditioner unit
Portable AC can be remarkably convenient for many homeowners and renters, and they are an affordable way to bring a little cool air into your living space. They can also be a lifesaver if your regular air conditioner is broken. If you decide to give portable air conditioning a try, be sure to measure your room so that you purchase a unit that is sized properly for the space, and you’re likely to enjoy a comfortable home all summer long.