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Should I Get a Portable Air Conditioner?

Air Conditioner

Things to Consider Before Purchasing a Portable Air Conditioner (AC)

Are you looking for an easy cooling solution that helps reduce the temperature in your home without breaking the bank? If you're not satisfied with your existing cooling system, you may be considering purchasing a portable air conditioning unit. We find that many purchase these units, thinking they are more affordable than having their AC system serviced or a new cooling system installed. While they have some benefits, you should consider a few things before making the purchase.

Do Portable ACs Provide Effective Cooling?

One of the greatest appeals of portable air conditioning systems is that they promise to provide effective cooling out of the box. There is no waiting for an installation appointment, they are less intimidating than a window AC and you can wheel them around from room to room. However, do portable AC units actually provide effective cooling? Generally speaking - they don't.

With central air, ductless mini-splits and even window AC units, an outdoor portion of the unit aids the system in keeping your home cool. This outdoor unit allows the system to move warmth out of your home via the condenser coils. With a portable AC system, there is no outdoor unit.* Consequently, there is no fresh air circulation to help cool condenser coils, making the portable system much less effective at cooling. Furthermore, with no fresh air circulation, the portable unit will likely create a draft that pulls warm, unconditioned air from other rooms in your home into the room you are trying to cool.

*Note: while there is no outdoor unit, portable air conditioners still need to be vented to the outside.

Other Issues with Portable Air Conditioning Units

Two more major considerations with portable air conditioners are the cost and the fact that they aren't quite as portable as they are made out to be. When it comes to cost, a portable air conditioner can cost hundreds of dollars. It is not uncommon for a decently-sized unit to cost upwards of $500. Though this is less than installing a ductless mini-split system, it will still cost you anywhere from $30 to $50 a month to run, if not more. This is a lot of money to spend for less than effective cooling. If you are going to spend hundreds of dollars a year running your air conditioning system, you definitely want it to work.

To get a portable air conditioner that will cool a reasonably sized room, you will need to buy a fairly large one. These units can weigh well over 50 pounds. With such significant weight, even rolling them may be challenging if you have to move them over carpet or have stairs in your home and want to take them to a different floor or area of your home.

Finally, these systems tend to be quite noisy. This noise can make normal activities difficult - like watching TV, having a conversation. And if it's in your home office, it may interfere with your work, especially if you have to take calls or attend zoom meetings. This can be very frustrating when you have to run them continuously just to keep the heat at bay.

The Final Word on Portable AC Systems

Ultimately, when it comes to keeping your home cool, portable air conditioners are only a good option for emergencies or situations for which you have no other choice. Not only are these units expensive for what you get (costing hundreds of dollars), but they are also bulky, noisy and can rack up your electric bill. In most cases, we find that customers who purchase portable air conditioners end up spending even more money to improve their HVAC system after they find that the portable unit doesn't live up to its promise.

Reasons to consider getting a portable air conditioner:

  • Your AC broke down, it's very hot and you have to wait for repair service.
  • You need cooling in a garage, workshop, or another area where you do not plan to install a more permanent cooling system.*
  • You live in an apartment or historic building where you are not allowed to install a more permanent cooling system.

In short, portable air conditioners serve a purpose, but they are usually not your best bet for effective cooling. They can also cost you more money to run than installing a ductless mini-split system. Before you purchase a portable AC unit, we recommend you review our tips below for solving cooling problems. If you need help keeping your home cool, contact Valley Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Solar. The AC experts at Valley are always ready to help.

*Note: if you choose to purchase a portable air conditioner for an area like a garage or workshop that isn't well insulated, keep in mind that their performance likely will be significantly worse than it would be inside your well-insulated home.