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The Basics of Portable Air Conditioners


Have you ever wondered if a portable air conditioner is right for you? Do you think it would fit your HVAC needs but don’t feel like you know enough about it? We can help. In this blog post, we will cover the basics of portable air conditioners including what a portable air conditioner is, how to install a portable air conditioner, and the pros and cons of having a portable air conditioner. We hope to answer all your questions and help you decide if a portable air conditioner is right for you. 

What is a Portable Air Conditioner?

portable air conditioner with hose

A portable air conditioner is a small, mobile cooling unit. It was designed with the idea of being able to cool a room without having to be permanently installed, unlike traditional air conditioners. Portable air conditioners work by taking in hot air and then cooling it. They have to be vented and because of that, they have an exhaust hose that can vary from 4 to 7 feet. In order to use a portable air conditioner as intended, you must have a window in the room you intend to cool. The reason why you have to have a window in the room is because the exhaust hose extends to the window and releases hot air. The AC has to have a place to expel air to work properly. A portable AC has similarities to a traditional air conditioner but differs greatly from one.

How to Install a Portable Air Conditioner

It is a fairly easy process to install a portable air conditioner. In five simple steps, you can have one up and running. Below are the steps to install most standard portable air conditioners: 

  1. Place Your Air Conditioner 

When placing your air conditioner in a room, put it by a window and an electrical outlet. If you can, keep it away from furniture or anything flammable. Make sure that nothing is put in front of your air conditioner as it might block the airflow. 

  1. Take Out the Window Kit 

The window kit will look like a long piece of plastic. Window kits are extendable and fit most windows. A good rule of thumb is to measure your window first and make sure that that window kit will fit. Your portable air conditioner should have the measurements of the window kit. If your window kit will fit, open your window and put the kit inside of it.  

  1. Check for the Window Exhaust Connector  

After taking out the window kit, check the back of your air conditioner to make sure the window exhaust connector is there. The connector will generally look like a curved small piece of plastic that has an opening for the exhaust hose. If your portable air conditioner doesn’t have a connector installed, make sure to find it and put it on. It should connect easily to the back of your AC.  

  1. Connect the Hose  

The next thing you need to do is connect the hose. Connect the hose into the window exhaust connector and the window kit. Try to not stretch the hose. Keep it as short and straight as possible. The reason why you want to do this is because the hose can get damaged if it isn’t connected correctly. 

  1. Plug-in Your Air Conditioner

When you are done connecting the hose and making sure all the parts are secure, plug your air conditioner into an electrical outlet. Your air conditioner should have an on button. Push it and see if your air conditioner powers on. If it doesn’t, you may have to push a button that says “reset” in order to use your air conditioner. Check your manual for exactly what the manufacturer intended.

You can find out more information about installing your portable air conditioner here. Cool and Portable provides a wonderful guide that helps to go more into depth about installing portable air conditioners. 

small portable air conditioner

What are the Pros?

There are several pros to owning a portable air conditioner:

  • They Are Less Expensive

Portable ACs are less expensive than traditional ones. The price of them varies but they usually cost between 50 to 500 dollars. The reason why the price of them greatly varies is because more expensive portable air conditioners can cool larger rooms. For example, a $100 portable air conditioner may only be able to cool a 200 square feet room while a $250 one might be able to cool a 400 square feet room. A more expensive portable AC might also have a longer warranty or be more durable. 

  • They Are Transportable
Green checkmark

Portable air conditioners are known for their transportability and do not fail in that regard. They do not have to be permanently installed unlike regular air conditioners. They can also be easily dismantled which helps when transporting them. While they are transportable, they are not lightweight. The average portable air conditioner weighs between 50 to 75 pounds. We recommend that you do not try to lift a portable air conditioner alone. When transporting a portable air conditioner, do not put it upside down or lay it on its side. Positioning a portable air conditioner incorrectly while transferring it can result in permanent damage. Be careful and follow the directions stated by the manufacturer when transporting it. 

  • They Are Easily Installed

Installing a portable AC can be done in five steps or less as shown in the How to Install a Portable Air Conditioner section. Being able to install your air conditioner saves you time and money. It also helps to reduce the amount of potential error in installing your AC.

What are the Cons?

While portable air conditioners have a lot of pros, they have a fair amount of cons too. The cons of owning one might outweigh the pros depending on your situation. The best thing you can do is decide if the cons are something that you can live with. 

  • Most HVAC Technicians Won’t Work on Them

Most HVAC technicians will not work on portable air conditioners. Some reasons why HVAC technicians refuse to work on portable air conditioners is because portable air conditioners are not designed to be worked on like regular air conditioners. Portable ACs are also not considered to be cost-efficient because it’s cheaper to replace them than to work on them. For example, even if a portable air conditioner is only worked on for an hour, you potentially have to pay for a part and you have to pay the HVAC technician for working on it. Given the price of a portable air conditioner and the likelihood of it breaking again, it’s not worth it for the customer or the HVAC technician. 

  • They Have Shorter Lifespans
Red X

The average portable air conditioner will not last as long as one that is permanently installed. Most portable air conditioners will last ten years at most if they are properly taken care of. There are some cases where portable air conditioners have lasted fifteen years, but those are rare. Portable air conditioners are less durable than the average air conditioner. This is because in prioritizing portability, they sacrifice durability. They are also less efficient. When an air conditioner is less efficient, its lifespan is decreased. Portable air conditioners are best as a temporary cooling system and not a year-round one. 

  • They Need Constant Maintenance

Portable air conditioners need more maintenance than the average AC. You will always have to check the hose and make sure that it’s properly working. If your portable air conditioner doesn’t have a hose then you will have to drain it daily. If you do not maintain your portable air conditioner every day then you run a risk of it growing mold or deteriorating in general. 

Portable air conditioner without hose


We hope that this blog post helped you to decide if a portable air conditioner is right for you. Portable air conditioners can be a great addition to your home as long as you are aware of their cons. At the end of the day, you should factor in your situation and budget for a cooling system before you decide to buy a portable air conditioner or not. Knowing the basics of them can be extremely helpful.

Do you have a traditional air conditioner and need it repaired? If you live in Jefferson County or the surrounding areas, we would be happy to work on it. Our phone number is 636-475-9384. 

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