The Complete Buyer’s Guide To Choosing The Best Portable Air Conditioner For You
The goal of this guide is simple – to provide you with a complete and comprehensive guide and all the knowledge you need in order select, buy and operate a portable air conditioner that is the best fit for you.
The article is split into 3 parts.
- Part 1 – Selecting the Best Portable Air Conditioner
- Part 2 – Installing and Running a PAC
- Part 3 – The Health and Wellbeing Benefits of Cool, Clean Air
In a hurry? Check out our best rated portable air conditioners for each size of room:
My Top Picks Summary from Amazon.com
- 1 Part 1 – Selecting the Best Portable Air Conditioner
- 1.1 What is a Portable Air Conditioner?
- 1.2 What Types of Air Conditioner Are On the Market?
- 1.3 Who are Portable Air Conditioner Units Ideal For?
- 1.4 What are the Pros and Cons of PAC Units?
- 1.5 The 13 Key Features of Portable Air Conditioners
- 1.6 Special Focus: Smallest Portable Air Conditioner (click to expand)
- 1.7 Analysis of The Smallest Portable Air Conditioners on the Market
- 1.8 What Classifies as a Small Portable Air Conditioner
- 1.9 Smallest Portable Air Conditioner
- 1.10 Top 3 Smallest Portable Air Conditioners
- 1.11 External Venting, Is It Really A Requirement?
- 1.12 Single vs Dual Hose Designs: What Are Their Advantages And Disadvantages?
- 1.13 What Does BTU and EER Mean?
- 2 Part 2 – Installing and Running a Portable Air Conditioner
- 3 Part 3 – The Health Benefits of Cool, Clean Air
Part 1 – Selecting the Best Portable Air Conditioner
What is a Portable Air Conditioner?
A portable air conditioner (PAC) is a small unit, about the size of a water cooler, which cools hot air in your home or business. It’s portable because unlike window, wall-mounted or central air conditioning units they can be easily moved from one room to the next. They normally come on castors which makes moving them even easier.
All they need is a mains power source and a window to vent the hot air out of. They can normally be set up in a matter of minutes and come in a variation of ratings to suit the size of the room they will be used to cool. The come in single or dual hose configuration (more on this later) and are normally white, black or silver in color.
What Types of Air Conditioner Are On the Market?
There are typically 5 classifications or types of air conditioners. This guide will focus on portable air conditioners in detail but below is a summary of each of the other 4 types. This should give you an idea of where the portable air conditioner fits into the overall air conditioning landscape.
Window Mounted – These type of A/C units are specifically designed to fit into an existing window frame. The unit replaces part of the window and therefore needs to be measured to ensure it is a good fit. They often required a frame or board to support the unit’s weight. The exhaust is outside the window and the cool air fan faces inside.
Through The Wall – These units are wall mounted. They vent hot air and excess moisture out through a hole in your external wall. These units typically have higher cooling capacity when compared to portable or window A/C units and tend to be heavier.
Ductless Split – These devices are called split units because parts of the unit are split between inside the house and outside. The condenser unit is placed outside and blower unit(s) are installed inside, often in different rooms. Piping is required between the blower units and the condenser so the installation costs are higher. However, the units are more efficient, produce less noise and take up less room inside your home.
Central Air – This system has a large externally mounted air conditioning unit and an internal furnace. It can provide cool air or hot air depending on your needs. Hot or cool air is then pumped through a system of ducts installed throughout your home and into each room through vents in the wall, floor or ceiling.
Who are Portable Air Conditioner Units Ideal For?
There are a number reasons that you might choose a portable air conditioner over one of the other fixed options.
- Home Owners – Some people find window units unsightly and don’t want to install a new central air system either due to the high cost and disruption of these, or perhaps a reluctance to commit to the investment if they plan to sell their home soon.
- Apartment Owners/Tenants – In small apartments the windows might not be large enough to fit a unit into. There may also be issues with the safety of window units on lower level apartments. Tenants may also find it hard, if not impossible, to get the landlord’s permission to install these units. Finally, it might be the case that there is already air conditioning but its BTU rating isn’t high enough to cool the whole apartment and you need a bit of extra cooling in certain rooms.
- Small Office Workers – There is a growing body of evidence that supports the theory that the temperature of our environment affects our ability to work efficiently. With this in mind it could be a good investment for you to get a portable A/C installed in your office. You and your co-workers will make less errors and generally get on better together if your body is working at the right temperature.
- Holiday Home Owners – If you have a summer house that you visit a few times a year then a portable air conditioner is a great idea. You can take it with you in the car or van or leave it in your holiday home waiting for you when you are next there.
