Portable Air Conditioners – The Complete Buyers Guide

Portable Air Conditioner Buyers Guide

It is probably fair to say that we all love summer and we also love our sleep, but sometimes the 2 just do not go together.  Think about all those hot, sticky uncomfortable nights when the house is muggy and the plug in fan is just not cutting the mustard!  It is no fun tossing and turning all night long and then being tired and irritable throughout the next day.

If this sounds familiar, you need your sleep back or you just want to be more comfortable during the hot summer months, a portable air conditioner is a perfect investment for you and your home. 

In this article, we will be looking at the types of air conditioners available,  the pros and cons and the extra features that some models offer allowing you to purchase a portable air conditioning unit that suits your specific needs.

There are generally 3 main types of air conditioning units

Exhaust pipe (or ducted) Air Conditioners

The exhaust or ducted air conditioner is the most popular model for home use as it is a portable unit.   These air conditioners are not wall mounted so require no special fitting and come with an air pipe or exhaust to omit the hot air.  The exhaust is usually routed through a window or a hole in the wall.

Split Air Conditioning Units

A split air conditioner is a permanent installation and has 2 parts, an indoor and an outdoor unit.  The indoor unit is wall mounted and the heat extracted comes out via the outdoor unit which is usually fitted to the outside wall or floor.  It is recommended that split air conditioning units are fitted by a qualified engineer.

Evaporative Coolers

      Although not technically an air conditioner and more of a glorified fan, an evaporative cooler can pretty much do the same job as an air conditioner.  Evaporative coolers do not need an exhaust pipe and are a good option for those living in an area where planning restricts outdoor condensers or for where only moderate cooling is needed.

         In this article, we will be looking more closely at the mobile air conditioners with exhausts/hoses/ducts.

Only Got 5 Minutes?

Most shops and offices are serviced with air conditioning, so why not have the same luxury for your home?  Obviously, shops and offices will have commercial split unit models but for your own property, a portable air conditioner will probably suffice.

Portable air conditioners work by the use of an exhaust/hose that is vented to the outside.  There are 2 different types, some with 1 exhaust and some with 2.  The models with 1 exhaust hose take air from the room and return it after cooling.  Since a small amount of air is removed from the room in this process, it does cause some negative pressure.  Units with 2 exhausts or hoses work by bringing air from the outside through one and then removing it via the other.  Whilst no negative pressure is caused as with the single hose model, these types tend to be less efficient.

The exhaust or hoses can be fitted through the wall or window, it is a personal preference which option you choose.  You might need a little help with this but if you are handy, you should be able to do this without the help of a tradesperson.  Most manufacturers provide you with the wall/window fittings and full instructions also.

Air Con Fitting

Air conditioning units are rated in BTUs (British Thermal Units) meaning the higher the number of BTUs on the model you choose, the bigger the room that can be cooled.  As a general rule, 5,000 to 8,000 BTU models are adequate for a standard domestic property room.

If you are concerned about how much energy your portable air conditioner will use, look for one with a good Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER).  The EER is the ratio between the BTU (British Thermal Unit) and it’s power input.  In general, the higher the EER, the more efficient your air conditioner will be.

No Need, I’ll Just Open A Window

Last year in the UK we had a long and hot summer, it seemed to last forever and created a real buzz around the country with the hottest day of 2018 recorded in Faversham, Kent at a sizzling 35.3C!   Faversham also holds the record for the hottest day EVER in the UK at 38.5C.  Now that is HOT.

The chances of us having a summer like last year again are probably quite remote but we are sure to have at least a few weeks of hot weather.  Whilst the majority of people enjoy it, there are some that do not or certainly prefer for temperatures to be cooler at night time whilst trying to rest.  Our furry friends also sometimes struggle to regulate their temperatures in summer, so they would also benefit air conditioning in the home.

Many people buy air conditioners for their conservatories.  With glass roofs and windows, they are unusable during high temperatures and can become dangerously hot.  Also, for babies rooms, it’s a well known fact that babies struggle to regulate their own temperature and sleep better in rooms no warmer than 20C.

Opening a window and switching on a fan will not have the same effect.  Sure, it might let fresh air in and move it around a little but if it is a hot day with no wind, it will not cool down your room.  There are other reasons why it’s not always feasible to open your windows;

Security

A property with windows flung open may be too much to resist for an opportunist burglar, especially if you are in the garden or out at work.

Safety       

Think about your family members, do you have a curious toddler who is learning to climb or a cheeky cat that likes to jump up on the windowsill to have a nosy? 

Noise Pollution

You may live in a busy area or on a main street and traffic noise could be heavy, especially if on a bus route.  Restaurants, shops, pubs in the area may also lead to a lot of noise

Air Pollution

Fumes from traffic or commercial buildings such as factories could make having your window open unpleasant

Allergy Suffers

Do you or family members suffer from hayfever or other allergies?  The pollen count is often high during the summer months making life pretty miserable for hayfever sufferers particularly.  Keeping the windows closed and the room cool will be heaven for them, helping to reduce symptoms

What Else Can It Do?

Some of the more expensive models of air conditioners have other features and uses, making the decision to buy sometimes a little easier.  It is worth exploring the extra features before you buy, as the units are not cheap.

