When you need to get some relief from the summer heat but your home does not have a central HVAC system, should you buy a portable or window air conditioner to lower the temperature?
Let's compare the two different types of AC, pros and cons so you can see which is the best option for your cooling needs.
Before I get started, I want to first clarify which each type of cooler is. To do that, I'll provide a quick overview of how each is installed and how it works.
The most obvious difference between a portable and window AC is that the former is a standalone unit on wheels that you can place in a convenient spot in a room, preferably near a window, while the latter must be installed into a window opening.
Portable Air Conditioner
A portable unit is the first choice for many people looking for a simple cooling solution because it does not require any difficult installation. It can literally be wheeled into position, plugged into a wall socket, have the exhaust hose trailed out a nearby window and turned on with cold air blasting out right away.
The only marginally awkward part is assembling and fitting the window venting kit. That is generally a fairly simple and straightforward job as long as you have a suitable window.
This usually means a window that opens vertically so the venting kit can be located at the bottom of the opening and the lower pane closed down on it to secure it to the frame.
The rest is simple enough. Once the hose is attached to the back of the unit at one end and the venting kit at the other, the unit will provide a welcome stream of cold air, gradually lowering the room temperature until it reaches its thermostat setting (you set it at a comfortable temperature).
Window Air Conditioner
A window fitted unit may at first glance seem the less attractive choice of cooling device. That's because it does need to be installed in a window opening and fixed in place.
The unit will naturally obscure a section of the window, reducing the amount of natural light to the room. That can be off-putting to some folks.
The upside is that window ACs are generally more economical than their portable counterparts and once installed, do not have an unsightly corrugated plastic hose dangling off the window. Nor do they take up any floor space, which in a small room may be valuable real estate.
The downside is you need to have a practical or handy person around that can install the device, although that's usually achievable by most handymen with the right tools.
Which Type of AC is Best to Buy?
What you'll need to decide is which type is best for your needs and will suit your living situation and budget the best. If you only need one room to be cooled, for example a living or family room and you have a suitable window that you can afford to sacrifice some of the natural daylight it allows into the room, then a window AC would be a good choice.
If, on the other hand you need a cooler that youcan move from room to room as you move about your home, then a portable unit might be a more suitable choice. Of course, you would need to install a window venting kit on a window in each room that you intend using the unit in. That's important because an AC must be vented to the outside.
Hot Air Exhaust Venting
All air conditioners produce as much hot air as they produce cold. This is a by-product of the refrigeration process that needs a large, heat-producing compressor to chill the refrigerant gas.
Most fixed, central or house-wide HVAC systems have all the necessary venting and ducting in place to carry the hot, moist air away from the interior of the building and expel it to the outdoors, which you often never even see. Window units are already fixed to an external window so they can vent off the hot air from their position.
Portable AC units however do not have any fixed ducting or ventilation pipes handy, since they're designed to be moved from room to room on wheels. What they do have is a wide, flexible hose that needs to be connected to an external port either through a wall or a window to allow the hot air to escape to the outside.
All refrigerant-based AC devices need to be vented. So when you see something like "portable air conditioner no vent hose required" advertised, it is not really a true AC. It is more likely to be an evaporative cooler (swamp cooler) that works by evaporating moisture to produce cold air.
Another point I should mention here is that there is a newer type of portable unit that is designed to reduce and even eliminate the need for a water-catching tray and needing to periodically empty. These are called portable self evaporating air conditioners and are configured as single or dual hose versions. Whichever type you choose, there is still the job of fixing one or two exhaust hoses to a window kit.
Remember, portable, free standing AC units must be vented!
This is important to know. It does happen occasionally that a person buys a portable AC and doesn't understand how or why the vent needs to be connected to a window: they fail to fit the hose to the unit and switch it on, then complain that it doesn't work because it's pumping more hot air out of the back than cold air out the front!
I know it's hard to believe, but it does happen!
Which Will You Buy?
The choice is now yours to make. Do you take the easiest option and get a portable unit, being comfortable with the idea of fixing the vent hose to a window fixing kit in each room you intend to use it in?
Or would you prefer to go with a fixed window model that you are confident you can install (or you know someone whop can do it for you) and like the idea of having it fixed in one place and costing less to run overall?
Either way, you can buy a portable or window air conditioning unit at a local hardware store or order one online from a popular store like Amazon and get free shipping and probably save money on the purchase price too.
For your convenience, I have included my own top 2 picks of each type that you can buy from Amazon right away to give you a starting place to go from:
Take a look at the choices above and if one or more of them stand out, feel free to click the item to view the Amazon sales page where you can get the full specifications, current price and read customer feedback to help you choose.
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