Portable Air Conditioning Units 101 Portable Air Conditioning Units 101

When the summer heat is beating down, many homeowners scramble to stay cool. You might rummage through the attic or basement to find that extra fan or contemplate buying a kiddie pool just to get through a heat wave. One thing you may want to invest in a portable air conditioning unit. Not only are they fuss-free and cost-effective, but their mobility can make them a valuable part of your home cooling system. Here's everything you need to know about portable AC units.


While most units will be sufficient for smaller spaces like bachelor apartments, they can also be easily moved from one room to another in multi-room residences. You can easily place one in the living room or kitchen during the day and then in a bedroom when it’s time to sleep. They are fairly easy to install, usually consisting of attaching one or two small hoses or exhaust vents through the bottom part of a window. Only a small portion of the window is used in most cases which allows for more natural light compared to a window AC unit that takes up the whole frame.


A white and orange portable AC unit.

Not everyone has the luxury of central air conditioning in their home, nor are they able to afford the cost of installing a system. Rather than forking out thousands of dollars for expensive HVAC equipment, investing in a new, well-made portable AC unit can be just as rewarding. Smaller units that cool up to 250 square feet can be as cheap as $150 but will be lacking in features. A $500 budget can get you a unit that will not only cool a larger room or a whole floor, but may also be a better design overall. Most people prefer not to bear the costs of installing central air in a rental unit and many landlords are picky about making changes to the home or apartment you are living in. Homeowner Associations, or HOAs, may not allow window air conditioning units for safety reasons, so the portable units keep landlords and HOAs happy, and if you ever move, you can take it with you.

Lower Energy Bills

A portable AC unit can be used in conjunction with a central air-conditioning system, making it a useful appliance to help take the edge off of cooling an entire house. Central air can be expensive to run non-stop since it cools the entire house uniformly. You may want to set the temperature a few degrees higher than you would with the central air system on and “spot cool” with a portable AC. If you have one particularly hot room in the house like a kitchen or attic space, a portable unit may significantly reduce your energy costs by only running it in that area as opposed to turning on the central air system.

Cool the Rooms You Use

Not all HVAC systems will run cool air to spaces where you and your family spend time like sunrooms, patios, and garages. A portable unit can keep these rooms cool and make them easier to enjoy.

Dehumidifies and Filters

A portable AC unit.

Most portable air conditioners give the extra benefit of dehumidifying as they cool the room, which is a huge bonus especially for basement dwellings or areas where humidity runs rampant. Many newer units come with air or carbon filters that remove dust and other allergens from the air. You can usually find models that give the option to remotely turn the unit on or off, change temperature, set a timer, and control various modes and fan speeds. Look for units that remind you when filters or evaporation systems need to be changed, or technology that allows you to control the device with your smartphone. You can find different colors, shapes, and sizes to fit in with your overall décor.


Portable AC units have a few disadvantages as well. They are traditionally quite noisy. Newer, more expensive, designs are less noisy.

Keep in mind that AC units inevitably take up floor space, so consider where you would put the device before purchasing one. It needs to be placed near a window to allow the water or exhaust to flow out of the room through a hose or vent connected to the unit. Some units will have a pan underneath that has to be manually emptied once it’s full, much like a dehumidifier. If the portable air conditioner is on wheels or castors it may be difficult to move on carpet, over rugs, or on uneven floor surfaces. Check to see how heavy each model is beforehand if you have any mobility issues.

Any purchase of a home appliance is particular to a person’s needs. Every house, apartment, or room have different requirements, so make a checklist of what your objectives are along with your budget. With a little premeditation, anyone can find a portable air conditioning unit that suits their needs and keeps them cool.

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