Portable vs Window Air Conditioner (Which Should You Buy?)

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 most suitable 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.

portable air conditioner with vent hose and window fixing kitThe 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

window air conditionerA 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 Makes Most Sense to Buy?

What you'll need to decide is which type is most suitable for your needs and will suit your living situation and budget.

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 pretty good and sensible choice.

If, on the other hand you need a cooler that you can 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 air. 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 directly 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 this: "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 to the outside!

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 turn it on, then complain that it doesn't work because it's pumping more hot air out of the back than it's pumping 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 who 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 Sylvane 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 Sylvane right away to give you a starting place to go from:

Recommended Window Air Conditioners

Let's start by taking a look at two of my favorite window air conditioner models and where you can buy them from online.

Note: As an Sylvane Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Friedrich CCF12A10A Chill Premier 12,000 BTU Window Air Conditioner

I like this window model from Friedrich because it's powerful and easy to use, yet compact enough to suit most room sizes of up to 550 sq ft.

I am featuring the base model to highlight where you can start from in terms of cost compared with what you get for your money.

It is a lower powered, 12,000 BTU unit that would appeal to anyone with a smaller to medium room that needs cooling without it costing a whole lot to run.

There are several variations of this model ranging from base models with power outputs from 5,000 BTU right up to 24,000 BTU.

Then there are higher spec models with WiFi that can be accessed and controlled from a phone app or with voice commands if you have an Alexa or Google Home Assistant.

If that wasn't enough, how about the same features plus a heat function to keep you warm in winter!

To view this model, please click its image above right to visit the dedicated page at the Sylvane website where you can see full details, competitive price and free shipping.

From that page you can also browse other models in the range from Friedrich if you want more features or a different power rating.

LG LW1816ER 18,000 BTU Window Air Conditioner

Do you want a more powerful unit to cool a larger space of up to 1,000 sq ft?

Well, I have selected this powerful model from LG for a number of reasons.

First of all, LG is a well known brand and very popular because their products are reliable, sturdy and well made, as well as being of high quality.

Next, this window cooler has plenty of attractive features that make it practically irresistible for anyone with a larger space to cool and the desire for a quality machine to achieve the best level of cooling for the price.

You can control this model via its remote with all features available, from its programmable timer, three cooling speeds plus a fan-only mode and a dehumidification feature that can extract up to 4.9 pints of moisture from the air per hour.

It's a great unit for providing a constant flow of fresh circulated air in your room while keeping you cool when the weather gets hot outside.

If you need a heat function in addition to the cooling mode, there are a number of alternative models from LG that come with heat too.

To take a look at this model, please click its image above right, which will redirect you to the appropriate page at the Sylvane website. There you will see full details of the unit, its competitive price and free shipping details.

Recommended Portable Air Conditioners

Now let's look at two of my favorite portable air conditioner models and where they can be bought from online.

I have chosen two high power portables that are capable of competing with the above window models in terms of cooling power for medium to larger room sizes.

Whynter 14,000 BTU Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner

In my view, portable air conditioners made by Whynter come out on top of all the manufacturers on the market today.

This 14,000 BTU model is not only powerful and simple to use, it is economical to run thanks to its full self evaporating dual hose operation.

The ARC-14s model is rated for cooling a space up to 500 sq ft while it actually costs less to run when compared to other not so well featured models.

To increase the efficiency of this powerful cooler (with optional heating function), it recycles moisture captured from the air and uses it to assist the cooling process, before discharging the warm, moist air outside through the exhaust hose.

The off-shoot benefit of the self evaporating process means that you don't need to empty a drip tray periodically, as with most traditional portable ACs.

If this model appeals to you, go ahead and click its image above right and visit the Sylvane website. You'll see the full details including a competitive price and free shipping details.

Friedrich ZoneAire ZHP14DB 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner with Heat Pump

Here is another powerful yet economical portable air conditioner thanks to its use of dual hose operation and self evaporating technology.

This 14,000 BTU model from Friedrich is rated to cool a room of up to 500 sq ft placing it at the high end of portable coolers that are able to stand up against a similarly rated window cooler.

This unit is also feature-rich in that not only does it keep you cool in summer, it has a heat pump function to keep you warm in winter!

As well as being a dual function cooler/heater, the Friedrich is also WiFi ready and can be controlled either via remote or the voice capability when used with a Google Home Assistant or Alexa device. If you're not at home, you can still access the cooler via a phone app, giving you plenty of options.

If this sounds to you like the kind of great, feature-rich cooling device you want for your home, click the image above right and visit the Sylvane website where you can buy it online for a great price and with free shipping!


Whether you prefer a window or portable cooling appliance for your home, there are many choices available to suit your needs. The above recommendations are only four, but are a great place to start your search if they do not exactly match what you're looking for because there are many more to see at Sylvane's website.

By all means take a closer look at the choices I have outlined above and if one or more of them stand out, feel free to click the item to view the Sylvane sales page. There you can get the full specifications, current price and read customer feedback to help you choose which is the right cooler for you.

Last Updated: February 20, 2022

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