The Overwhelming Benefits of a Portable AC Unit
Are you tired of sweating inside your home?
Do you have a collection of fans that do nothing more than blow hot air around?
Do you wish you could install central AC, but you can’t afford the hefty price tag?
If you’re nodding right now, don’t despair. You don’t have to endure another summer in a hot home. To stay cool without breaking the bank, all you need is a portable AC unit.
How do these units work? How do they differ from other types of AC units? And what are the benefits of choosing a portable AC unit?
Read on for everything you need to know about portable AC.
How Does a Portable AC Unit Work?
To start, let’s define exactly what a portable AC unit is.
As the name suggests, a portable AC unit can be easily moved from room to room. It uses a refrigerant to cool the air inside your home.
How does this process work? Here’s a step by step breakdown:
- The unit draws hot air in from your home.
- The hot air passes over coils (usually copper) that contain the refrigerant.
- As the coils cool the air, a fan pushes the cooler air back into the room.
- A vent hose attached to a nearby window removes the excess hot air.
Essentially, a portable AC unit works the same way a window or central unit works. As you’ll see, though, there are significant advantages to using a portable unit.
Is a Portable AC Unit Right for Me?
Maybe you’re still debating which type of AC will work best in your home. Let’s briefly discuss some situations where a portable unit is an ideal solution.
The first and most obvious scenario is that your home doesn’t have AC vents. This is common in older homes built before the invention of central heating and cooling. Unless you’re prepared to make major renovations, it’s simply impossible to install a central AC unit.
Another possible scenario is you’re unable to install a window unit. This could happen for a variety of reasons:
- You rent your home and your landlord won’t allow it.
- You own your home and your community won’t allow it.
- Your windows are the wrong size.
- Your windows don’t open enough to accommodate the unit.
If any of these apply to you, a window AC unit is a no-go. In this situation, a portable AC unit is the perfect solution.
What if you have central AC or several window units already installed? Does that mean you have no need for a portable AC unit?
Not necessarily. Perhaps you have an attic or a room with high ceilings and large windows. No matter how high you blast that AC, those rooms never seem to cool down.
In this instance, you could use a portable AC unit to cool certain rooms that otherwise stay too warm.
Costs of Portable AC vs. Other Types of AC
A major advantage of portable AC units is that they’re more energy efficient than other cooling systems. Not only are they better for the environment, but they can save you a lot of money in installation and power costs.
Here are a few facts and figures to put this into perspective.
- The average cost of purchasing a central AC system is $1,700-$3,500.
- The same survey reports that the average cost of installing a central AC system is $3,712-$7,148.
- Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma have the highest average monthly electric bills, at $126.75.
- The same survey adds that Hawaii’s average electric bill is a staggering $190.36 each month.
As you can see, central AC units are a luxury item. They’re expensive to purchase, install, and maintain. They also contribute to high electricity bills each month.
Window AC units cost significantly less. They average around $276 to purchase and another $200 to install. Depending on where you live, though, you may not be able to install a window unit.
Most portable AC units cost between $400-$650 to buy, and there are no installation fees.
Clearly, a portable AC unit can save you a lot of money, both upfront and over time.
Health Risks of Getting Too Hot
Another thought that merits consideration is the health risk associated with extreme heat.
Exposure to extreme heat is responsible for nearly 700 deaths every year in the US. The 1995 Chicago heat wave caused 692 deaths and sent another 3,300 people to the emergency room.
With global warming on the rise and intense heat waves rolling through each summer, staying cool is nothing to take lightly.
Elderly people are at the greatest risk for heat-associated health problems. But extreme temperatures can also be dangerous for children and obese persons. Those with specific medical conditions or those who take certain medications may also have reduced tolerance to the heat.
Here are a few common signs of heat exhaustion:
- Faintness or dizziness
- Profuse sweating with cold, clammy skin
- Rapid, weak pulse
- Pale skin or flushed face
- Muscle cramps
- Fatigue or physical weakness
Left untreated, these symptoms can evolve into heat stroke, a potentially life-threatening situation.
While there’s not much you can do about the outside temperature, you can control the temperature inside your home. Don’t take chances with your family’s health. The next time a heat wave rolls through, you can cool at least one room in your house with a portable AC unit.
Benefits of Portable AC
We’ve touched on some of these already, but here’s a breakdown of all the benefits of a portable AC unit.
Reduced Power Bill
This is probably the most significant advantage of a portable AC unit. A portable unit, on average, uses as little as one-eighth of the electricity of a central unit.
Remember the monthly electric bills we discussed earlier? This could mean hundreds or even thousands of dollars in savings each year.
