Portable air conditioners are one of the newest types of air conditioners. Though they still have an exhaust tube that must be vented out somewhere, they are truly portable in the sense that they require no permanent installation.
Portable air conditioners virtually always have caster wheels for portability. They consist of one "box" that holds both the hot and cold side of the air conditioner in one and they use their exhaust hose to expel heat. There are several ways to get rid of the water that the air conditioner condenses out of the air. Most units collect this water in an internal drain bucket, but some units exhaust the water through their drain hose. Some units have pumps that pump the condensate water out through a tube in their drain hose. Most models that collect condensate water in an internal bucket can also be adapted for direct drain off.
Since portable air conditioners have both the hot and cold sides of the air conditioning cycle contained in one box, they have to cool their condenser coil with air they intake from the room they are cooling, and then this air is expelled through their exhaust hose. For this reason, portable air conditioners usually create a negative air pressure in the room in which they are run- air is continually seeping into this room from the rest of the house or building to replace the air that the portable air conditioner expels. Some portable air conditioners have solved this problem with a two-hose connection to the outside- one hose to intake air to use to cool the compressor and one hose to expel this air. In fact, most industrial portable air conditioners use this type of set up.
Choosing a portable air conditioner
If you've decided a portable air conditioner is the choice for you, here are some important considerations:
- Your BTU requirements- This is probably the first and most important consideration. Unlike other air conditioners, portable air conditioners are designed so that the can be moved from room to room easily. You should still try to get the most appropriately sized air conditioner for the room that you will be using in in, but be mindful of all the uses that you will need the unit for when you try to estimate your required capacity. For a one-room application, ideally you want to get a unit with a capacity as closely matched to your needs as possible. A unit that is not powerful enough will run constantly and will never properly cool the room. A unit that is too powerful will "short cycle"- it will cycle on and off over and over again, only remaining on for short periods of time. Short cycling is bad for the compressor- it could substantially shorten the life of the air conditioner, and the air conditioner will not dehumidify appropriately- so while the air in your room might be a comfortable temperature, there could be an uncomfortable level of humidity. The ideally sized unit will run at its maximum capacity on the few hottest days of the year and run somewhat under capacity at other times
- Your drainage requirements- Do you want a unit that can be drained continuously? Do you mind emptying a drainage bucket a few times a day? Are you willing to pay more for a unit that exhausts the condensate water through its exhaust hose so you don't have to worry about drainage at all?
- Your venting needs- Though most units have 5" diameter exhaust hoses, some units have 3 1/2" exhaust hoses. Also, exhaust hose lengths and window venting kit sizes differ as well.
- The energy efficiency and energy requirements- You should be mindful of the EER of the air conditioner that you choose. A higher EER is better, and a higher EER air conditioner often costs less in the long run than a less efficient unit. Most portable air conditioners run on a standard, 120 Volt socket.
Once you've decided on the above factors, you may want to think about some other features that can add to the convenience of the air conditioner:
- Air filtration- all models have some form of air filter. Better models have better filters that can clean your air while air conditioning
- Remote control- some units can be controlled from across the room
- Manual vs. electronic controls- manual models can be simpler to use and they often offer superior timers to electronic models, but electronic models usually offer more advanced features
- Noise level- though many of today's air conditioners are quieter than older models, you still might want to consider their noise level. Often noise levels are given in Decibel ratings. The higher the Decibel level, the louder the unit is, and every 10 decibel increase is an increase in the sound pressure by a factor of ten (60 Decibels is 10 times louder than 50 Decibels and 100 times louder than 40 Decibels, for example)
- Timer and sleep function- a timer allows you to save energy by only running the air conditioner at set times. For example, you might set the air conditioner only run when you anticipate being at home- and not wasting energy by cooling your room when no one is in the room. Sleep timers also help save energy by cooling less after the air conditioner has been running for a set time. This way, you set the air conditioner to run while you are going to sleep and it continues running while you sleep, but at a lower level (i.e., the temperature in the room is allowed to rise a bit) while you sleep
- Air output- almost all models have at least two different settings for airflow. You might want more settings to increase the versatility of cooling. Also pay attention to the Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM) rating. CFM is a measure of the volume of air blown. The higher the CFM, the more airflow the unit kicks out
- Heating options- some portable air conditioners can heat as well as cool. This can be useful in the winter time- enabling you to use your air conditioner year-round
- Louver adjustability- the more ways you can adjust the louvers (up/down, side-to-side), the more options you have for directing airflow. Also, some units can be set to "swing", so they blow out cool air from several different positions.
- Air conditioner physical size and appearance- some air conditioners are smaller and/or more pleasing to the eye than others.
Portable air conditioners come with installation instructions and kits for installation into windows. Here are a few tips for what a standard installation might entail. Of course, you should follow the installation instructions that come with your portable air conditioner.
This is one of the main advantages of portable air conditioners- they can be installed in many places that other air conditioners cannot. However, the easiest installation is into a standard sliding window. Due to the design of the venting kit, it is equally easy to install one of these units into a standard double-hung window or a side-to-side slider window
Some sample window installations for the Danby portable air conditioners
- Position the portable air conditioner near the window
- Connect the exhaust hose to the rear of the air conditioner
- Connect the other end of the exhaust hose to the window venting kit
- Open your window. Place the window venting kit in the window, adjust its length, if necessary. Close the window on the venting kit
- Plug in the air conditioner and turn it on
That's all there is to a simple window installation!
A sample exhaust hose
A sample window vent kit
To look at an owner's manual for a portable air conditioner for installation or other questions, you can download an Adobe pdf file for the Sunpentown WA1200* series below. Please note that you need Adobe Acrobat Reader
WA1200X Owner's Manual (pdf)
Get Adobe Acrobat Reader
More information on portable air conditioners:
Epinions.com: Cool Off (almost) Anywhere by cowboyind