Understanding the Benefits of a Portable AC Unit
The predictions said that this summer was going to be another scorcher for most of the nation, and it’s been pretty accurate so far.
Once the summer heat kicks in, though, most people only have one question on their mind. What’s the best way to stay cool?
Okay, they’re probably also thinking about whether their grills are still working, but it’s mostly about staying cool. It’s a short step from staying cool to thinking about your air conditioning situation.
That raises its own set of questions about total BTUs and whether it’s time to switch to a different kind of air conditioning unit. Depending on whether you’re a homeowner or apartment dweller, there are five basic types of air conditioners available:
- central air unit
- ductless mini-split unit
- window unit
- through-wall unit
- portable AC unit
Today, we’ll be digging into the benefits of portable units. Let’s go!
The most obvious of all the benefits of a portable AC unit is that it’s portable.
Even if a window unit is arguably more energy efficient, few people will go through all the hassle of moving one every day. Window units are designed to be installed and left there for an entire summer or even indefinitely in warmer climates. Installing them at the beginning of summer and taking them out when the weather turns cool is more than enough for most people.
The majority of portable units come with castors that make it easy to roll the unit around your home. That lets you take the cool air with you.
This is an especially nice feature if you know you’ll be doing something that’s going to produce a lot of heat. Like it or not, we all end up cooking a big meal at least a few times over the summer. Positioning a portable AC unit to blow cold air into the kitchen while you cook sure beats having to flee the kitchen periodically just to cool off.
No Installation Hassle
A portable AC unit is a great even for DIY gods.
Window units almost always require installing some kind of support structure on the outside of your home. It may be brackets or a complete shelf. Either way, it’s valuable time and energy used up.
A central cooling system is the strict domain of professional HVAC types. Most cities even have laws that require central AC installations to be carried out by a licensed professional. The disruption and high costs involved with central AC installation make it impractical for many people.
If you live in an apartment building without central air, a window or portable AC unit is your only option. Something else to bear in mind that more and more apartment buildings and homeowner associations are banning window units.
A portable AC unit has no installation requirements other than access to a window. The window vents themselves don’t violate apartment lease requirements or home owner’s association rules in most cases. If you’re concerned they might, you should ask about it before investing in any AC unit.
A Portable AC Unit Makes Less Noise
Air conditioning technology has improved a lot over the years in terms of keeping the noise down, but it’s far from perfect. Aging window AC units are notoriously loud and prone to odd noises. Not exactly ideal for sleeping or for carrying on a conversation with loved ones.
Some portable AC units are loud, the higher BTU ones in particular. With a little research though, you can easily find a portable unit that comes in at or under 65 decibels. For
For a frame of reference, 60 decibels is about as loud as a clothes dryer or dishwasher. 50 decibels is about as loud as moderate rainfall.
In other words, it isn’t a level of noise that’s going to keep you awake or make it difficult to talk to someone. It might even be at the right level to work as white noise while you’re trying to drop off to sleep at night.
Manufacturers almost always give the total decibels a unit produces as part of the specifications on the device. That should make it practical for you to find out what you’re getting into before you buy.
Cools the Room Faster
It’s never fun waiting for a hot room to cool down to a more livable temperature. Even less fun is waiting longer than necessary for the room to cool down.
One key benefit of a portable AC unit is that these units tend to cool down a room faster than their window-based cousins. That faster cooling feature is one of the reasons why there is a debate over efficiency where AC units are concerned.
On paper, window units make more efficient use of energy. They cool a bigger space with the same number of BTUs. By that logic, they are the more efficient choice.
The sticking point is this. If you need to run a portable unit for less time before you turn it off, are the energy savings significant enough to warrant being tied to window units?
The answer that question is both personal and situational. If the speed of cooling matters more to you, it’s portable all the way.
If energy efficiency is important to you, you’ll need to track down the energy usage data of your potential choices. Once you have all the information, you’ll need to decide whether the efficiency difference is substantial enough to matter to you.
Takes Less Weather Abuse
The outdoors is a rough place.
You wouldn’t need to touch up the paint on your house or reseal your deck every few years if it wasn’t. The constant changes in temperature and humidity, precipitation, sun exposure and even the wind put constant pressure on everything outside.
Think about it. These are the same forces that erode mountains and we put window AC units in direct contact with all of it. That’s before we even consider man-made perils like impacts from stray baseballs, soccer balls and rambunctious kids.
Taking all those things into consideration, it’s nothing short of astounding that window units last for a single year. It’s not a stretch to think that direct exposure to the summer sun and heat diminishes a window unit’s efficiency. If the unit is baking in 100-degree weather, it must need to overcome all that heat before it cools your home’s air.
