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Portable Air Conditioner Buying Guide

A portable air conditioner lets you conveniently cool a room without complex installation. Use this guide to find one that will help make your home more comfortable.

Portable Air Conditioner Buying Guide.

Benefits of a Portable Air Conditioner

A portable air conditioner takes in room air, cools it and directs it back into the room, venting warm air outside through an exhaust hose you install in a window. Controls on the unit allow you to adjust settings such as fan speed and temperature.

This appliance is a simple, versatile alternative to central air conditioners and window units. Designed to cool an individual room, it's relatively easy to install and can be a good option for rooms with no existing cooling system or rooms you don't need to cool all the time. It can also supplement larger systems and help cool apartments or rentals where you're unable to install a permanent unit.

Easy setup and the portability provided by a compact design and wheels allow you to move the air conditioner from one room to another and reinstall it with minimal effort.

Good to Know

Make sure your window is compatible for use with a portable air conditioner. Units fit different window sizes and those designed for single- or double-hung and sliding windows will not work with casement windows, which open by swinging outward.

Choosing the Right Portable Air Conditioner

The right air conditioner helps you cool a room efficiently. An undersize unit won't cool adequately while one that's too large will not remove enough humidity, leaving the air feeling damp. To find the proper air conditioner, determine the square footage of the room you want to cool by multiplying the room length by its width. You also need to know the air conditioner's BTU (British Thermal Unit) rating, which indicates the amount of heat it can remove from a room. A higher number means more cooling power for a larger room. Compare your room size to the BTU rating:

  • Up to 200 sq ft: look for an 8,000-BTU unit
  • Up to 300 sq ft: look for a 10,000-BTU unit
  • Up to 400 sq ft: look for a 12,000-BTU unit
  • Up to 450 sq ft: look for a 13,000-BTU unit

Keep in mind that as the BTU rating increases, the size and weight of the air conditioner does as well.

Good to Know

EER stands for Energy Efficiency Ratio. A higher EER indicates a more efficient air conditioner.

Portable Air Conditioner Features

Portable Air Conditioner Control Panel.

Look for features that make the device more versatile and convenient.

You can find air conditioners with multiple functions in addition to cooling. A dehumidifier mode removes moisture from the air without cooling. A fan function simply circulates air in the room. Some portable air conditioners have a heating capability, allowing you to keep the temperature comfortable year-round. Make sure you configure the unit for each mode. For example, cooling mode requires warm air exhaust, while the dehumidifier function requires access to a drain to remove the moisture the unit collects. If your portable air conditioner has a heater function, the heating unit will have a separate BTU rating, meaning the room size it fits may be different.

There are other features available:

  • As an air conditioner cools the air in a room, it also removes moisture. Water collects in the unit. Self-evaporating air conditioners reduce the need to drain this water.
  • A programmable timer lets you set the unit to turn on and off at specific times, helping you reduce energy consumption by operating the air conditioner only when needed.
  • A remote control adds convenience — you can adjust settings and turn the air conditioner on and off from across the room.
  • A lamp-off feature lets you turn off the panel display lights so they don't make the room uncomfortably bright at night.

Follow the air conditioner manufacturer's instructions for safety, use and maintenance.

Portable Air Conditioner Setup and Maintenance

Select a location near a window and an available power outlet. Note that the manufacturer may specify that you plug the device directly into the outlet with no extension cord. Setup is relatively quick and easy and should require just a screwdriver to complete. Install the unit's adjustable window panel and connect the exhaust hose. Allow the unit to stand upright for at least an hour and it's ready to operate.

Portable air conditioners require simple maintenance. Disconnect the unit from power before you begin.

  • Drain the water from the unit as needed. Depending on conditions, even self-evaporating units may need draining.
  • Clean the air filter every two weeks or as directed by the manufacturer.
  • Regularly wipe the air conditioner down with a damp cloth to remove dust. Wipe up excess moisture with a dry cloth.

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