A Comprehensive Portable Air Conditioner Buying Guide

Are you looking for a way to help your family beat the heat this summer? But are you worried about skyrocketing electricity bills from your air conditioner? In recent years, many cost-conscious families have turned to portable air conditioners as way to stay cool and keep their costs under control.

Following are the answers to 9 questions that are most frequently asked about portable air conditioners.

1.  How does a portable air conditioner work?

Portable AC units work much like standard systems.  They cool rooms down by cooling the warm air in these spaces and then transitioning the resulting moisture and heat outside.  Hot air in the room is passed over coils that are cooled through the use of refrigerant gas.  Moisture and heat are forced out of the home through an exhaust hose and cooled air is circulated through the room.

The main difference in these models is the exhaust hose that they carry and some units can even have two of these.  These hoses are used to direct the hot air out of the room through the window.  It is additionally possible to create a continuous exhaust design by simply adding a gap in your wall. This is not a distinction that window units have, given that their exhaust is already situated outside the home.  A number of these models have a water tank that collects and holds the condensation that is drawn from the air.  In order to keep these units in good working order, you will need to empty these tanks routinely.

portable air conditioner

2.  Can these units help my allergies?

They can go far beyond simply creating comfortable indoor temperatures throughout the hottest months of the year.  By regulating both indoor humidity levels and temperatures, they can also help alleviate allergy problems.  Some of the most common allergens are mold spores and dust mites, both of which can exacerbate bronchial asthma and allergies.

Indoor humidity levels can actually be lowered by portable air conditioners. They moderate humidity levels and keep symptoms of allergies low.  It is important for allergy sufferers to monitor indoor humidity and to use transportable ACs.  They should additionally use dehumidifiers and humidifiers, which will help them to keep humidity levels between just 40-50%.

3.  What are British Thermal Units or BTUs?

Nearly all portable AC models show a rating for their British Thermal Units or BTUs.  This measures the amount of heat that a model is capable of removing per hour.  For rooms between 300 to 400 square feet, it will usually take about 12,000 BTUs to effectively cool them down.  The dimensions of an AC unit will be dependent up the amount of natural light and shade in the room, the number of room occupants and how the room is commonly used.  Some additional considerations include the amount of heat that travels into the space and the amount of insulation that is in the ceilings and partitions.  Following are a few comparisons of room sizes and the amount of BTUs that are necessary for cooling them.

(1) 100-200 sq ft requires 8,000-10,000 BTUs.
(2) 12,000 BTUs will be necessary for spaces that are 200-300 sq ft.
(3) 12,000-14,000 BTUs will be essential for rooms that measure 300-400 sq ft.
(4) 14,000 BTUs will be necessary for any space that is 400 sq ft and above.

Remember, room size is just one of the many factors that goes into determining which option will be right for a specific space.

4.  What should I look for in terms of options?

Once you have reviewed the BTUs, you should find out whether a unit is a dual or single hose model.  Dual hose options tend to be far more energy-efficient.  These designs have one hose for intake and another for outtake.  Air is taken out of the room and cooled by the air consumption and then this is brought back into the room.  This causes heat to saturate upwards, in and across the unit motor.  Air is taken from outside by the second hose to cool down those parts of the unit.  The hot air is pushed back outside by the second hose.  Dual hose options are highly efficient, especially when used in larger rooms.  There is no unpleasant air stress, like single hose units cause.  Keep in mind that the size of the room is just one of several factors that will determine the right unit for the space.

5.  Is it necessary to vent a portable air conditioner?

Yes!  The hot air that is transferred out of the unit has to be vented through existing duct work, a window or a wall.  If units are designed for double hung doors or sliding doors, these will include window equipment.  One benefit of window units is the fact that these are adjustable.  The exhaust that your unit produces is not toxic, it’s just really hot air!

6.  How long can I expect a portable AC to last?

Your unit will last a long time if you use it minimally. Most of the current models will usually average about five good years.  Many of these have warranties just in case something goes wrong before this time.

7.  How about maintaining these units?

Cleaning and upkeep are essential for keeping your unit efficient.  Air filters must be kept free of debris and clean.  They should be checked out on a routine basis and if necessary, cleaned with a brush or vacuum attachment.  You can even use a mild detergent on these.  Make sure that the filter is complete dry, however, before you put it back in.  There are some models that have replacement filters.  Many of these are not designed to be washed and reused.

Turn off this equipment and unplug it in order to clean the exterior.  Use a damp cloth to give it a good wipe down.  You can use a light detergent on your cloth and should allow the surface to totally dry after having wiped it.  Avoid using abrasive and harsh solutions.  Make sure that you are not splashing water into the actual unit as this increases the risk of electrical shock and could cause damage.

8.  How loud and heavy are these units?

Portable air conditioners can be fairly heavy.  Models can differ but they usually weight between 60 and 100 pounds.  They can be tough to lug up or down the stairs.  They do, however, roll easily from room to room when these are all on the same floor.

Fortunately, they aren’t very loud. They are a bit louder than central AC, but they still aren’t bad noise-wise.  The noise levels for these units often range between 50 and 59 decibels.

9.  How will this equipment impact my energy bill?

You are doubtless going to see a rise in power use as well in your electricity bill.  Depending upon the dimensions of your selected model, you might wind up using quite a bit of power.  Look for models with high energy efficient ratings or EERs.  This number is reflective of the amount of energy that a unit consumes respective to its cooling power.  You’ll get better cooling power with a higher EER and more value for your money.

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