How portable air conditioners work
Portable air conditioners work in a very similar way to traditional air conditioners you may have mounted on walls or windows. They come in a variety of models and types, but they all essentially do the same thing; remove moisture from the air and take the heat with it. Effectively, they suck hot air out of a space, cooling the whole room (or multiple rooms, in the case of more powerful portable air conditioners).
This is exactly how a regular air conditioner works. The only real difference, as the name indicates, is that portable air conditioners can be moved around. They’ll usually come on wheels or as quite compact and movable units that can be rolled or carried around and placed in different rooms. So, if you just want to cool down your bedroom, living room, or somewhere else, you can simply place the unit in that space and then switch it on.
However, as portable air conditioners work just like standard air conditioners, they require some form of venting in order to send all that hot air out of the room and out of the home. This is why a portable air conditioner will ship with one or two hoses. These hoses are attached to the back of the unit and guided out of a window or door. The hot air then travels through the hose and out into the outside world, rather than staying inside the home.
Features to consider while choosing a portable air conditioner
There are quite a lot of things to think about when you’re trying to choose your next portable air conditioner, as there are lots of different models out there, each with their own design, capabilities, and features. It’s important, first of all, to consider how you’re going to be using the air conditioner.
If you’re just buying it for a dorm room, studio apartment, or bedroom, you won’t need a high-powered machine, but if you want it to cool down a larger space, you’ll need to invest in something stronger, with a larger coverage area.
You’ll also need to think about the various features and functionality of your chosen air conditioner, deciding whether or not you need heating or dehumidifying features and modes. The size, weight, portability, and warranty of your conditioner also need to be considered.
When shopping for a portable air conditioner, you may see the acronym ‘BTU’ appearing quite often. Many shoppers are confused by this term, and many manufacturers don’t really make clear what it means. BTU stands for British Thermal Unit, which is a unit used to measure heat energy. In scientific terms a single BTU is the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of a pound of water by a single degree.
In simple terms, when it comes to portable air conditioners, more BTUs essentially means that the machine has a faster and stronger cooling capacity. So, you may instantly assume that models with high BTU ratings are always going to be better. This isn’t always true, however. More BTUs does mean that the air conditioner is more powerful, just like the Whynter ARC-14S, but you won’t necessarily need all of that power if you only want to cool a small space.
In fact, if you buy an overpowered machine for a small space, you may end up paying over the odds for the model and paying more on energy usage too. However, if you buy a machine with insufficient BTUs, it won’t be able to cool down your space and will run non-stop, costing lots in energy usage and providing an unsatisfying experience for the user. This is why it’s important to do your research and find the right machine for your space.
This is perhaps the number one factor that people think about when searching for a portable air conditioner, and it’s vital to consider the coverage area of your machine before buying it and ensure that it’s strong enough to handle the space you want to cool. In simple terms, coverage area tells us how much space the air conditioner is able to cool down.
The Rollibot Rollicool COOL310-19, for example, can cool down rooms or space of up to 600 square feet, making it one of the strongest portable air conditioners around. Other units are only suitable for smaller spaces of around 200-300 square feet, and these units, like the Shinco 8,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner, are better suited for dorms, studios, or smaller homes.
Before you even start shopping for a portable air conditioner, think about where you’re going to be using it. If you want to use it in a relatively small space, you can go ahead and buy a more affordable and lower-powered machine with a smaller coverage area, but if you want to cool down a big open-plan living area or multiple rooms, you’ll need a stronger model.
Every portable air conditioner will come with its own array of fan or cool speeds and settings. Some machines only have a couple of different settings, while some will come with a lot of options. The SereneLife 8,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner, for example, comes with three different cooling modes in total.
The more speed options or modes your air conditioner has, the more flexible it will be. The machine will usually be able to automatically adjust its settings to suit the conditions, using a lower speed when the temperatures aren’t too high and speeding up in warmer conditions in order to provide the most efficient cooling and use the lowest amount of energy.