- Caravaners – Small portable air conditioners are a great idea for caravans. This is particularly true for those who use awnings to extend their living space once they pitch up at a site. These awnings can be a heat trap in very hot weather. A small portable A/C unit will make it more comfortable so you can enjoy a cool retreat from the hot weather.
- Home Gyms – There are many benefits to lifting weights and working out, and home gyms are becoming more popular across the country. When you work out your body temperature becomes elevated and this can be compounded in hot weather. It could lead to your under-performance and even in extreme cases serious illness. A portable air conditioner is ideal for keeping these rooms cool and at the right temperature for making sure you can enjoy your workout.
What are the Pros and Cons of PAC Units?
1.) Easy to install – you can be up and running in minutes
2.) Scalable – you can add devices to your home as you need them
3.) Portable – as the name suggests you can move them around to suit your needs
4.) Can reduce overall AC bills – smart use of PACs can reduce your energy bills as you only cool the areas you want, when you want to.
5.) Low window profile – hoses take up less space in your window than window units.
6.) Convenient – There are only a small number of the months in the year that you need AC so fixed units would just be an eyesore gathering dust for the rest of the year.
1.) Generally less efficient than other forms of AC
2.) Can cost more than window units to purchase and run
3.) They require space inside the room to place the unit
4.) Can be noisier than other forms of AC
The 13 Key Features of Portable Air Conditioners
Below are the key features and options you’d expect to find on a portable air conditioner.
Allows you to select a set temperature that you want the unit to maintain the air at. The unit will then attempt to reduce the temperature to that level and maintain it by switching the cooling pump on and off. Usually the fan will stay on to circulate the cooled air.
It should take around 30 mins to get the room to the set temperature. If it hasn’t been reached by then it could mean that the unit is not sized properly for the room it is cooling.
Check out this article for more on how a thermostat works.
2.) Automatic On/Off Timers
This feature comes in a few options. The basic option allows you to set a time delay in hours and sometimes minutes before the unit will automatically switch off or on. For example, you leave in the morning and you set the unit to come on in 8 hours time.
The advanced versions which are generally on more expensive models have a clock timer which allow you to switch it on and off at set times. This is much like your central heating. For example, switch on at 17.30 and off at 22.30 in time for you to fall asleep. This option is obviously more flexible and in many ways easier (once you understand how to set it!) as you don’t need to think about how many hours from now you want the PAC unit to switch on or off simply set a time.
Timers are great for saving on energy bills and remember to leave the power switched on.
ACPulse Tip: If the unit has a basic timer you can always use a plug-in timer with a clock to automatically switch the power off and on when you want the unit to operate.
3.) Sleep Mode
This is a neat feature. Sometimes you don’t want the unit to completely switch off during the night, but you won’t notice if the set temperature rises by a few degrees. This will save energy and help reduce your electricity bills, all while you are blissfully fast asleep!
4.) Automatic Water Evaporation
This was once an advanced feature but now most units have auto evaporation as standard. This is because the water that is taken out of the air can actually be used to make the unit more efficient. The condenser coils heat up as they extract hot air out of the room ready for it to be expelled out of the window tube. Air is usually used to cool the coils again. However, the water extracted from the air can be used as a more effective cooler. This is a win-win because it saves you from having to empty the water container and also increases the efficiency of the unit so you get more cooling for the same price!
There are 2 types of evaporation systems:
a.) Passive – water from the tank is sprayed onto the coils, evaporates and is expelled out through the air outlet hose.
b.) Active – the water from the tank is actively pumped around the condenser coils to cool them.
Both active and passive systems have their pros and cons and most of the time you probably won’t know which one is installed in your machine. Passive will not cool the coils as well, so will not add to the efficiency as much. Active will cool the coils better than passive but the pump will use additional power, and there is also an additional mechanical component which could fail. This trade-off will be factored into the EER rate (see later in the article) by the manufacturer and also the price so it’s probably not worth concerning yourself too much about the specifics, although some of you who like to know a bit more detail about your equipment may be more interested.
5.) Fan Speed
Units normally have between 2 and 4 different fan speeds. This allows you to control the flow of air through the unit, much like you do in the A/C in your car. The higher the fan speed the faster the unit will cool the air but the noisier it’ll be and the more electricity it will use.
6.) Automatic Restart
If there is a power cut or some sort of circuit breaker trip then the unit will obviously stop working. However, when the power comes back on again most units will not automatically switch back on; they need someone to manually switch them on through the electronic controls. The auto-restart feature gets over this hassle by remember the settings and starting the unit automatically. This restart sequence will also delay the restart for a few minutes to ensure that the pressure in the closed condenser loop is allowed to stabilize. This prevents excess stress from being placed on the pump and potentially shortening the unit’s life.