The main function of a portable AC is to cool the air. However, that’s not its only capability.
Most units come equipped with both cooling and heating functions. This is another terrific way to save on costs if you live somewhere with cold winters. Rather than buying a separate space heater to use on those chilly winter nights, your portable unit can double as a heater.
Sometimes you don’t need heating or cooling; you simply need air circulation. A portable unit can do that, too, with a simple fan setting.
Because of the way the unit works – expelling hot air through a window – it also acts as a natural dehumidifier. No need to buy one of those, either!
In one portable unit, you get cooling, heating, a fan, and a dehumidifier. How’s that for multi-tasking?
All portable AC units come with a remote control. This is incredibly handy no matter which room you have your unit in.
Are you watching TV and need to adjust the temperature? Just place the AC remote beside the TV remote, and you don’t have to lift a finger.
What if you wake up in the middle of the night and you feel too warm (or too cold)? No problem. Keep the remote beside your bed, and you can adjust the temperature with a simple click.
Lower Purchase Price
Central AC units cost thousands of dollars. After you make your purchase, it will cost thousands more to install it.
Window units cost less, but may not be a practical solution for some. Even if it is an option, you’ll have to shell out a few hundred dollars to get it installed.
A portable AC unit won’t break the bank when you buy it. There are no installation fees because it doesn’t need to be “installed.” And it will help to reduce your electric bill every month, saving you more money over time.
We’re all thinking it, so let’s just say it: Window AC units are ugly. That’s probably why many communities and apartment buildings don’t allow them.
Do you want to look out your window and see a big gray box staring back at you? Of course not. Your neighbors don’t want to stare at one attached to your home, either.
A portable AC unit is completely invisible from the outside. And because most of them have sleek, modern designs, they won’t be an eyesore inside your house, either.
You may even be able to place it behind a piece of furniture or another inconspicuous location. This will give you the cool air you need without ruining the aesthetic appeal of your home.
Easy to Move
With a portable AC unit, you have total control over which rooms in your house you want to cool.
Need your office to stay cool while you work during the day? Simply wheel your unit into the office and plug it in.
Ready to relax in the living room for the evening? All you have to do to cool it off is move the unit out to the living room.
Time to go to bed? Create the perfect temperature for sleeping by moving your unit into the bedroom for the night.
Another great bonus? You won’t waste precious money and energy cooling rooms in your house that no one is using. Instead, you can cool just the room you’re currently in.
With all the talk of global warming, we want to do our part to reduce the carbon footprint.
Rather than contributing to excessive energy use with a central AC unit, you can use only the energy you need with a portable unit instead.
Make Everyone Happy
Is there one person in your family who’s always cold? Is someone else always hot?
With a central AC system, it’s difficult to find a temperature that’s suitable for everyone. A portable unit solves this problem once and for all.
Everyone who likes it cold can “chill” in the room with the portable AC. Those with thinner blood can stay in the warmer areas of the house. It’s a win-win situation.
We’ve talked a lot about the advantages of a portable AC unit. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t include a few potential drawbacks, as well.
Can Be Noisy
Most units claim to be quiet, but we have yet to see a completely silent machine. If you’re not used to the noise of a fan, it could be a distraction or irritant.
May Not Discharge All Hot Air
When the unit pushes cold air into the room, a little bit of hot air is still mixed in with it. Although a venting hose takes care of most of this, you’ll generally need more cool air than you would with a window unit.
May Need to Empty a Tank
Not all units come with venting hoses. Some models use water that drains into a tank. Depending on how much you use the unit, you may have to empty the tank often.
Can Be Heavy
The average weight of a portable AC unit is between 50 and 80 pounds. Although they include wheels and designed to be moveable, stairs and other features of your home could present a challenge.
May Not Adequately Cool Large Rooms
Portable AC units work best in small areas. If your home has very high ceilings, large windows, or little insulation, the unit may not be able to cool the largest rooms.
Other Tips for Staying Cool
In addition to using a portable AC, here are a few other helpful tips for staying cool on hot summer days.
- Close your curtains during the day to prevent sunlight from pouring in.
- If you live somewhere with cool evenings, keep your windows open at night.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoiding caffeine and alcohol.
- Limit the use of your oven and other heating appliances on very hot days.
- Use ceiling or standing fans to improve air flow.
The benefits of a portable AC unit are clear.
They’re cost-effective and environmentally friendly. Most importantly, they’ll keep your family comfortable and safe during the hottest summer months.
Ready to start shopping? Check out our latest portable AC reviews to find the unit that’s right for you.