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What are Portable Air Conditioning Units?

Koren Allen
Koren Allen

Portable air conditioning units are similar to window units, but they can be moved around from room to room. They are generally used to cool small spaces such as a small bedroom or office. Portable air conditioning units are often used to supplement a central air conditioning system, in situations where a little extra cooling may be needed. This might include a computer server room, where the computers give off a lot of heat but must be kept fairly cool to operate properly. Portable air conditioning units also work well in small meeting rooms crowded with people, or helping to cool that one bedroom in your house that's always too warm even when the rest of the house is comfortable.

A portable air conditioning unit works in much the same way as a standard window unit. It has a compressor and uses a gas, normally freon, to remove the heat from the air. This hot air must be vented through an exhaust hose, which is routed out a window or into an adjoining space such as the attic, or into the space between the walls. Portable air conditioning units also collect condensation from the air that is cooled, so most units have a water reservoir that must be emptied from time to time.

Portable air conditioning units might be used in a computer service room.
Portable air conditioning units might be used in a computer service room.

Portable air conditioning units have several advantages over window units. They are usually mounted on wheels and can be rolled from one area to another. Some areas, such as apartments, dorms, or rooms without windows, cannot accommodate a window unit air conditioner. Portable air conditioning units do not require permanent installation, so you can use them nearly anywhere, and take them with you when you move. Most units plug into a standard grounded household outlet, eliminating the need for special wiring.

There are also a few disadvantages of portable air conditioner units. They only cool the air in small spaces, and even though they are on casters, the units still tend to be heavy and large and take up a lot of space in the room. If you have non-standard windows or rooms without windows, you may have to get creative in figuring out how and where to vent the unit, because it must be vented somewhere. Because the unit does not sit in a window, you will need to empty a water reservoir from time to time. Portable air conditioners also tend to be more expensive than comparable-sized window units.

Depending on the model, some portable air conditioners have optional features that may make them worth the extra money. Many units can be used as dehumidifiers, and some offer heat options as well. There are even models that offer air purification filters and ionizers, making the air clean and fresh while they cool.

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Discussion Comments


@Feryll - Central cooling systems are what cost so much money to operate. Using a small portable unit is not going to pull nearly as much energy. The ideal situation would be operating the portable unit in a room where you spend most of your time, so you can raise the thermostat for the central air and not keep the rest of the house as cool.

By doing this, you will definitely save money on your energy bill. If you are really concerned about cost then invest in a lot of fans, and only use the portable air conditioning unit when you absolutely have to.


@Feryll - The important thing to remember is that not all portable air conditioners are the same quality and not all of them are capable of cooling the same amount of space. If you buy a cheap portable air conditioning unit then you are probably going to have a bad experience and be disappointed.

First you want to match the size of the space you have to cool with the cooling ability of the unit you buy. This is simple since this information is included on the box and with the instructions that come with the unit. This is true with all cooling systems.


Do portable air conditioning units work as well as window units? And how expensive are they to operate? For some reason I imagine these units being really pricey to run.

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    • Portable air conditioning units might be used in a computer service room.
      By: Leo Lintang
      Portable air conditioning units might be used in a computer service room.