7.) Heat Pump
A heat pump is an add-on that allows the unit to heat the internal air. It’s useful in areas which have mild winters or where the temperature drops during the evening or night. A heat pump is basically the reverse of an air conditioner. It takes the heat in the external air and pulls it into the internal room. It should be noted that these will not operate in really cold weather but are a great feature to look out for if you want to make use of the unit when it’s slightly cooler, as well as during really hot weather.
8.) Dehumidifier Mode
All units will remove moisture from the air as part of the air conditioning process. However, in areas where humidity is higher this setting can improve this process of dehumidification.
9.) Fan Mode
If the temperature is not too high then the gentle breeze of the cool air may be enough to cool you down. Fan only mode circulates the air around the room, much like the way a ceiling fan will, but will not actually cool it. The pumps within the unit will not be running so this mode will use less energy. Some PAC units will expel the air out of the hose through the window so can act as an extraction fan for removing smoke and other smells.
10.) Directable Blades
Directable blades allow the flow of air to be pointed in a particular direction or oscillate across a preset range. The blade’s direction can provide better distribution of the air around the room, not to mention directing a cool breeze in the direction you want when you’re asleep or relaxing in a chair or sofa. The downside is that these blades do need a motor to control them and can be another mechanical part that can break down or get jammed.
11.) Whisper or Quiet Mode
The noise of the unit while it’s running is a feature that many people are interested in. The noise of each unit will vary, with some noisier than others. This is obviously important if you plan on using the unit in your or your child’s bedroom. We all know how important it is to get a good night’s sleep.
Portable air conditioner units tend to run at around 55-70dbs. All the parts of a PAC are inside the self-contained unit which is inside the room so they will tend to be louder than window units, split units, and even obviously central air conditioning where part or all of the pumps and compressors are installed outside.
However, just because a unit has a slightly higher noise you shouldn’t necessarily rule it out as some of these units actually cool more effectively than their lower noise counterparts. However, many manufacturers now understand how important noise is to us consumers and have worked hard to reduce the noise levels of their units. They have a quiet mode which when enabled can reduce the fan speed and therefore the noise. This mode is ideal for night-time operation when you want to prioritize noise over cooling efficiency.
12.) Remote Control
Most units these days have some form of remote. The remote control allows you the flexibility to control many or in some cases all of the features of the PAC unit. Some have mini LCD screens to display the temperature and operating mode.
The size of a unit will vary depending on the design and the rating. Normally the larger the BTU rating, the larger the unit will tend to be. In terms of height, I’ve looked at the top 20 units on Amazon and they vary from around 27.5 inches to 35.5 inches. Width and depth vary more depending on the design chosen by the manufacturer. Some chose wider units which are not as deep while other go for a thinner but deeper profile with their design. Of the top 20 units I looked at they all fell somewhere between 11.8 inches and 19.2 inches wide and deep.
Top 3 Smallest Portable Air Conditioners
Below is a list of the current top 3 best sellers on Amazon.com. All of these would be a great choice for a small room portable air conditioner.
LG Electronics LP0814WNR
Great value unit. Often top of the bestseller list on Amazon,
11.8 x 13.9 x 29.8 inches
Covers up to 200 sq/ft
Price Guide: $$$
Global Air NPA1-10C
Low Cost, Sleek Design
14 x 11.8 x 30.9 inches
Covers up to 300 sq/ft
Price Guide: $$$
External Venting, Is It Really A Requirement?
Yes! is the answer. It’s a fundament law of air conditioning that you need to remove the heat from the air inside the room you are cooling. This is done by either removing the actual air and replacing it with cooler air, or cooling the air and recirculating it into the room.
A single hose unit removes the air and replaces it with new cooled air, while a dual hose design uses a heat exchanger to remove the heat from the air and then re-circulate it into the room at a new cooler temperature.
Single vs Dual Hose Designs: What Are Their Advantages And Disadvantages?
One of the key factors that will affect the operation of a portable A/C unit is the number of hoses it uses. There are 2 design options – single and dual hose.
A single hose design means that the air conditioner unit has only one hose to vent hot air outside. It is easier to install but will most likely mean that the unit operates less efficiently than a dual hose design and will take longer to cool the room to the required temperature. In some cases it may struggle to even reach this temperature.
Single hose units are at a disadvantage for two reasons:
1.) They use the air from inside the room to cool the condenser coils i.e. remove the heat, before expelling that same air out through the vent. This means they have just lost some of the air they have cooled.
2.) Because they expel air out through the vent, new air will eventually need to be sucked into the room to replace this air. This air will now also need to be cooled and this could lead to the unit running longer than a similar dual hose design would need to in order to reach the same temperature.