Plus, we can’t escape the reality that all of that exposure has to shorten the lifespan of any piece of technology.
By contrast, the interior of a house or apartment is a fairly controlled environment. The biggest risks that a portable AC unit will face is someone spilling something onto it or the power going out. That is a pretty cushy life in comparison to a window unit.
The cushiness of that life means your portable unit will likely continue to work for longer and with better efficiency.
Less of an Eyesore
Let’s face it, window AC units are just plain ugly.
You’ve probably seen otherwise beautiful homes with excellent landscaping that have these units hanging out of half the windows. Do you notice how great the lawn looks or how well-maintained the home itself is?
No. You see those hideous window units. They draw the eye like misaligned Legos or stains on a white shirt.
It’s true that a portable AC unit needs to be vented and windows are ideal for that purpose. The difference is that the portable unit sits inside the house. The vent is positioned even with the window itself, creating much less visual disruption to your home’s exterior.
The vent hoses are typically four to six inches wide. That means your window isn’t open as much as it needs to be for a window unit, reducing the visual disruption even more.
Reducing how much you need to open the window also cuts down on the disruption to your home’s building envelope.
You get all the benefits of air conditioning without making your home or the neighborhood unnecessarily ugly.
Cool Specific Rooms
Ever have an argument with a significant other about the temperature in the house?
Odds are good that this is a recurring argument in most homes. It usually breaks down like this.
The man always wants it to be colder. The woman always wants it to be warmer. It turns out that neither person is contrary for no good reason.
Men tend to produce more body heat when at rest, which makes them more aware of and less tolerant to summer heat. Ironically, women have higher core body temps than men, which makes them less sensitive to summer heat.
Nothing will solve this problem if you’re in the same room. A portable AC unit can solve the problem if you’re in different rooms. If your husband has a home office, for example, a portable unit will let him keep just that room at a comfortable temperature for him.
This solution works particularly well when a home has central air. The central AC can keep the overall temperature to one spot, while the portable unit takes the temperature down that extra few degrees in the one room.
This same approach can also work at a more general level. Family time usually means everyone congregates in one spot, such as a dining room, game room, or living room. You can let the rest of the house be warmer and use the portable unit to cool the room you’re all in at the moment.
Let’s be clear here. A portable AC unit is not the same thing as a dehumidifier.
A dehumidifier’s only purpose is to remove moisture from the air using cooled coils to create condensation. Once it does this, it pumps the air back out at more or less the same temperature. It might feel cooler, but only because sweat evaporates faster in dry air.
Condensation on the evaporator coils in a portable AC unit also reduces humidity. This is just a byproduct of the air cooling process and not as efficient as a full-on dehumidifier.
The upshot is that dehumidifying done by the AC unit is often enough in places with moderate humidity levels. In tropical or subtropical regions, where humidity is always very high, the AC probably won’t be able to keep the humidity down to comfortable levels by itself.
Think of it like cooking. A small pot of water will come to a boil fairly quickly over medium heat. A large pot of water needs higher heat and generally for longer to come to a boil.
A portable AC unit is like the medium heat of dehumidifying. It’s usually good enough in all but extreme conditions.
Improves Home and Property Security
It’s probably not the first thing that springs to mind when you think about air conditioning, but window units can be a home security risk. Burglars sometimes use ground floor window units as access points for a home. In most cases, they simply shove the unit inside and climb in after it.
A related problem is the theft of the air conditioning units themselves. While it’s possible the units are being stolen for use, it’s more likely they’re being stolen for the copper inside. The common advice is to install some sort of security cage around the unit.
A simpler alternative is a portable AC unit.
Unlike a window unit that sits there looking like a box of money to thieves, portable units are only attached to a window when they’re in use. That means you’re probably home anytime the unit is turned on. It’s not a surefire way to avoid burglary, but most thieves prefer an empty house.
Odds are good that the vent will be removed and the window secured anytime the unit isn’t in use. Again, this won’t prevent a determined thief. It will discourage casual, theft of opportunity situations.
With summer officially here and temperatures expected to remain high, finding a way to beat the heat is on almost everyone’s mind. A portable AC unit is a good way to do it.
Portable units offer numerous benefits. They’re less expensive than central air, more secure than window units, and more acceptable to landlords and homeowner associations. Even if you already have window units or central air, a portable unit is an excellent way to cool just one room a reasonable price.
Portable Air Cons was built with you in mind. If you have questions about portable air conditioners we haven’t answered on the site, please don’t hesitate to send us your questions over on our contact page.