Portable air conditioners: buy the voucher and stay cool all summer long


Portable air conditioners are a quick fix for hot spots in your home.


Drought and record time are hitting the western United States this week. If you are sweating at home this summer, a portable air conditioner could be exactly what you need. These plug-in units are designed to cool rooms using a nearby window and power cord.

No expensive installation required, they can be of great help for rooms which are not air conditioned or which do not receive sufficient air. They are also useful in buildings whose windows cannot adapt to a standard window AC unit. Here’s everything you need to know if you’re in the market for a portable air conditioner.

How portable air conditioners work

Portable air conditioners are different from window units; they are more like tower fans or air purifiers that can easily be installed in the corner of most rooms.

Like the dryer vent that exits your home through a window or nearby wall fitting, portable air conditioners use a hose to carry moisture and exhaust from your home. You should get a window vent kit with your purchase, and it includes everything you will need to hook up the pipe to your window and seal off the rest of the window’s open space.

Your portable air conditioner will plug into a nearby power outlet and suck air through its system to cool it and circulate it throughout your space. Most units include a water tank to help dehumidify the air it circulates. Others use their vent pipe to evaporate this moisture.

There are two main types – single hose and double hose – and they work differently. We will take a look.

Monotube portable air conditioners

A single-pipe portable air conditioner works by taking the warm stagnant air inside your room, cooling it, and circulating it around your space.


In single-pipe units, the pipe discharges hot air and moisture to the outside.


Any excess hot air or moisture is vented from your space through the window vent pipe of the portable air conditioner. These models, like this Black & Decker model are generally more energy efficient than dual-hose models.

Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioners

Dual-hose models do not use the air inside your home. Instead, they pull cool air from outside through this pipe attached to the window. This is the air that the portable air conditioner will cool and then circulate around the room.

Whynter-14000-btu-portable-air conditioner

In dual-pipe units, a pipe exhausts air from the outside to cool and circulate throughout the room. The other pipe drains additional hot air and moisture to the outside.


A second pipe takes the excess hot air and moisture and discharges it through the window. These units, like this Honeywell model, will generally cool a room faster.

What to look for in a portable air conditioner

Once you’ve decided that a portable air conditioner is right for you, there are a few things to consider.

Plan where you will put it

You may already know which room in your house needs cooling, but you will also need to think about where you are going to put it. You will need nearby access to an openable window that can serve as a source of ventilation. You will also need an electrical outlet nearby.


Portable air conditioners don’t come cheap. Small personal models can cost around $ 50, but for a unit that will cool an entire room, you’ll likely spend at least $ 200. The larger and more powerful the unit, the more you will pay.

Many models available online range from $ 250 to $ 499 for rooms between 200 and 650 square feet. Seasonal items like air conditioners tend to go on sale out of season, so keep an eye out for fall and winter deals.


Size matters! Cliche? Yes. True? Yes too. You need to know the size of the coin to determine how much circulation power you should purchase. Portable air conditioners come in different sizes, and often that means different prices as well.

Here’s a quick guide, from air conditioner manufacturer Sylvane, with the 8 foot ceiling assumption:

  • 7,500 BTUs will cover 150 square feet x 8 foot ceiling = 1,200 cubic feet
  • 9,000 BTUs will cover 200 square feet x 8 foot ceiling = 1,600 cubic feet
  • 10,000 BTUs will cover 300 square feet x 8 foot ceiling = 2,400 cubic feet
  • 12,000 BTUs will cover 400 square feet x 8 foot ceiling = 3,200 cubic feet
  • 13,000 BTUs will cover 450 square feet x 8 foot ceiling = 3,600 cubic feet
  • 14,000 BTUs will cover 500 square feet x 8 foot ceiling = 4000 cubic feet

BTU stands for British Thermal Unit, a measure of how much heat an air conditioning unit can remove from a space per hour. Portable air conditioners use this unit to measure their cooling power, so the higher the BTU rating, the larger the room an air conditioner can cool.

Small parts: A 7,000 to 10,000 BTU unit can effectively cool rooms up to 300 square feet. This 8,000 BTU Midea Unit claims to cool rooms up to 150 square feet.

Medium rooms: For rooms between 350 and 700 square feet, you will need an 11,000 to 14,000 BTU unit. This 12,000 BTU SereneLife air conditioner says it cools rooms up to 450 square feet.

Large rooms: Residential units typically exceed 14,000 BTUs, which is enough for a maximum of 700 square feet. For spaces larger than that, you will have to look to commercial or industrial models. A unit too small for your space will run for too long and never effectively cool it to the desired temperature. There are a few exceptions, however, like this 15,000 BTU residence. Honeywell model that promises to cool up to 775 square feet.

If you need a portable cooling system for larger spaces but don’t want to pay the commercial prices (they can run into the thousands), consider buying several smaller units and placing them away from each other. others.

Additional features and useful intelligence


Some units work with an app so you can make adjustments on the go.


Once you’ve determined the right unit size, it’s time to think about what additional features might improve your experience. Here are some common extras and sample units.

Timer: Timers allow you to set the cooling to start or stop after a certain time or time of day.

From a distance: A remote control will help you manage your air conditioning in a much more convenient way.

Dehumidification: Air conditioners that also dehumidify can help rooms feel less stuffy quickly.

Intelligent: Smart portable air conditioners have Wi-Fi to connect to voice assistants for voice commands and routines or to a mobile application.

Maintain your portable air conditioner

Portable air conditioners have air filters to keep the circulating air clean. It is a good idea to clean the filter every two weeks for optimum performance. You can wash these filters with dish soap and lukewarm water.

Since portable air conditioners also dehumidify to some extent, you will also need to empty your device’s water collection pan, if it has one. Dual-hose models may not collect water if they remove most of the moisture through a second hose, so see your appliance’s care instructions for more information. Empty the drip tray often, before or after use to prevent mold growth.

In addition to these two maintenance items, general dusting and wiping will keep your device fresh and functional. If you store it in cold weather, keep it in a cool, dry place.

With a little math and planning, you can solve your summer heat problems before they ruin the season with a portable air conditioner for your space.

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Karl M. Bailey

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