These points lead to an increase in running costs and a reduction in cooling efficiency.
The best portable air conditioner units tend to be dual hose designs. A dual hose design requires that you connect 2 hoses to your window. There are two flows of air in operation with this design. The first flow pulls air from the room into the unit, cools the air and then recirculates the air back into the room again.
The second flow of air uses the 2 hoses. One of the hoses draws in external air and uses that air to cool the condenser coils. In this process heat is removed from the internal air flow through the heat exchanger. This heated air is then expelled through the second hose outlet (see the dual hose diagram above).
This is more efficient because the cooled air will then be recycled again and again, getting cooler each time. The room will therefore usually reach the set temperature quicker and therefore use less energy.
In addition to this the same air is being circulated inside the room so there is not a negative pressure which is actively trying to pull more air into the room from outside through vents or from other connecting rooms.
Now that you understand the basic design of the two options we’ll move on to look at the pros and cons of each type of portable air conditioner unit.
Single Hose Design Advantages:
Easier to install – They only have one hose so are easier to install. They also look less bulky than having two fairly large hoses attached to your window.
Are far more effective if the surrounding rooms are colder – Because they create a very slight negative pressure in the room they are cooling then air will tend to be pulled into the room from surrounding rooms. If these rooms are naturally cooler then this will pull in the cool air and help reduce the temperature in the cooled room faster.
This feature of a single hose unit can be a real advantage if the unit is used as a supplement to a central air conditioning system which is struggling to cool a particular room. Perhaps the room being cooled doesn’t have a central air conditioner vent or has a lot of glass and gets particularly hot. It might even be a computer room that needs a boost of cooling due to the extra heat created by the computer equipment in the room. The rooms around this room will be cooler due to the central air system so when the portable air conditioner is switched on not only will it cool the air in the room, but it will also suck cool air into the room. In this case it is advisable to leave the door open to help the cool air flow in easily.
Lower Purchase Cost – Single hose units have less parts than dual designs and are a little less complex than their 2 hose counterparts. For this reason they tend to cost less.
Odor Control – Another advantage of the single hose design is odor control. Air from inside the room is continually being expelled out through the hose. This means that the unit acts a bit like an extractor fan. This will remove strong smells like cigarette or pipe smoke, cooking smells and other airborne contaminants from the air in your room and provide a flow of fresh air into the room. It won’t simply recirculate the existing air. This is good for your health too.
Smoking Rooms – The positive pressure being created in the room will also stop air moving to other parts of the home. If you or someone in your home is a smoker then a PAC unit can be a great choice for improving your living environment. You can place the unit in a designated smoking room and the PAC will stop smoke moving to other rooms. This will reduce the risk of passive smoking, particularly if you have children. This is better than central air conditioning or a dual hose design, both of which will just recirculate the smoke around room or even throughout your home.
Single Hose Design Disadvantage:
Lower Cooling Efficiency – As mentioned before the design of single hose portable A/C units means that they will expel air from the room. This is great for getting rid of smoke and odors but means that they also get rid of some of the air which has already been cooled. This means that they generally run for longer to get the room down to the temperature that you have set. As a result the cooling efficiency – i.e. the amount of energy used to get the room to the set temperature – can be lower than a dual hose unit.
Higher Running Costs – The lower cooling efficiency results in higher running costs when compared to 2 hose and window units cooling the same space.
Single Room Operation – The fact that air will need to be continually drawn from other rooms means that there will be a pull of air into the room that is being cooled. As discussed above this can sometimes be an advantage. On the other hand, it does mean that cooler air will not flow into connecting rooms and cool them too so single hose units, even those with 12,000 or 14,000 BTUs, in small rooms are unlikely to cool more than the room they are situated in.
Top Rated Single Hose Units
Dual Hose Design Advantages:
Quieter By Design – Air is being pulled in from outside the room so the sound of air being drawn into the unit tends to be quieter.
More Efficient At Cooling – Air is being cooled and then re-circulated around the room. This means that as the air is cooled it is not exhausted out through the hose but instead passed throughout the cooling process again and again. This tends to mean that air reaches its set temperature faster.
Note: Heat will always be added into the room by the unit itself because of the fundamental design of PAC units. The compressor and fan motors are self-contained within the unit casing and these generate heat when they operate. This heat will then need to be removed. This is a design feature that even the best rated portable air conditioners can’t overcome when compared to window, split or central a/c units.
Cheaper to Operate – They are cheaper to run because of their lower efficiency. In some cases a 2 hose design will be comparable to that of a similar rated window unit.
