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 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.