Pros & Cons of Portable Air Conditioners

Greg Jackson

Air conditioning is an important part of climate control. It is a term most often associated with cooling the interior of a structure. Keeping the inside of a home or business cool during hot summer months is one of the best features of air conditioners.

Although central air conditioning has become the norm, there are several reasons that portable air conditioners are useful. Consider the pros and cons of portable air conditioners before making a purchase.

Pros of Portable Air Conditioners

One of the greatest advantages of portable air conditioners is the ability to cool small areas without using the energy required to run a central air conditioning system. Central air accounts for a large portion of the overall energy use in a home or business. It costs homeowners alone more than $15 billion per year, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Proper matching of portable air conditioners to the square footage of a room can help lower cooling costs when supplementing a central air conditioning system. This is especially true for rooms that generate more heat, such as a kitchen or an office with copiers, computers and other equipment. Portable air conditioners require minimal set-up. Most models have a simple venting system to exhaust heated air that consists of a hose and a window spacer for the hose attachment.

Cons of Portable Air Conditioners

The main drawback of portable air conditioners is the energy rating. The current governmental minimum requirements for air conditioner energy usage are 10 SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio). Although some portable air conditioners meet or exceed this number, many do not. Those that do usually cost more. Moreover, since portable air conditioners are only useful for small areas, a high SEER rating is no guarantee of energy savings if it has to run a long time, especially during the summer

Condensation is another problem for portable air conditioners. Although some models have a system that removes condensates through the vent exhaust, others require a drip pan you must empty. Such a unit can produce up to 30 pints of condensation a day. Noise is a drawback, too. Most portable air conditioners are noticeably louder than any other type of air conditioning system.

Overall Assessment of Portable Air Conditioners

Lower prices, flexibility and ease of installation are pluses for the purchase of portable air conditioners. They offer a better alternative for residences without central air conditioning, especially when the number of rooms and square footage are minimal. Yet the overall energy use, condensation removal issues and noise might dissuade some from buying one. Before purchase, thoroughly research the cooling capabilities, energy ratings, and heat and condensation exhaust systems of any portable air conditioner.