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5 Portable Air Conditioner FAQs - What You Want to Know

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1. What makes portable air conditioning so convenient?

Many have used portable air conditioners to cool homes and offices, but these units are so versatile and convenient that they can also be used for other smaller enclosed spaces.

For example, workshops, garages, recreational vehicles, and boats are a good place to use a portable air conditioner. You can even use one for supplemental cooling in a server room!

They can be rolled from room to room or between work areas, making them the ideal tool for satisfying temporary cooling needs.

To use these units, two things must be available:

  1. A power supply that is suited to the required energy usage
  2. A way to vent the hot air that is generated from the motor

If there is a space that is not covered by central air conditioning or cannot accommodate a permanent installation, a portable unit can often be situated in a corner or along a wall so that fresh, cool air can target just the spot where it is needed!

2. How do they work?

A portable AC uses Freon to cool air which is then fanned back into a room. It does require ventilation for the motor, and it uses an adjustable length hose to duct the air away from the room that is being cooled.

The hose itself is similar in size to a standard clothes dryer hose about five inches across. The optimal arrangement would have the heated air exhaust directly outdoors, but depending on the situation it might be possible to vent the hot air into an attic, above a drop ceiling, or even into another room.

During the cooling process, condensation is created. Most units must be drained of the water that is collected, either by emptying a reservoir or by installing and running a continuous drain hose. However, some units do have the technology to evaporate the condensation and exhaust it along with the hot air.

3. How do I know which size is right for my application?

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First, you should measure the size of the room that you are considering air conditioning for. Multiply the width of the room by the length, and that will give you the basic square footage.

Most estimates for the capacity of the AC are based on standard ten foot ceilings and standard sized windows which have either draperies, blinds, or some other covering.

Other factors you'll need to factor into your calculations if the room includes:

  • Electronics
  • Numerous windows
  • Poor insulation
  • Lots of people in it

Here are some general BTUs needed for the square footage of different rooms:

  • 8,000 BTUs covers 150 to 200 square feet
  • 12,000 BTUs covers 350 to 425 square feet
  • 14,000 to 16,000 BTUs covers 525 square feet

The 14,000 to 16,000 BTU ACs are the most powerful units, but note that these units do usually require a power supply that can conduct more power than a standard household outlet - see the product description for specific details.

We generally recommend that you select an air conditioner that is slightly more powerful than your adjusted calculations - if the unit meets your needs on the low or medium setting, then you have the option of using the high setting if you need quick cooling or if the temperatures unexpectedly soar.

4. What other useful qualities do portable air conditioners have?

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When selecting a room AC, you will have several options:

  • Remote control for convenience
  • Auto-evaporative technology to handle the condensation
  • The ability to function as a heater or dehumidifier, independent from the cooling function

A portable air conditioner that offers heating during the winter, or fan-only options (when temperature adjustment is not needed), can be used all year for comfort! Check for other features to maximize overall experience:

  • Programmable timers
  • Adjustable thermostats
  • Built-in air purification

As even the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy highlights, it's possible to have energy efficient cooling. A portable air conditioner is an excellent and energy-saving choice for cooling. New, energy-efficient units can even be up to 50% more efficient than some older, central air systems!

5. What are some alternatives to a portable air conditioner?

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Window Air Conditioner
If the space your trying to cool is really small and can't accomadate a portable air conditioner then your best option might be a window AC. T

hese units fit well in a standard sized window and are very easy to install. They can also cool a space very quickly and include convenient features like timers, adjustable fan speeds and energy saving modes.

Evaporative Cooler
If you live in a hot, dry climate then an swamp cooler would be a better option to a portable AC. These coolers are more energy efficient than an AC because they use the "natural" process of evaporation to cool a room.

This is also why you must live in an arid climate to use them since they add moisture to the air. In humid climates they wouldn't be able to cool properly since evaporation is harder to occur when there is already moisture in the air.

Window Fan
If you're dealing with more mild temperatures then you might be able to get by with just a window fan. This option can save you both energy and money. You could also use these in rooms that might become more heated than the rest of your house like kitchens and laundry rooms.

In a hot kitchen a window fan could draw in cooler, outdoor air. Then you could avoid turning down the temperature on your central AC, which would make the rest of your house freezing cold.

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