Cooling Larger Areas – Dual hose units don’t create a continual draw of air into the room they are in. This leaves air free to circulate to adjoining rooms. In fact, if these rooms contain units that have a higher BTU rating than the room size they will be able to cool more than one room or even a small apartment.
Dual Hose Design Disadvantages:
More Expensive To Purchase – The internal workings are more complicated so dual hose designs tend to cost more to purchase. However, it should be noted that this cost might be recovered in reduced running costs. See our article on How to Calculate the Running Cost of a Portable Air Conditioner for more information on comparing purchase and running costs.
Takes Up More Window Space – It’s a simple fact that there will be 2 hoses attached to your window instead of one. This will take up more window space and will look slightly more unsightly from the inside.
Trickier To Install – If you are moving your portable ac unit around a lot then it will take slightly longer to install each time and may be a bit more tricky. Not a major issue though for most people.
Top Rated Dual Hose Units
Whynter 14,000 BTU Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner (ARC-14S)
Top Dual Hose Design on Amazon; Carbon and Pre-filter for extra increased air quality
16 x 19 x 35.5 inches
Covers up to 500 sq/ft
Price Guide: $$$$
Whynter 14,000 BTU Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner with Heater (ARC-14SH)
Includes a heater so can be used all year round
16 x 19 x 35.5 inches
Covers up to 500 sq/ft
Price Guide: $$$$$
Toyotomi TAD-T40LW 14,000 BTU Portable Air Contioner With Heat Pump
Unit also includes 11,000 BTU heater
34 x 20 x 16 inches
Covers up to 500 sq/ft
Price Guide: $$$$
General Considerations for Single and Dual Hose Units
Size of the Portable A/C Unit
When you are looking to purchase a new PAC you need to think about how much space it will take up. The space a unit takes up includes the dimensions of the unit itself plus room at the back of the unit, usually about 18 inches for the hose to connect to the window. You don’t need the full length of the hose; in fact I’d recommend you don’t use it fully extended for reasons you’ll find out later in this article.
Air conditioning units vary in size and as a rule of thumb the higher the BTU the larger the unit will be. Most units are around 30 inches high, 11-17 inches wide and deep so you can use these figures to get an idea of the space it will take up in your room.
Weight of the Unit
If you are planning to leave the unit in more or less the same room then the weight is not much of a concern. However, if you are planning to move it around the weight of the unit becomes a bit more of a consideration. Again, as a rule-of-thumb, higher rated BTU devices tend to weigh more.
The weight of units tends to vary between around 46 lbs right up to almost 100 lbs. If you are rolling the unit around from room to room on the same floor this is most likely fine for most people. However, if you are planning to lift it up and down a set of stairs you really should be sure you can lift this sort of weight safely and comfortably. Most units have handles built into them which will certainly help and may well be a key factor to look out for if you’re planning to move it a lot.
What Does BTU and EER Mean?
Portable air conditioners are rated in British Thermal Units or BTUs. This is a measure of how much cooling power a unit can provide. Home and office units typically come in 8,000, 10,000, 12,000 and 14,000 BTUs. Commercial units can be anything from 18,000 up to a massive 120,000 BTUs!
This number quoted is the gross cooling that the unit will produce. This is of little use for us consumers and is therefore normally converted into a guide sq/ft area that this unit should be able to cool.
Manufacturers will quote the BTU in what’s known as the ‘Gross’ cooling that a unit will provide. This power is then translated into an equivalent area in square feet. It is impossible for them to know how many other factors might impact gross value to determine the ‘Net’ value. One of the key factors is how much of the cooled air leaks back out of the room again. This could be through open doors and windows, or in the case of single hose designs back out through the hose.
The Net Cooling BTU = Gross Cooling BTU – Leakage of Cooled Air
Unfortunately, there is really no real way to know the actual volume of cooled air that will leak out of your room. The advice I’ll give you is to buy a unit that is slightly more powerful than you need for the air you want to cool.
Cooling size guide – square feet of room to the recommended BTU rating:
|Up to 150 Sq/Ft||7,000|
|Up to 250 Sq/Ft||8,000|
|Up to 350 Sq/Ft||10,000|
|Up to 450 Sq/Ft||12,000|
|Up to 550 Sq/Ft||14,000|
Note: Always check the specific sq/ft to BTU rating quoted by the manufacturer. They do sometimes differ by around +/- 50 BTU, but will be more or less in the range of numbers in the table above.
Energy Efficiency Rating (EER)
The Energy Star is a label added to products, homes and even commercial buildings to indicate that it meets certain criteria within its category in terms of energy efficiency. It makes it easy for us consumers to know that the products we’re choosing have reached standards of efficient operation without needing to know all the details about each product we buy. Choosing a product with the Energy Star Rating is an easy way to do our bit to save money and limit damage to the environment.