Here are some of the extra features you can expect to find;

  • Sleep or night modes, reducing the noise for whilst you are trying to get to sleep or are sleeping
  • Timer options allowing you to set your unit to switch on and off at times to suit
  • Remote control access to adjust settings without moving from your seat
  • Built-in dehumidifier, good for if you have damp in your property, this will absorb excess moisture
  • Built-in electric fan heater enabling your unit to be useful all year round
  • Air filters to purify the air whilst also cooling it

Pros & Cons of a Mobile Air Conditioner

Pros

  • A good way to cool down your home without needing to install anything
  • Can be unplugged and stored when not in use
  • The unit can be moved from room to room
  • More expensive models can double up as dehumidifiers, air purifiers or heaters

Cons

  • Venting the exhaust through a window could cause a security risk
  • Not as effective as a permanent split unit air conditioning unit
  • Can be heavy/large in size

Set Up and Maintenance

Setting up your portable air conditioner is probably the hardest step as you will need to do a little work the vent the exhaust hose.  As mentioned previously, this can be from a window or you may prefer to have a hole running through to your outside wall.  Most manufacturers will give full instructions on how to set up your unit and supply standard fixings for sliding windows for example.  If you have different types of windows, you can usually pick up all you need from your local DIY store.  If you prefer to have a hole through your wall to vent your appliance, you may prefer to get a builder to help with this.

Portable air conditioners should be as close to the window or wall as possible to ensure you can keep the exhaust short and also near to a power supply so you can plug it in.

To ensure the longevity and efficiency of your appliance, it is important that it is well maintained.  As with any electrical appliance, proper maintenance is effective as it will ensure your air conditioning unit will operate correctly, saving you money in the long run as it will continue to run effectively, consuming less energy. 

The manufacturer’s handbook will give full instructions on how to maintain your air conditioning unit but as a general rule, you need to be doing the following;

  • Routinely clean the exterior.  Use a damp cloth to wipe the casing, do not use liquids or detergents as these can stain the outside as well as acting as a magnet for further dirt and debris.
  • Replace and maintain the filters regularly.  Filters are one of the most important components of your air conditioning unit and will determine the quality of air that your appliance is circulating.  The manufacturer will provide instructions on how to remove and clean your filter.  Check if your unit has throwaway filters that need replacing regularly or if it uses a filter that can be cleaned and reused.
  • Routinely Inspect the condenser coils.  Condenser coils are very expensive to replace and would usually need to be done by a professional.  To avoid this, it is important to maintain them correctly.  These coils will become dirty over a period of time and the grease and grime they collect should be cleaned off.  This should be done with a specific solution that the manufacturer will recommend and will be available to buy in most DIY shops.
  • Keep the exhaust pipe straight and short.  The exhaust or dust pipe expels the hot air from your appliance and will be vented from either an outside wall or window.  For maximum efficiency, this pipe should be as short and straight as is possible, this will prevent moisture from building up and possible trickling back into the appliance, leading to operational issues.  Routinely check your exhaust pipe to ensure there are no kinks and bends.
  • Keep the room that houses the unit clean.  If you place your air conditioning unit in a dusty or dirty room, this will be pulled into the appliance, causing damage to the internal elements.  It will also mean that you will have to clean your unit more regularly to ensure it runs efficiently.   A unit in a clean room will distribute a better quality of cool air.
  • Correct storage of your unit.  It is very important that you store your portable air conditioning unit correctly when it is not in use.  If you decide to pack it away during the winter months, make sure it is kept out of direct sunlight.  Ensure any moisture is removed from inside your appliance and wrap it in a plastic sheet to avoid dirt or debris getting inside.  An ideal place to store it would be in a cupboard, away from fluctuating temperatures.

Top Tips for Keeping Cool When it is Hot!

It’s probably not practical to have more than one air conditioning unit in your property, so here are some more tips for keeping cool on super hot days;

  • Close curtains when the sun is shining on your room
  • If you have a conservatory, close the door between that and the main house, a lot of heat will escape from your conservatory during hot weather
  • Spray cold water on yourself and allow to evaporate
  • Take cool showers/baths
  • Drink plenty of water

Most of all, try to enjoy the lovely hot summer weather as we all know how cold it gets and how long our winter months last!

Frequently Asked Questions

How portable is a portable air conditioner?

Portable air conditioning units do differ in size and weight but most models do come with wheels and/or carry handles. If you need to regularly move your unit between rooms, look for a model that would be easy for you to handle.

Are they noisy?

As with the majority of electrical appliances in the home, the portable air conditioner WILL make some noise. This is because of the fans working inside the unit to extract and blow air back into the room. Some people enjoy a rhythmic, background noise lulling them to sleep but it may drive others crazy! If noise is a concern, do your research to ensure you look to buy a ‘quieter’ model.

How do I work out how many BTUs I need?

Most manufacturers will state in their product details the BTU rating of their air conditioner and will give an indication of what size room this will service. If you would prefer to work this out for yourself, the calculation is as follows;

Assume the room you would like to buy an air conditioner for measures 15 x 10 x 8 feet, the calculation would be:- 15x10x8x5 = 6,000 BTUs

Can I use my air conditioner to cool down more than 1 room?

It is possible to cool down more than one room at a time with a portable air conditioner but it does depend on the actual unit you purchase and also on the layout of your home. If you are trying to cool two rooms with large openings between them it may work to cool them both, but the cooling may not be even.

Cleverhab Staff
About Cleverhab Staff 56 Articles
The team at Cleverhab.co.uk have dedicated ourselves to ensure that you get best home technology experience for your money. Join us as we put the latest home tech through its paces.

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