As soon as summer rolls around, the AC comes on. An air conditioner is one of the most practical devices you can use to keep your home cool when it’s scorching outside. And if you’re not a fan of big, bulky window units, you can always invest in a portable air conditioner.

Portable ACs have all the features of a regular air conditioner. The only difference is they come in a smaller, more compact package. They’re easy to set up, don’t take a lot of space, and cost much less than any other central air conditioner. Overall, they’re the perfect companion for any modest-sized apartment.

But, much like all good things, portable ACs have their fair share of flaws. The biggest one is the vent system. Namely, portable ACs have a specialized tube that they use to filter out hot air. These vents are supposed to fit into a window so that the hot air can escape outside.

This isn’t terribly convenient, since it limits where you can place your portable AC. So, you may wonder if there is a way to get around the ventilation system. Better yet, do all portable AC units have to be vented? Keep reading to find out everything you could ever want to know about portable ACs.

A Crash Course on Portable Air Conditioners

Portable air conditioners are almost identical to standard ACs — except they’re portable. These devices are like self-contained heat pumps. The unit takes indoor hot air and runs it through a motor that strips it of heat and moisture. Afterward, the cooled air is blown back indoors while the device expels the hit air outside through the vent.

The entire process hinges on three main parts:

  • Refrigerant. A refrigerant is a specialized chemical that transfers heat from one area to another.
  • Compressor. A mechanism that compresses the refrigerant, turning it from a gas into a liquid.
  • Fan. After the refrigerant has cooled the air, the fan circulates it back into the room.

When the machine pulls in the hot air, it passes straight to the condenser coils. There, the coils remove all moisture and heat by condensing the water into vapors.

The air subsequently passes through the refrigerant. The chemical, when heated, turns into a pressurized gas, which is then dispersed through the AC. As for the remaining moisture, the device removes it in one of two ways — via a vent that disperses the water vapor outside, or inside an internal buck that you must empty.

After the heat and moisture are removed, the compressor compresses the refrigerant and cools the air. The fan disperses it while removing the heat the compressor generates through an exhaust hose.

The process hinges on the condenser coil staying clean. If the coil gets dirty, the compressor has to work harder to absorb heat. Over time, this could cause the machine to overheat.

This is true for portable and standard AC units. While both appliances work the same way, portable ACs combine all three components into one device. Therefore, it comes out as a much more convenient option, especially for a smaller home.

Single Hose vs. Dual Hose AC

Apart from the three main components, another important aspect of portable ACs is the exhaust hose. This piece of equipment is supposed to vent the heat that accumulates when the refrigerant is compressed.

Portable ACs have two types of exhaust hoses: single hose and dual hose exhausts. Both types have their own unique characteristics, which make them suitable for different purposes.

Single Hose Exhaust

As its name suggests, single hose exhaust ACs only have one exhaust at the back. The vent helps disperse the heat produced by the compressor and condenser coils, which in turn keeps the motor functioning at peak capacity.

The device sucks in the air and moisture. It first cools the air and expels it back into the room before disposing of the heat and moisture through the exhaust. The entire process takes just a few seconds and leaves you with a nice, chilled room.

But, the only downside is that the machine creates negative pressure when it takes in hot air. As a result, more hot air is drawn through open doors and windows to compensate. So, as paradoxical as it may seem, the harder the machine works, the hotter your room will get.

Moreover, since there is only one exhaust, the machine isn’t as efficient at cooling larger rooms. More space means the motor has to work twice as hard to draw in hot air. As you can imagine, this could make the motor overheat and even break down.

Therefore, only opt for a single exhaust AC if you live in a small, one-bedroom apartment.

Double Hose Exhaust

In case your apartment is larger, then a double hose portable AC is for you. This device functions much like the single hose one. It takes in hot air and then cools it using compressed refrigerant. Afterward, it returns the cooled air into the room while disposing of the heat and moisture through the vent.

