Everything you need to know before buying a portable air conditioner.
Regardless of where you are located, the need to stay cool during unbearably hot seasons is real. In some situations, central air conditioners are not the best option for a cooling system especially since they cost an arm and a leg.
This is where portable air conditioners come in. These are air conditioners that do not require duct work hence can be moved from room to room for cooling. It usually comes with wheels for easy moving and one or two hoses to vent out hot air.
While these conditioners are flexible, you should not be carried away by the idea of portability as moving them is not as easy as one may expect thanks to their weight and the hoses. To recap this statement, these ACs are portable, but it is too much hassle to move them regularly.
While doing your research for a portable AC, you will come across commercial and residential ones. Commercial portable ACs are meant to run non-stop throughout the day hence best for commercial use. They are commonly used to cool small server rooms since servers ought to be cool throughout. Commercial ACs have a larger BTU compared to residential ones which run for a shorter period per day.
How do Portable Air Conditioners Work?
These conditioners pretty much use the same principle as other conditioners which involves sucking up hot, humid air from the room and replacing it will cooler air. The methodology is what changes a little bit. S
o what happens is, warm air is sucked into the unit which is vented out of the room trough the hose (usually placed at the window). The air is condensed to water and depending on the technology used by the system, this water either evaporates, collects into a tank or drains from a pipe. This goes on until the whole room is cooled.
The Portable AC system is however faced by one major drawback, especially if your house is considerably large. The air cooled in one room creates a pressure difference with other rooms leading to warm air from the other rooms flowing back into the cooled room. It ends up overworking the system or not efficiently cooling down a room. To minimize this effect, try and close doors leading to other rooms while working on one room.
The ideal situation for owning a portable air conditioner.
Portable air conditioners may not be the best choice of cooling options for some individuals. On the other hand, some situations warrant the use of a portable air conditioner as opposed to other means. So, if you fall in any of these categories, a portable conditioner may be the best choice for you.
Most rental houses or apartments (especially the small ones) do not come with cooling systems or ductwork installed. If you are renting, it is quite hard to install ducts in your apartment not only because of the cost but also due to the temporary nature of your accommodation. In this case, a portable air conditioner is a great and affordable way to stay cool during the hot seasons.
As said earlier, central air conditioners are pretty expensive in installing as well as maintaining. While you prepare yourself for the installation of the central system or any other cooling option, a portable air conditioner may come in handy.
Small apartment owners.
Some apartments especially those comprising of a single room are too small to allow central conditioner options and too big for a fan. In this case, a portable conditioner will be a great accessory to have. The same applies to cabins and cottages.
Pros and cons of a Portable System.
- Easy to install. Installation is not permanent hence it is quite easy to do. If anything, all you need to do is follow the manual accompanied by the device. It seldom requires a professional to do it.
- Quite affordable compared to other systems. This system is less pricey compared to other systems such as the central conditioners in terms of maintenance and buying price.
- It is flexible in terms of changing its location. It comes with wheels making it easier to move from room to room where necessary.
- Take up a lot of space. Other systems are usually installed on windows or walls hence they do not take up any floor space.
- They are heavy. Despite being flexible, they are heavy making it a bit of a challenge to keep moving them.
Choosing a portable system that is best for you.
Although portable systems function the same and come at relatively the same price range, there are some choices you will have to make while choosing the one that suits you. Such choices include:
Single or double hose system.
A single hose system draws air from the room, cools it and returns it o the room. It uses some of the air it has cooled to cool its system before venting out the hot air through the hose. This usually results in creating negative pressure in the room as explained earlier.
On the other hand, a double hose system operates in the same way as a single hose only that it creates negligible amounts of negative air pressure usually due to pressure difference in the house. This is because a double hose system draws air from outside to cool itself as opposed to a single hose system that uses part of the cooled room air.
Since the double hose system uses unconditioned air from outside to cool itself, it makes it less energy efficient when cooling your house. While picking a system based on the hose technology used, go for a dual system if your house is large.
The size in terms of BTU.
If there is one thing you want to get right when buying any air conditioner, it is the size. Size is measured in British Thermal Units (BTU) which is the amount of heat a conditioner can remove from a room per hour. If you go with a smaller size, you will be overworking the system and it may not be able to meet your cooling demands. A system that is too big will only cool the area and shut down before removing excessive moisture from the air. This means you have to get it just right.