Part of this program is a requirement for product manufacturers to label appliances with their Energy Efficiency Rating (EER) or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER). This allows us to directly compare the energy efficiency of one unit or system with another. The SEER rating is used for central air conditioning. The EER is used for portable units.
Calculating the EER
I’ve introduced you to BTUs above. This helps us understand how much cooling power a unit can provide. However, it doesn’t tell us how much energy is used to provide that power and that’s where the EER can help.
The EER = BTU / WATTAGE
For example, if we have a 12,000 BTU portable air conditioner unit and it runs on 1,200 watts then the rating would be 12,000/1,200 = 10. The higher the number the better, and anything above 10 is usually very good.
However, it is not always as simple as just choosing the unit with the highest EER for your chosen BTU requirements. This is because units with a higher EER tend to be more expensive. Check out my article on calculating the running costs of a portable air conditioner for more details and to determine if the extra cost upfront will pay off longer term.
Warning: Something To Watch Out For!
Manufacturers are always trying to show their products in the best light possible. This means some may quote a higher BTU in order to make the EER look higher. It is always a good idea to buy a slightly higher rated unit for the room you plan on cooling to guard against this.
Recap so far…
We’ve covered what a portable air conditioner is and the type of people and situations which it’s well suited to. We then went on to look at how a portable unit fits into the range of other types of air conditioning. The next point we covered were the type of features that you normally find on a portable air con unit and what they are used for. Finally we covered the pros and cons of one and two hose designs and how to size a unit for your particular needs.
Now that you understand how to select a PAC, we’ll now cover how to install and operate one.
Part 2 – Installing and Running a Portable Air Conditioner
One thing that is common when you read portable air conditioner reviews is how easy they are to install and get up and running quickly.
Most of the manufacturers suggest that you leave the unit in an upright position for anything between 30 mins and 12 hours before using. If you are not sure if it has been stored upright before getting delivered then it might be worth leaving it to rest for the recommended time. It might even be worth leaving the unit in its packaging for this period of time. This lets the refrigeration fluid settle and prevents causing damage. The top is normally indicated in the packaging so you know it’s not upside down!
Types of Window
Most people will connect the hose to a window as opposed to a custom hole in the wall. This means they will need the window kit that is supplied with the unit. These work best with horizontal or vertically sliding windows but are less suited to swing windows. In fact, most manufacturers simply miss out this type of window in their design or at best instruct you to jam it into the swing window!
See this video for a customization you can make to create a seal for these types of casement window. It does require you to have some DIY skills but not much. There are also off-the-shelf kits you can buy to get around these situations. The TROTEC Airlock is one which comes recommended.
Tips for Installing Single Hose Units
Doors – Open or Closed?
If the unit is your only source of cooling then keep the door to the room you are cooling closed. Remember, there is only one hose and the air in the room is continually exhausted out of this hose. This will create a need to replace the air, and an open door is the ideal opening into the room. Air will continue to get drawn in and the room will take far longer to cool and the unit will need to run continually to keep it at the set temperature.
If the unit is supporting other forms of air con then it’s likely that the air in the next room will be cooled, and pulling it into the room is not a bad idea. In fact, it can speed up the cooling process.
Don’t Go Overboard on the Insulation
With a single hose air conditioner you actually want there to be some air gaps or leaks around the room. It’s even better from an efficiency point of view if these are as close to the unit inlet grill as possible. If the windows are sealed the unit will attempt to suck air in from under doors and through vents etc. If these are at the other side of the room then that warm air will need to travel right across the room to get to the machine.
Keep The Hose Short
This is important for 2 reasons. The first one is that the longer the hose is the harder the machine needs to work to blow the air out through it. The second reason is heat loss. The longer the hose the higher the surface area that heat can be transferred through, back into the room which you are trying to cool! Use the accordion design which most of these hoses have to shorten it to the minimum length possible once you’ve installed it. Never use hose extensions. The unit compressor is not designed to pull air through anything longer than the hose supplied and it may damage the unit. Also, the heat transfer back into the room will be even greater if the hose is longer.
Tips for Dual Hose Units
As shown in the diagrams above, dual hose units have two air flows in operation: one external air flow removing heat from the internal air, and one internal air flow cooling and recirculating the air. For this reason no actual volume of air is physically removed from the room, only the heat is transferred. It’s an advantage with dual hose units to have as tight a seal as possible around the window to stop hot air entering the room from outside.
