Pros and Cons of Choosing a Portable Air Conditioner

Published: 18th June 2010
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In the last few years the portable air conditioner has become very popular. Its greatest advantage is its ease of installation. While window air conditioners must be mounted through the window the portable style does not. The portable type eliminates most of the installation headaches because it's self-contained. A window type must be lifted into a window, secured, levelled properly, blocks added to rear for support, the overhead window made secure, side panels extended and locked into place, and exterior sealed against air leakage. With a portable air conditioner installation is a great deal simpler because the only part put through the window is the exhaust hose and mounting plate -- everything else is part of the floor unit. A typical window type installation takes 45 minutes while a portable type only requires about 5 minutes.

Advantages and Disadvantages

As its name suggests this type of air conditioner is portable and can be moved easily. While a window type is stationary the portable allows you to provide cooling to different areas of the house throughout the day by rolling it between rooms. Whether moved to the kitchen while cooking, the family room during the evening, or the bedroom at night, it pumps out cold air with equal intensity.

Most portable air conditioners come with wheels attached to their base, which is a great advantage for ease of movement. Those without wheels are okay if installation is to be semi-permanent but movement of the air conditioner is restricted. Even moving them into a closet for winter storage can be difficult. Therefore confirm that it has wheels before purchase.

To those living in an apartment building the portable may be a lifesaver. Many apartments don't allow window air conditioners because of the liability associated with the potential of them falling out the window. Or they may be prohibited because of aesthetic concerns. A portable eliminates both these problems because the only thing in the window is an inconspicuous plastic mounting plate and hose. The rest of the equipment sits inside the apartment.

Another advantage of portable air conditioners is their ease of storage. They can be rolled into a closet or corner of any room with very little effort. The plastic hoses and window mounting parts should be put into a plastic garbage bag and stored in the same place. If yours has small parts such as screws put them into a sealed bag and tape to the air conditioner. There is nothing more frustrating than not having all the parts ready for next years cooling season. If your portable came in a box we suggest cutting out an end of the box and sliding it over the machine to protect it. The top and control area in particular should be protected because they contain the electronics. Store indoors in a warm dry area away from sources of dust or moisture.

A disadvantage associated with all window air conditioners including portables is an abundant production of water that must be disposed of. While a window type simply drops the excess water outdoors the portable must do it differently. Some portables use a storage container to collect the water until it can be removed and dumped. This can be a disadvantage in that the buckets can be cumbersome, especially for seniors. Still others evaporate the water then blow the moisture outdoors via the exhaust hose. The first method is dependable and less complex, while the latter has the advantage of never having to empty a water storage bucket, thereby relieving you of that chore.

One possible disadvantage of portables is due to the machinery being inside the room. That is, the noise level is higher. Every time the compressor and fan motor start the overall noise level of the room will increase. If you are someone who demands quiet then avoid a portable, but for most people the starting and stopping of the air conditioner will not be an issue.

The main disadvantage of a portable air conditioner is that it's more expensive than the equivalent window air conditioner. A 7000 BTU that might cost $300 as a window model would cost $500 as a portable version. Whether the difference in cost is justified is for people to decide for themselves. Second, they are a complicated piece of machinery, therefore maintenance and repair costs are higher than for the old-fashioned window unit. Portables are not air conditioners that most consumers should try to repair themselves.

Stick with simple controls

Although most portables contain electronics and digital displays try to pick one with simple controls. The tendency today is to offer models with lots of unnecessary options. 'Bells and whistles' that most people will never even use and may in fact confuse them. Also since electronics can be more prone to failure than mechanical switches we always suggest the purchase of a simple model will fewer things to go wrong.

Lastly, while its primary purpose is to provide air conditioning many portables have the option to use them as dehumidifiers or heaters. These alternate functions can be useful but really not necessary. Therefore if the model you are considering only provides air conditioning, and consequently is less expensive, that is the one we suggest.

By Donald Grummett

Copyright 2010 by Donald Grummett. All right reserved. Donald Grummett has been in the trade over 30 years as a technician, business owner, and technical trainer. Visit to learn more invaluable information about your appliances.

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