For small apartments (about 300 square feet), you can trust a conditioner with a BTU between 7,000 and 10,000 to do the job. Apartments between 300 and 700 square feet will require a BTU of between 10,000 and 14,000. To be more accurate, you can use a BTU calculator in getting the right of the portable AC.
There are other factors other than the size of your house that will determine the right BTU for your AC. If your house has any of the features below, it is best to increase the size of your AC for it to work better. These are:
- You have very high ceilings.
- The area you live in is very hot and humid.
- The room has many heat generating appliances.
The Draining mechanism used.
Just like Central air conditioners, Portable conditioners do the work of dehumidifying a room. The moisture collected from the air is converted to water and this is where the difference in drainage systems comes in. different portable conditioners come with different mechanisms. They include:
- Self-evaporating systems.
Most systems come with the ability to evaporate the moisture from air hence saving you the trouble of having to drain or empty condensed water. These systems are better preferred to the rest as they can be left to run unattended save for maintenance periods.
It should, however, be noted that self-evaporating systems come in two types, fully and partially evaporating. The former require no draining at all while the latter combines both evaporating and other draining technologies. This means that you will have to drain some water yourself or connect a drain hose. This calls for a keen eye when purchasing your AC so as not to confuse the two.
- Drain hose.
This feature is available in all portable air conditioners hence you can choose to connect a drain hose or not. This allows the condensed water to be drained outside (normally to a nearby floor drain) using the force of gravity. This way, you will not be required to do the draining yourself but regular checks should be done to ensure the condensate is draining properly.
Pumps are connected to help in pumping the condensate water through the drainage hose. They are bought separately in most cases and can pump water upwards where needed.
- Collecting tanks.
This is usually found in simple AC where the condensate collects in a small tank or bucket that you will have to drain occasionally. The tank fills up and depending on the humidity in the atmosphere it can take about 2 to 6 hours before being emptied.
The efficiency of the system.
Most portable air conditioners are considered more efficient compared to central r conditioners. Efficiency is the ability to save on electric energy usually measured in Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER). THE higher the EER the more efficient the air conditioner. While looking for an efficient portable air conditioner, an EER of 10 will save you some electric bills.
Compared to central air conditioners, portable conditioners are quite noisy. This is because the compressor and motor fan are located inside and they produce noise when cooling the system. To minimize any chance of noise, look for a portable AC with multiple speeds or sleep mode. Also, a fast fan speed conditioner is prone to make less noise compared to a slower one, so watch out for this.
It should, however, be noted that noise levels vary from person to person. While it may bother one individual, to another it is just normal, kind of like a refrigerator noise. In this case, t is better to test out the AC before purchasing where possible.
Electric outlet needed.
It is quite easy to ignore the power outlet requirements of a portable conditioner. A mistake that might cost you time and money on special wiring. Although most portable ACs come with the normal 120 volts outlet, there are some that require more power. So, be sure to check the power outlet requirements before purchasing your AC.
Now that your portable conditioner is up to standards in terms of ‘must have’ features, there are some special features that will give you an easy time while using your it. Some of these features will require you to pay a little extra so be prepared. They include:
- Remote control.
- Fully self-evaporating system.
- A programmable timer.
- Carry handles.
- Digital timer.
- Multiple fan speeds.
- Directional air control.
How to install and maintain your portable air conditioner.
There is nothing hard about installing a portable air conditioner. In fact, most people opt to do it themselves as an elaborate guide is usually provided (ensure your AC has a manual or guide). The important thing to remember is to put the hose outside either through your window or sliding door if you have one. If you are not comfortable with the window or door option, consider drilling a hole through your wall for the same purpose.
In most cases, installation will need the usual household tool such as a screwdriver. If by any chance you doubt your ability to correctly install your AC, there is no shame in requesting assistance from your seller.
Maintenance of these conditioners too, is quite simple and straight forward. Some people claim to go for months without maintenance which is quite possible but risky at the same time. Weekly maintenance of your system will ensure it lasts longer hence saving you money on repairs and replacement. When performing a maintenance check, ensure you do the following:
- Ensure you correctly install it or peak performance.
- Drain the air conditioner before storing it if it does not fully evaporate.
- Clean the filters and check on them regularly. (At least once every month, especially in summer).
- Refer to the manual for emphasis on parts you ought to pay special attention to.