Dual hose units tend to be a lot quicker at cooling rooms. There is therefore no need to switch them on early. For example, with a single hose design you might want to switch it on in the bedroom an hour or two before bedtime if you want a cool room just as you go to bed. Around 10-15 mins beforehand is normally enough for a dual hose design.
What About The Hoses?
As with the single hose units, keep the hoses short. The same reasons apply to single and dual hose designs. These are heat loss points back into the room and put stress on the fans circulating the air. This is even more important because there are obviously 2 hoses instead of one to transfer heat back into the room. In practical terms this means keeping the unit as close to the window as possible.
Small Internal Rooms
Some people will need to cool an internal room which has no windows. This could be a small room such as a computer room, study, den or a store of some sort etc. In this situation a single hose portable air conditioning unit is a good choice. Simply set up the unit so that the discharge hose is expelling the air through a partially open door into the adjacent room.
The area you are moving the hot air to should be large enough for the excess heat not to make a difference, or have its own air conditioner which can then remove this excess heat from the room. This set-up is ideal for situations where you have central air conditioning in some of the larger rooms but need a portable air conditioner to help cool the smaller internal rooms.
Another example is where you have a small workshop which is internal to a larger garage or warehouse-type space. This space is probably big enough to handle the extra heat taken out of the workshop without much difference in air temperature.
Window air conditioners are sometimes taken advantage of by burglars to gain access to your property. They can be pushed or kicked into the house leaving the space free for the burglar to climb in through. The benefit of portable air conditioners is the ability to remove the kit when you are not in your home and close the window. This makes the home safer in areas where security is a concern.
It’s possible also to fit an external mesh security screen but these can sometimes be an eyesore and may not be permitted in certain housing association areas.
Other Great ideas and Uses for Portable A/C Units
- Cooling during home remodeling projects where other forms of air conditioning might not be available or installed yet.
- New home extensions. Instead of upgrading your central air unit and adding ducting to your new room you might decide to use a portable air conditioner to cool your new room(s). If this is the case you can ask the builder to add a wall outlet so you don’t need to exhaust the air through a window.
Maintenance of PAC Units
One of the selling points for portable a/c units is their low maintenance. The only 2 things you need to consider are the air filters and the water tank level.
These filters are designed to remove air particles from the air entering the unit through the air intakes. Removing these small airborne particles serves two purposes. First, it stops this dust from gathering on the internal workings of the unit. This can reduce how efficiently it works and cause damage longer term that might be costly to repair.
The second reason is our health. Without the forced circulation of air most of these particles simply fall to the floor and are swept or vacuumed up. However, if the air conditioner is circulating these then they could stay in the air for much longer and we could breathe them in. Most are harmless; however, some might lead to health issues so the more of these we can filter out the better it is for our health.
These filters need to be cleaned every week or two while the unit is in operation. Each manufacturer will recommend their own timescales but most will fall within this range. Most can simply be washed in warm water to remove the particles. It may also be possible to use a vacuum cleaner to clean the filters.
If you’re cleaning the filters with water remember that you need to wash the filters in the opposite direction to the air flow. There is no point in trying to flush the particles through the filter, you need to wash them back off the filter. Most filters will have an arrow indicator to help you know which direction to flush them.
Dry the filter completely before installing it back into the unit. Leaving it beside a window is often a good option for drying it quickly.
Safety First! – As with all maintenance, remember to switch the unit off before removing the filter!
Dehumidifier Water Tank
Most modern units have a water tank that is used to store the water removed from the air. (I cover more about this is the features section). This water is reused as part of the air conditioning cycle. However, from time-to-time, particularly in humid areas, there will be a need to empty the tank. This is a simple task and most units have a small hose with a plug at the end which can be placed into a shallow tray.
It’s good practice to remove the water at least once a month to keep it fresh and remove any dirt that might impact on the air con unit’s efficient operation.
Storage for Longevity
During the winter, or when the unit is not in use, it’s advisable to clean the filter, remove all the water and use a dust cover to prevent dust from getting into the internals and causing damage once the unit starts up again. This simple action could help extend the life of unit so is well worth a little effort before you put it into storage.
Warranties Explained – 1 Year Full, 3/5 Year Parts Only – What Does This All Mean?
More or less all of the best portable air conditioners come with a warranty. Most of them come with a one-year full parts and labor warranty. The covers all defects to any part of the unit. It won’t cover accidental damage or damage resulting from abnormal or unreasonable use of the unit.
Normally within the first year if anything does go wrong the company will arrange for a courier to collect the unit and then repair it or have another unit delivered. You might be given a reconditioned unit as a replacement. This obviously isn’t great but it does sometimes happen and there’s very little you can do about it. However, thankfully this doesn’t happen too often and most manufacturers will give you a straight replacement with a brand new unit.