The only difference is that a double hose AC uses two exhaust vents to complete this process. One hose expels the heat and moisture outside. Meanwhile, the other hose takes in more hot air to cool down the compressor and the condenser coil. As a result, there is no negative pressure and less risk of the machine overheating.

Still, the machine comes with a few flaws. The first one is the price. Because the appliance has two exhausts, it’s slightly pricier than a single hose AC. Likewise, it can be a bit bulkier than other portable ACs — therefore, it may not be the best option if you want to take your unit with you.

But, if you live in a larger home, and need a way to cool off, then this unit is exactly what you’re looking for.

Do All Portable AC Units Need to be Vented?

So, to recap, portable ACs rely on exhaust vents to expel hot air. In the case of double hose units, the machine also uses one of the vents to keep the compressor and the condenser coils cool. The vents are an essential part of the AC, and without them, the appliance wouldn’t be able to function at top capacity.

Yet, though they’re essential, hooking them up can be very inconvenient. Since the vent has to expel the air somewhere, experts recommend you install it on your window. Most models come with a window kit that is compatible with the average window in a residential home.

But what if your kit doesn’t fit your window? In that case, there are several venting alternatives you can use to set up your unit.

1. Install it on a Sliding Glass Door

If you don’t have a suitable window to outfit the AC, a sliding glass door can work too. A standard window kit is usually not long enough to fit a door. Therefore, you’ll likely need to buy a new extension kit.

Position the vent so that the hose is in a straight line. Try to avoid bending the hose as much as possible since that can hinder the efficacy of the machine. Next, tack it onto the opening, making sure you’ve covered any cracks so that hot air can’t escape.

Extension and window kits all come with styrofoam tape. You can use this tape to secure the edges of a bracket and tightly seal it. If the tape isn’t doing the trick, removable caulking is also an option.

2. Hook It Up to the Central Air System

Don’t have a suitable window or a sliding glass door? No problem! If you live in a building, you probably have a central air system you can hook your AC too.

Locate the air return ducts in your home and tack on the hose. Just like with the sliding glass door, make sure the hose is in a straight line and that you’ve securely taped it to the opening.

Likewise, check if your central AC can handle extra airflow. A lot of systems have a limited capacity and won’t be able to properly redirect the heat. As a result, the heat you’re trying to get rid of could end up back in your apartment, which defeats the purpose of having an AC. 

3. Run the Unit in Dehumidifier Mode

It may surprise you to learn that most portable AC units have an in-built dehumidifier. The device allows the AC to run without having an exhaust vent attached to the back.

You just need to attach a garden hose to the drain port. Place it in a bucket or basin so that it can collect the excess water. However, keep in mind that this won’t help you get rid of humidity. The garden hose will deposit the extra liquid in a basin, which will end up evaporating back into the air.

Consequently, you’ll end up back at square one.

4. Pull It Through the Wall

Are you handy with a saw and hammer? In that case, you can also pull your vent through a wall. First, make a hole in your wall big enough to fit your hose. Be sure that your wall’s interior has a clear path for the air to travel through.

Then, carefully pull the vent through the wall, taking care to keep it in a straight line. Twisting the tube could prevent it from expelling the air, which could, in turn, make your machine overheat.

After you’ve mounted the vent, seal it tightly so the air can’t escape. In case your portable AC has a dual hose, you can outfit both to the wall. One vent will expel hot air into the wall while the other pulls the hot air to cool the motor.

This helps save space, as well as preserve the cool air your unit worked so hard to generate.

To Summarize

A portable AC is an incredibly convenient machine for anyone who lives in a small apartment. However, it can be a pain to set up, especially if you don’t have a suitable window for the exhaust hose. So, do all portable AC units need to be vented? The answer is no!

There are plenty of alternatives to venting an AC out a window — you can always attach the hose to a central air system, a sliding glass door, or a wall. You can even run the machine in dehumidifier mode and forget venting it altogether! Whichever option you choose, you’ll end up with a nice, cool home.

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