Will Portable Air Conditioner Suit Your Needs?
Portable air conditioners are a prime candidate if you only have to cool one room, small office or even a server room, and if you are looking for easy/non-permanent installation. You will be happy with your portable air conditioner if smallness, portability and flexibility are the main reasons why you bought this appliance. Do not expect extra energy efficiency figures with this type of air conditioners; if this is your main criteria, you should consider other air conditioner types. Portable air conditioner is useful for cooling and dehumidifying as supplemental appliance, next to primary air conditioning system.
How Portable Air Conditioners Work?
Portable ACs intake fresh air and expel hot air outdoors. When the outdoor part of the AC brings the fresh air in the unit, it uses Freon to cool the air and afterwards it fans it into the room. In the reverse process, the hot air dehumidifies and vents outdoors, preventing it from entering back into the room.
Since each portable air conditioner must somehow vent the hot air out of the room, they use single or dual hose for this purpose. If portable AC has only one hose, it brings the cool air in the room and the hot air and humidity out of it. With dual-hose systems, each of the hoses performs these functions separately.
Although hoses are not very practical and user-friendly when moving the AC around the house, they are crucial for portable AC efficiency. Without a venting system, the room would be cooling on one side and heating on another, which is why you should avoid non-vented portable air conditioners.
In the cooling process ACs pull humidity out of the indoor air. Most of this water is used to cool down the AC itself. The excess water condenses on the cooler’s condenser coils. Some units have a special drip for this excess water and you have to empty it regularly, while others disperse it through a tube. The latest are more comfortable, but they require additional energy for evaporation, which reduces their overall efficiency.
Types of Portable Air Conditioners
There are two types of portable air conditioners: condenser based air conditioners with refrigerator and evaporative air coolers, which use evaporation to cool the air.
Condenser Based Portable Air Conditioners
Condenser based portable air conditioners are similar to window air conditioners and operate as described above.
Evaporative Air Coolers
Evaporative coolers work differently than condenser base air conditioners. They draw outside air over water and it this cooling process some water evaporates
Evaporative air conditioners/air coolers are ideal for dry hot weather, while they are very inappropriate for a very humid weather. This ACs are smaller, cheaper (no refrigerant or condenser pump) and 2-3 times more efficient than condenser based ACs, if used in recommended environment. However, you will not find EER rating for evaporative air conditioners.
Selecting Appropriate Portable Air Conditioner
Even though portable ACs are simple units, there are different features you might be interested in when selecting the best air conditioner for your home or office.
Similar to selecting any other type of air conditioner, you should pay attention to its cooling capacity first. Selected AC must have enough BTUs to cool down your room. There are two important factors determining your BTU need. The first one is room size and the second is heat load.
Room size is very easy to determine, you should simply calculate how many square foot your room counts; the one thing to be careful about is that you measure the contain square foot of the area. This means, that if you have a living room and kitchen directly connected through the open air (there is no wall in between), there is no way to stop the cold are in the living room only; it will move to the kitchen also. So if you intend to cool down your living room to comfortable temperature, you will have to buy a more powerful unit, that will be able to cool your living room and kitchen – sum up the square foot of both rooms.
Heat load is the second factor influencing how powerful unit you need. There are number of factors influencing the heat load – the overall room temperature:
- The higher the number of heat sources, like cooking appliances, electronics, lamps, etc., the more powerful unit you need.
- Special types of rooms, such as garages, attics or server rooms, have a higher heat load and require more powerful unit.
- Other several factors that are influencing heat load are ceiling height, room insulation, and others. The higher the ceiling and the worse the insulation, more powerful unit you will need.
Be aware that oversized air conditioner can be also problematic, since it will dry up the room air too much and your electric bill will be higher as it should be.
Portable air conditioners are not as efficient as window air conditioners for example. Dual hose systems are performing better than single hose.
Lower efficiency means higher energy cost. Keep this in mind, when selecting your appliance. Portable air conditioners are cheaper than central or mini-split ACs. They are often cheaper than window air conditioners as well, but since they need more energy to operate, portables have higher operating cost.
What you will not find with portables compared to room air conditioners, is Energy Star label, which is why the process of making the choice is even more difficult.
Other Features to Look for
Other factors that desire your consideration are:
- Drip vs. no-drip models. Drip model are generally cheaper, but you have to empty the drips every 24-48 hours. No-drip models are more expensive, but you do not have to worry about excess water, because it is dispersed through a tube.
- Single hose vs. dual hose models. Dual hose models are more efficient in cooling, they perform their job quicker and they provide cleaner air to your room as single hose model.
- Multi-functionality of the AC. Besides cooling, portable air conditioners are capable of heating, air purifying and dehumidifying the air as well. If these are the characteristics you are looking for, select appropriate model.
Installing and Operating Portable Air Conditioner
Installing and operating portable AC is very easy. One end of the hose connects to the unit and the other to the outdoors through a window, a mail slot or other opening.
Once installed, plug it in and turn it on. Portable AC requires from you to perform some maintenance:
- Draining the water. One thing you have to care about portable ACs is to empty the reservoir of condensation when it is full. You can simplify the maintenance by buying AC with auto-evaporative technology and the tank will not need to be emptied so often.
- Cleaning and replacing filters. Most of portable ACs have some sort of air filter to eliminate airborne particles. Advanced models may even have built-in air purifiers with carbon filters and ionizers. To optimize the cooling efficiency you should clean and replace the filters of your AC regularly. In case you have a washable filter, follow the manufacturer’s instructions strictly.
- Cleaning the exterior. You should clean the housing of the unit every few weeks. Turn of the unit and wipe its surface with a soft cloth. Do not use any chemicals or detergents. Keep the AC away from the sunlight; otherwise, its surface can change the color.
- End season storage. When the hot summer ends, you should store your portable AC properly. Turn the unit of, unplug it, drain the water from the tank, clean the filters, pack it and store it in a dry location. By doing this you will prolong the life of the unit as ensure its cooling efficiency.