How to Buy a Portable Air Conditioner  View Models >>

How to Buy a Portable Air Conditioner

Portable air conditionerOnce you've decided that a portable air conditioner is the right choice for you, it is then time to decide which portable air conditioner to choose. Though the array of options may be a bit intimidating, most portable air conditioners share the same underlying technology, and their different features and specifications are not so hard to sort through.

Pick the proper BTU rating

Portable air conditioners are rated in BTU. The greater the BTU of a unit, the more cooling power it has. Please note that in our testing of portable air conditioners, we have noted that they do not have a similar cooling capacity to that of window air conditioning units.
After test running many portable air conditioners, here are the general guidelines for room sizing that we recommend for portable air conditioners:

  • 7500 BTU: 150 square feet
  • 9000 BTU - : 200 square feet
  • 10000 BTU: 250 square feet
  • 12000 - 13,000 BTU: 400 square feet

These sizing guidelines can sometimes differ from the maximum suggested room size suggested by the manufacturer, and high heat loads can impair the effectiveness of any air conditioner.

Of course, since these air conditioners are portable, you may want to try and span the cooling needs of several rooms with one unit. Just try to keep in mind that a portable air conditioner with too little cooling power will not cool your space adequately, while a portable air conditioner with too much power will short cycle and not dehumidify your space well at all.

Find out more about BTU and proper room sizing.

Look at the condensate disposal methods

All portable air conditioners dehumidify the air that passes through them. The water dehumidified from the air is called condensate. This condensate is collected in a bucket inside the portable air conditioner, but different portable air conditioners dispose of it in different ways.

Drip: Internal buckets
Danby and some Soleus portable air conditioners have removable buckets that fill up relatively quickly (every 2-8 hours, depending on conditions) and must be emptied by hand.

Partial Drip
Most Sunpentown portable air conditioners evaporate most of the condensate and vent it out the exhaust hose. The remainder must be manually emptied from their non-removable internal bucket about once every 12 hours - several days.

Fujitronic portable air conditioners use an internal bucket and drain pump to pump the condensate out via a small tube that fits inside the exhaust hose.

No Drip
Delonghi andEdgeStar portable air conditioners are true no drip units that exhaust all of the water into the air. This feature is nice because it allows you to run the unit without having to worry about water accumulation that must be emptied from time to time.

Decide what modes you need

Of course, all portable air conditioners function as air conditioners, and they can all also be used as fans, but some portable air conditioners can be used as dehumidifiers (independent of the air conditioning function) and/or heaters. It may be worth the extra money to get a unit that offers enough different modes to be used year-round.

Pick the control style that fits your need

Some portable air conditioners have electronic controls while others have manual controls. Models with electronic controls generally offer more amenities, such as remote controls, louvers that can be set to auto-swing, and more advanced programmable features. However, one large downside of models with electronic controls is that if the power to the unit is interrupted while the unit is on, the unit will default to "off" even after the power has been restored. The only portable air conditioner with electronic controls that avoids this is the Soleus MAC-12K.

Portable air conditioners with manual controls tend to be simpler to operate, and they can restart cooling after a power outage without your intervention.

One hose or two hoses?

Some new portable air conditioners feature a dual-tube design. This dual tube design cools the compressor of the portable air conditioner with air from outside your room. This increases the efficiency of the portable air conditioner, and also avoids creating a negative air pressure in the room (as single hose portable air conditioners exhaust air from your room, causing the room to suck in air from outside).
Operationally, dual tube portable air conditioners will bring the temperature in a hot room down faster than a single tube portable air conditioner will.

  • Two potential downsides to the dual tube design exist.If the air outside is too hot (>95°F) the dual tube unit will lose some of its efficiency.
  • The dual tube design can be a bit more cumbersome to deal with if you are planning on moving your portable air conditioner around frequently.

Size and type of window kit

Different portable air conditioners have different types of window kits. All window kits share the same basic goal: they are a "filler kit" designed to allow you to vent the exhaust hose out of a window without hot air from outside rushing in. The window kits differ in their material of construction and their maximum widths. Different brand have window kits that can extend to different maximum lengths. Below is a list of the brands we carry and the maximum width their window kits can extend to:

Edgestar: 48 inches
Fujitronic: 48 inches
Soleus: 79 inches
Sunpentown: 48 inches
Delonghi: 41 inches

A few other points to consider

  • here are a few more things to consider when looking at portable air conditioners:EER: The higher the EER, the more energy efficient a unit is.
  • Noise level: The lower the dB level, the less noise a portable air conditioner will create.
  • Hose length and diameter: The longer the hose, the further from a window or vent you can place the portable air conditioner. The smaller the diameter of the hose, the less obtrusive its hose will be.

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