Hose and power cord length
The length of both the hose and the power cord are very vital features to think about with your portable air conditioner. You definitely don’t want to get home and discover that the cord isn’t long enough to fit in your power outlet or that the hose won’t quite reach out of the window you’d hoped to use for venting the machine.
All portable air conditioners need to be plugged in and properly vented in order to work properly. Longer power cords, therefore, make the air conditioners more versatile, letting you move them around in different spaces and place them at different angles to get the best effects out of them without needing to worry. The Honeywell MO08CESWK has a particularly long cord length of 72 inches.
If there’s a heat function
When we think about portable air conditioners, we tend to associate them with the idea of cooling down a room or home, and this is their primary function. However, it is possible to find portable air conditioners with heating functions too. These functions allow the devices to act in the opposite way to usual, heating rooms rather than cooling them down.
The Rollibot Rollicool COOL310-19 is one example of a portable air conditioner with a heating function. Turning on the heating mode effectively turns the device into a portable heater, warming up rooms and getting your living spaces nice and toasty on cold nights or during the winter months.
This adds flexibility to your air conditioner and gives you another option for heating your home, but it may not be necessary if you already own portable heaters or have efficient heating on your property.
Part of the way in which portable air conditioners typically function is by removing moisture from the air and taking heat energy with it. This means that many portable air conditioners also function as dehumidifiers and even come with dehumidifying modes. The EdgeStar AP8000W, for example, has a dehumidifier mode.
This mode allows the machine to take humidity and moisture out of the air, ideal for those who struggle in humid conditions. It can be very effective for those who live in humid areas or even people who struggle with respiratory issues and want to breathe a little easier in their own homes, so this is a useful feature to have on your portable air conditioner.
Many people who choose a portable air conditioner over a mounted model do so because they enjoy the ‘portable’ aspect of these devices. The whole point of a portable a/c unit is that it can be moved around into different rooms and spaces, so you’ll need to think about its size and weight if you plan on maneuvering it a lot.
Portable air conditioners can come in various weights and sizes. The SereneLife 8,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner is one of the most compact models on our list, able to fit snugly in the corners of rooms without getting in the way and also being easy to move around from place to place. Remember, however, that smaller units will usually be less effective overall.
If you’re investing in a portable air conditioner, it helps to have a strong warranty to protect your purchase in case anything ever goes wrong. We’ve listed some of the best and most durable models of air conditioners, but you never know when a simple technical or mechanical fault can strike and have a negative impact on the functionality of your device.
Some manufacturers are much more generous than others in terms of warranties. The Black + Decker BPACT10WT is one of the best models for this, with a five-year limited warranty on the compressor and a standard one-year warranty on the rest of the unit. Having a long warranty helps to give you total peace of mind and protection for your purchase.
As well as having dehumidifying modes and even heating modes, some portable air conditioners can come with a range of bonus features and extras to make them even more functional and enjoyable to use. On a simple level, just having wheels on the base of your unit is a great extra feature, as this makes it a lot easier to move around without needing to lift it up.
Some portable air conditioners come with remote controls for easy usage, freeing the user from having to actually walk over to the unit to adjust the settings. Some of them come with silent or low-noise modes in order to not distract the user as they work, and some of the best models, like the Rollibot Rollicool COOL310-19, can even come with Wi-Fi functionality and the ability to sync with home assistants like Alexa.
How to install your portable air conditioner
Installing your portable air conditioner is a lot easier than you might think. While fixed and mounted air conditioners require quite a lot of complicated assembly and installation, portable units are very simple. All you need to do to get started is unpack the unit and its accessories. It’s important to note that all units are different, so you’ll need to read the relevant instructions for your chosen model during the installation. However, in general, the first step is to attach the hose or hoses to the back of the unit and feed them out of a window. After that, you can simply plug in the unit with the power cord provided, switch it on, and set it on the right mode for your needs.