With summer in full swing, staying cool is incredibly important for your health. That is doubly true if you’re out in the great outdoors, with the scorching summer sun beating down on your head. Ice packs, cool drinks, and shade are great ways to stave off a potential heat stroke.
But what are you going to do at night? When the sun dips behind the horizon, the temperature naturally drops. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be cool. Camper vans and tents get notoriously stuffy, especially if they’re packed with multiple people. In that case, your best bet is to invest in a portable air conditioner.
As its name suggests, this device is a type of air conditioner that you can take with you on the go. It comes in a range of sizes and capacities for easy carry. Overall, it’s an incredibly convenient tool to have if you want to cool off indoors and while you’re outside. But is it really necessary?
With the price of window AC units going down, many say that a portable air conditioner is a useless waste of money. Likewise, an equally large number of people claim owning one of these devices is a must for anyone planning a summer outing. As a layman, who do you trust? We got your back.
Today, we’re examining whether it is worth buying a portable air conditioner. Likewise, we’re breaking down the pros and cons of these wonderful machines to help you decide on the right one for you!
Table of Contents
Air conditioners are one of those ubiquitous appliances almost everyone has. Therefore, you’ve likely never given them much thought. But, you may be surprised to find out just how complex they can be.
At the most basic level, an air conditioner works by pulling indoor air and stripping it of its heat and humidity. The appliance contains three key components: a condenser coil, a compressor, and an evaporator coil.
The compressor applies heat and pressure to a specialized gas called a refrigerant. It subsequently sends the gas to the condenser so that it can transform from gas to liquid. Lastly, the machine sends the liquid refrigerant through to the evaporator coil to turn into steam.
Then, when the AC fan sucks in the hot indoor air, the refrigerant absorbs the heat and moisture. The air cools and is subsequently expelled indoors. All the while, the machine diverts the hot, evaporated gas to the compressor before sending it outside.
A standard AC has outdoor and indoor components. It’s bulky and requires a steady stream of electrical power to run. However, thanks to genius engineering work, manufacturers have come up with a way to combine all these elements in a smaller, more compact package.
Portable air conditioners function just like regular AC. They typically have one or two exhaust hoses at the front and the back of the unit. Single hose ACs will convert hot air into cool air while simultaneously creating some negative pressure. Dual hose conditioners, on the other hand, can cool the air without negative pressure.
Thus, dual-core conditioners are more efficient and can cool a room a lot quicker than single-hose units. Nevertheless, both types are a convenient way to ward off heat while on the go.
Despite being a lot smaller and more compact than a standard AC, portable air conditioners are just as powerful. These neat machines offer plenty of advantages you should be aware of if you’re entertaining the idea of getting one.
1. More Affordable
One of the most attractive advantages of portable ACs is their low cost. Depending on the size and model, these machines can cost as little as $37 for a small evaporative cooler. They usually aren’t very powerful but can work if you plan on cooling a very small room.
Larger, more robust units with an 8000+ BTU are a bit pricier. They usually go for $200+, but they aren’t more expensive than $500. Compare that to the price of a standard AC. Central air conditioners can cost anywhere between $1,200‒4,500. Window ACs are slightly more affordable, going for $150‒750.
But the issue is that you don’t just have to pay for the unit. You also have to pay to install and maintain it. This can tack on an extra $300‒600 to your AC bill, which isn’t ideal if you’re on a tight budget.
2. Easy to Use
Not only is a portable AC affordable, but it’s also easy to install! All you need is an electrical outlet and a window for your intake and exhaust hose.
For the most part, the machine is already assembled, so you don’t have to do any complex work mounting it up inside and outside your home. You just have to set up the window bracket, one or two vent hoses, and the vent adapter. All units come with a set of detailed instructions on how to do this. Therefore, you don’t have to pay a professional to assemble it for you.
The most obvious advantage of portable ACs is stated plainly in their name—you can take them with you on the go! Smaller evaporative coolers weigh as little as 2 lbs, which is perfect for an outdoor trip when you don’t want to lug a lot of weight.
Larger units, on the other hand, can weigh around 50 lbs. This is admittedly pretty heavy but still miles lighter than a standard 130lbs window AC. Plus, most portable units come with a set of wheels. Therefore, moving it from one room to the next is not an issue. What’s more, you can even strap it to the roof of your car and take it with you on a family camping trip.
4. Won’t Block Natural Light
If you like having a lot of light in your home, then you’ll love owning a portable AC. These babies need just a bit of space right beside your window for the intake/exhaust hose. Therefore, they allow you to enjoy plenty of sunshine while still keeping the air pleasantly cool.
Portable air conditioners are a real marvel of clever engineering. But, as good as they are, they aren’t without flaws. And if you’re planning on getting a unit of your own, you definitely need to know about the downsides to be able to make an informed purchase.
Do you value peace and quiet in your home? In that case, a portable AC may not be the best choice for you. These powerful units can produce as much as 64dB of noise. To be fair, this isn’t that loud. In context, the average human conversation is about 60 dB.
So it’s more of low background noise you can learn to ignore. But, if you’re very sensitive to any kind of repetitive noise pollution, it may bother you.
2. Consumes a Lot of Electricity
Portable ACs save you money on the unit itself and the installation. However, they do end up costing you more in other areas, like on your power bill. These devices are notorious for consuming a lot of power.
Smaller units require 2900 watts per hour on average. Larger units can consume as much as 4100 watts, which is more than even centralized air conditioners. Fortunately, you can still get around this problem by investing in a model with a programmable thermostat.
This type of AC allows you to efficiently manage the amount of power your machine consumes. Likewise, you can keep the AC running at peak performance if you keep it well-maintained.
3. Not Ideal for Cooling Large Spaces
Small, portable ACs are great for smaller rooms. But, they can often struggle to perform their job when you place them in a larger area. A unit needs at least 5000 BTUs to keep a 150-square-foot room comfortably cool.
So, if you’re planning on getting a portable AC to cool your apartment, you should immediately start looking at medium-sized units in the $150‒300 range.
4. Don’t Control Humidity Levels
Depending on where you live, summertime can mean temperatures in the 100F range. Worse, it can also mean lots of humidity. Most portable ACs can’t withstand such extreme temperatures for prolonged periods of time. So, running your machine while it’s scorching outside puts it at risk of overheating and breaking down.
Furthermore, portable ACs don’t do much to lower humidity levels. Some pricier units have built-in dehumidifiers to control the amount of moisture in the air. But, even the best units can’t completely dehumidify the air. That’s not even accounting for the moisture the AC itself produces, especially if they break down and start leaking water.
Therefore, it’s safe to say that they’ll do you more harm than good if you live in a state with a lot of humidity. However, if you’re situated in a dryer area, like, for example, in Nevada, then a portable AC is a solid choice!
During the summer, one of the biggest challenges is keeping your house cool. Most people do this using a classic window AC unit. While they’re convenient, they can be quite a pain to install and maintain.
Therefore, a portable AC unit comes out as a more attractive option. These machines are smaller, more compact, and have a much more reasonable price tag than most central air conditioning. But is it worth buying a portable air conditioner?
Well, that largely depends on you and your needs. Like all machines, this one has its fair share of pros and cons. And ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether it’s suitable for your home.