Many units also come with a further 3 or 5-year limited warranty. This tends to cover what is known as the sealed system. This is the compressor, evaporator, condenser and all the connecting internal tubing. Defects to these will be remedied and the parts paid for by the manufacturer. However, the labor costs are often your responsibility.
Summary of Part 2
Wow, you’ve gotten this far, well done for sticking with it! Hopefully you now have all the information you need to select, install and operate the best portable air conditioner unit for your own particular situation.
In Part 2 we covered tips for installing Single and Dual Hose Units to ensure they run as efficiently as possible. This includes the importance of keeping the hoses which expel the air as short as possible. We then went on to explore more about the maintenance of PAC unit filters and water tanks. Finally, we covered the types of warranties that the manufacturers typically provide should anything go wrong once you’re up and running.
In the final part of this article we’ll look briefly at the benefits to your health of owning a portable air conditioner.
Part 3 – The Health Benefits of Cool, Clean Air
We all know it feels better and improves you and your family’s comfort when your body is at a comfortable temperature, but even if you are using the best portable air conditioner on the market it can still cause health issues if you’re not careful.
First of all let’s look at the upsides and discuss the benefits of air conditioners.
Regulation of Body Temperature
Your body is designed to operate efficiently within a normal range of temperatures. If it gets too cold or too hot you start to show physiological and phycological effects. These can range from mild discomfort through to life-threatening conditions and illnesses at both the hot and cold end of the scale. From diagram shown here you can see that the normal body temperature range is between 95 and 104 degF.
The 6 Main Health Benefits of Keeping Cool Using an Air Conditioner
- Improves your mood – nobody feels good when they are hot and sweaty!
- You become more productive. If you are too hot you can lose concentration and feel lethargic and sleepy. This makes you less productive.
- If you are working in a cooler office you may make less mistakes and better decisions.
- Less bugs and insects. These love warm, humid conditions – keeping the air cool helps keep them at bay.
- Lower levels of allergens and other airborne irritants. The a/c unit will filter these out and improve the air quality.
- Reduction in the risk of becoming dehydrated. This is due to less water loss through sweating.
While it’s clear there are definite health benefits to using a portable a/c unit to keep cool, there are also some risks that you need to be aware of. Make sure you know these risks and start to control them in your home.
The 4 Main Risks of Using Air Conditioners
- If the air is too dry then it can dry out your skin.
- Creation of background noise.
- If the filter is not cleaned properly they can circulate dust and fungi which can cause allergic reactions and respiratory issues. Make sure the filter is cleaned regularly and as per the manufacturer’s instructions!
- Dryness can also irritate your eyes, particularly if you have a pre-existing condition or wear contact lenses.
What Are the Best Air Conditions for Optimal Health?
- Maintain the temperature in the room at around 70 – 77 deg F (21-25 deg C). This is enough to keep your body at its optimal temperature without working too hard to do it.
- Keep the humidity in the range of 60% and 70%. Most of the good portable air conditioning units will attempt to do this anyway. That said, it might be worth investing in a humidity measurement device (link to Amazon.com) so you can keep a track of the humidity in your room, just to be sure.
- Clean your filters regularly! If you are particularly sensitive to pollen or other airborne irritants it might even be worth buying a specific air purification unit with a HEPA filter.
In summary, the benefits to your health and wellbeing of owning a portable air conditioner unit far outweigh the potential issues if you make sure you clean the filters regularly.
Well done! You’ve reached the end of this mega guide on selecting the best portable air conditioner for your needs.
In Part 1 we covered the key features that a portable air conditioner has, as well as the pros and cons of choosing a single vs dual hose unit.
In Part 2 we then went on to discuss how to install, run and maintain a portable a/c unit so that you get the best results in terms of energy efficiency and cooling effect.
Finally, in Part 3 we looked at the health benefits of air conditioners, as well as how to avoid potential ill-effects of using them. Hopefully you are now confident and happy with how to select and install a unit that is just right for you.
If you have any questions or comments I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or use the ContactUs page to send me a message.
Our Best Portable Air Conditioner Reviews
Now you might be asking “so what is the best portable air conditioner then?”.
From reading the article above you should now understand that it depends on your situation. The best unit for you might not be the best unit for someone else.
However, the key factor is the room size. You can buy the best unit out there, but if you buy an 8,000 BTU unit and place it in a 500 sq/ft room it’s never going to cool it. With this in mind the table below lists what I would consider to be the 3 top air conditioners on the market right now in 2017, by room size. Find the one that best suits your room size and then feel free to click on the link to Amazon.com and read what other people have said about the unit. You’ll also get some more questions and answers that buyers and potential buyers have asked.