Informational Guide

Are Portable Air Conditioners Worth It?

Considering all the perks of portable cooling, you might still be wondering, are portable air conditioners worth the money?

by Josh M

There are a lot of good things to be said about portable air conditioners, like the fact that they’re easy to use, can be moved from room to room with ease, and serve as a great supplement to central cooling.

But as you consider all the perks that come along with portable cooling, you might still be wondering, are portable air conditioners worth it? That’s exactly what we’ll be covering in this guide, where we’ll weigh the pros and cons to determine, is portable AC worth it?

In order to know whether or not a portable air conditioner is a worthy investment, it’s best to know how a portable AC unit operates. While the exact steps for cooling depend on the type and style of portable air conditioner, the overall concepts are always the same.

When you turn the system on, it all starts with the air intake. Whether through an intake hose or intake vents, warm air from the home is drawn into the AC’s enclosure. Once inside, the air is condensed and cooled with the help of a compressor. Once cool, it’s blown back into the room, decreasing the surrounding temperature as it fills the space.

When Used Properly, a Portable AC Unit Is Worth It!

Many people wonder if this simple process will actually result in a cooler home. The answer is generally yes, but it really comes to the specific AC brand and model you’ve chosen, the size of the space, and the extent of cooling needed.

If you’re trying to significantly cool down a space of 1000 square feet and have purchased a portable AC that’s rated to cool down 200 square feet, then no, it’s probably not worth it. But if you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to use the unit in the proper square footage, then yes, it could be a very good investment.

Benefits of Portable AC Units: Who Should Buy One?

Just like any type of air conditioning, there are pros and cons to portable ACs. Let’s first cover the benefits:

  • Easy to install
    Portable ACs are, well, portable. That fact alone means that they’re compact and easy to install. That’s especially true compared to complicated mini-split units or heavy window units.
  • Can be moved between rooms
    Portable units are made for easy transport from room to room, and many of them even come equipped with rolling caster wheels or sturdy carrying handles.
  • An alternative cooling system on-the-go
    Some portable units are specifically catered to an on-the-go lifestyle. There are portable ACs designed for use in RVs, trailers, or pop-up campers, and some even operate on a rechargeable battery.
  • Less expensive to run
    Investing in a portable AC unit can actually help you to save money on your electricity bills. With the help of a portable AC, you won’t have to run your central unit on full blast, therefore cutting back on your overall energy consumption.
  • Can be stored during winter
    When the temperature outside drops, it’s easy to pack up that portable unit and store it away until you have a use for it again. This isn’t the case for many other AC styles, like mini-splits or through-the-wall air conditioners.
  • Can cool and heat in one unit
    This isn’t the case for all portable models, but many offer both heating and cooling functionality. With portable AC-heater combos, you can use the unit all year round.
Who Can Benefit from Portable Cooling?

One of the biggest perks of portable units not mentioned above is that they won’t take up window space. This is a huge benefit for homeowners who love their natural light, who have hard-to-access windows, or who are dealing with strict HOA rules.

It’s also a great choice for anyone who just wants to spot cool a specific room or part of a room. While it cools, it also works to dehumidify the air, so if you live in a high-humidity region or have high moisture levels in your home, you can definitely experience benefits with a portable AC.

Downsides to Portable ACs

There aren’t many downsides to portable air conditioning, but that doesn’t mean this cooling solution comes without flaws:

Can be quite noisy

Since the fan of a portable unit isn’t installed outside, these units tend to be noisier than many other styles. However, the top manufacturers design their portable ACs with sound-proofing systems.

Less economical on electricity

Portable units are generally less efficient than window units and use more electricity to cool down the same square footage. Dual-hose units tend to be more efficient than single-hose portable ACs, so if efficiency is your main concern, go with a dual-hose design.

You have to empty/clean them regularly

ACs draw moisture from the air as they pull the warm air in to cool it down, and that moisture has to be emptied regularly. However, some portable units are designed with continuous draining so that you won’t have to empty the water manually.

Not as effective at cooling large rooms

Because of their compact nature, portable ACs are less capable of cooling down higher square footage areas. However, there are some models that are specifically designed for larger spaces – just look for a higher BTU rating.

Portable Air Conditioners Vs. Other AC Systems

As a homeowner, it’s up to you to do your due diligence and compare portable ACs to other air conditioning systems. The most common comparison is between portable ACs and window units. Both systems are compact and easy to install, but portable ACs are often preferred since they won’t be an eye-sore to the home’s exterior.

Portable AC vs Other AC System
Sourced from: sylvane.com

However, the best window air conditioners do come with some benefits. First, they’re generally more efficient on energy than portable units, and second, they won’t take up any floor space in the home. There’s no right or wrong when choosing between portable and window, though; it all comes down to weighing the pros and cons of each.

