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Small Portable Air Conditioner - Guide to Evaluating Small Portable Air Conditioners - What is a Portable Air Conditioner?, How Do They Work?

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Depending on your situation, Small Portable Air Conditioners can be a great addition to your home. They are small air conditioning units that are designed to cool individual rooms, and they can be switched from room to room fairly easily. (Much more easily than in-window models, of course!) They do involve some extra maintenance such as draining their reservoirs, but the benefits outweigh the work for many people. They come in all shapes and sizes, and can be found with many different output ratings.

How Do They Work?

Many times people confuse portable air coolers with portable air conditioners. Air conditioners actually cool the ambient air in a room by using a compressor and freon gas, and in the process they also remove humidity from the air. Air coolers, on the other hand, use evaporation to cool the direct air stream, and have a much harder time cooling ambient air. Also, these coolers do not have the same humidity-controlling properties, and will often in fact cause higher levels of humidity in a room.

Portable air conditioners must vent hot air that they extract from the room, otherwise the cooling effect will be greatly reduced. Most come with a handy exhaust hose that you simply direct away from the area that is targeted for cooling. The most common approach is to simply direct the exhaust hose outside a window, but your creativity is the only limit with finding suitable venting locations. You may divert the hot air into an existing duct or heat vent in your house, into an empty attic space, or simply through a door into an unused room!

Like all air conditioners, these units produce condensation by their cooling process. Portable A/C units collect this in a reservoir that must be drained occasionally, and this is one drawback over permanently installed window units, which usually drain outside.

The energy rating of many of these units is very good. Look at the EER (Energy Effectiveness Rating) of the unit you’re considering. If it’s over 10, it’s amazingly efficient. Even if you set aside energy efficiency ratings though, the whole idea of a portable unit is to cool a single room, whereas most window units and central systems are used to cool the entire house, including rooms not in use. This more selective approach to climate control can easily produce enough energy savings over its power-intensive alternative, even if it didn’t have a great EER.

Who Should Use Them?

Anyone in a situation where window units are out of the question is a natural candidate for small portable air conditioners. College students and apartment dwellers are especially inclined to love the benefits that come from these devices. Also, anyone interested in energy conservation (and the accompanying cash conservation) should look into using these devices over traditional systems that tend to have all-or-nothing approaches to cooling your house.

What Are The Top Brands?

Edgestar’s products consistently receive top reviews in portable air conditioning. Their models include the Extreme Cool AP12000S, which puts out 12,000 BTU’s for a reasonable $400 price tag. This model is rated to cool up to 400 square feet, or a fairly large room. They also produce smaller models like the Koldfront PAC8000S, which will cool 200 square feet and is ideal for college students or other shoppers on a budget. The price for this model starts around $300. Also look into Royal Sovereign and Whynter for higher end (and higher cost) models that can cool larger areas of space.

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