Another common comparison for AC systems is portable vs. ductless mini-split. If you’re looking for convenience, ease of installation, or portability, there’s really no contest – portable ACs are the obvious winner. However, mini-split units tend to be more powerful and are suitable for larger spaces, so this style is something to think about for large rooms or small apartments.

Considerations When Buying a Portable AC

Once you’ve decided that a portable AC is worth buying, the work is not done quite yet. Now it’s time to consider some important factors so that you can choose the perfect portable unit based on your specific needs. Here are the main things to consider before buying:

  • BTU vs. size of the room – The very first thing to look into when buying any type of AC is BTUs. BTUs, or British Thermal Units, determine how powerful a unit will be and the square footage it will be able to cover. A higher BTU = more coverage area.
  • Location – Even with a portable unit designed for easy movement around the home, it’s important to consider placement. Some units require a window to vent hot air out of, and you’ll also need to conveniently place it near a compatible outlet.
  • Ease of install/maintenance – Portable ACs are known for their easy installation, and most can simply be plugged in to start cooling. However, some require a bit of maintenance, like dual hose units that vent hot air out through a window.
  • Noise levels – Most portable ACs give off a low humming sound, but some are noisier than others. A noisy AC can be disruptive and distracting, so always consider the decibel rating (dBA) provided by the manufacturer before buying. Get the quietest models here.
  • Energy efficiency – The energy efficiency of a portable AC is measured by its EER, or Energy Efficiency Ratio. The higher this number, the more efficient the unit. While portable units aren’t as energy efficient as some other AC types, it’s still possible to find models with a good EER.

Big Brands: Are They Worth the Money?

The next big part of the buying process is to compare portable AC brands – there are a lot of them, and some are definitely more reputable than others. Well-known brands tend to come with more features and better cooling performance, which means they sometimes come with a higher price tag.

Below we’ve compared some of the biggest brands for portable ACs and given our insight into whether or not their portable units are worth it:

Are LG portable air conditioners good?

Not only are LG portable air conditioners good, but they’re highly intelligent and nice to look at. LG has done a great job designing portable units with plenty of features and functions – some even offer smart functionality and can be controlled from a smartphone. Plus, with its sleek design style, this brand of AC looks good in the corner of any room.

LG Products
Are Danby portable air conditioners good?

Danby makes portable ACs in a variety of sizes for rooms anywhere from 250 to 700 square feet. They come with a lot of unique features, like their patented Silencer Technology for ultra-quiet operation. So yes, Danby ACs are good, especially if you’re looking for quiet portable ACs for the nursery, office, or bedroom.

Are Delonghi portable air conditioners good?

It becomes obvious from Delonghi portable air conditioner reviews that this is a leading brand, and there are a few reasons for that. The main one is the product variety; you can go with a basic unit if you’re on a budget or spend more on all the bells and whistles. The only downside is that Delonghi does not have a dual-hose option, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for that.

People Also Ask (FAQ)

Can you run a portable AC all day?

While you technically can run an AC all day, that does not mean you should. Running a portable AC 24/7 wastes a lot of energy, and it’s not really necessary to have the unit on unless you’re in the room.

If you do prefer to keep the unit running, at least choose one with an auto mode or Energy Saver mode.  That way, the machine will run more efficiently and only work to cool down the room when necessary.

How long should a portable AC last?

This depends entirely on how well you treat your portable AC. These machines require regular maintenance, and if you keep up with that maintenance, then you should be able to get 10 years of use out of them.

Cleaning is a bit part of AC maintenance, so check out our complete guide on how to clean your air conditioner.

How often does a portable AC need to be drained?

This depends on how often you have the AC running, how humid the air is, and the machine’s overall design. Some portable units don’t need to be drained at all; ACs with a continuous drainage system will drain water through a hose so that you don’t have to empty the tank manually.

Can you use a portable air conditioner in a room with no windows?

Yes, just make sure you’ve chosen a model that doesn’t require you to vent the hot air out through a window hose attachment. Check out our favorite windowless air conditioners on the market.

Do you have to put water in a portable air conditioner?

No. The only style of portable AC that requires water – or in some cases, ice – is the evaporative swamp cooler style. Evaporative coolers are a great choice for camping, RVing, or staying cool in the car or truck.

Conclusion

Portable air conditioning is extremely convenient and effective when used in the right way. There are many different options for portable ACs on the market, so before you buy, just be sure to consider things like room size, BTU rating, design features, and energy efficiency.

Josh M

My name is Josh and I am obsessed with the HVAC industry. I created this website to help HVAC techs of all levels get the best out of their heating & cooling systems. I have spent thousands of hours studying air conditioners, heaters and home air products so you can learn & buy with confidence. Learn more about the team here.

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