With increased options at competitive prices, portable air conditioners are viable contenders in the world of downsized HVAC systems. When consumers were once confined to gaudy window and wall mount machines, today’s portable air conditioners offer a wide range of elegant options for every budget.
The design allows the customer to position their machine anywhere inside a living space within range of a window to attach an air exhaust vent. This portability in installation is particularly helpful in confined spaces with small windows where standard window air conditioners would not fit.
Some of the features to consider when shopping for portable air conditioners include strength (in BTUs), cooling range, dehumidifier and fan options, digital remote controls, noise level, and energy consumption.
The cooling strength of an air conditioner is measured in BTUs. This measurement represents the quantity of heat that an air conditioner can remove from a space within a predetermined number of hours.
The maximum space an air conditioner can cool is measured in square feet.
Like all high voltage appliances, a device’s energy consumption (measured in watts) can vary drastically from one model to another.
Fan and Dehumidifier options:
Many portable air conditioners are designed with two additional modes: dehumidifier and fan modes. When switched to the dehumidifier, your portable air conditioner now acts like a traditional portable dehumidifier, pulling moisture from your air but not cooling it with the condenser. Like the dedicated dehumidifiers, your portable a/c’s dehumidifying ability is measured in pints of water removed per day. If you simply need a fan to move air, a fan option is also available on many portable a/cs.
Portable air conditioners are notoriously noisy. One device’s noise output might be a deciding factor in your eventual purchase.
These are just a few options in three different price tiers. You’ll notice that an increase in price does not always equate to an improvement in performance.
The SPT WA-8070E is one of the cheapest portable air conditioners available. This affordable unit handles small spaces up to 150 square feet. It features a self-evaporation mode that does away with the need for condensate exhaust hoses. These small tubes remove the moisture byproduct extracted during the cooling process. Although less efficient, the self-evaporation mode removes one more hurdle during installation.
Although it lacks a dehumidifier mode, the SPT WA-8070E has two different fan speeds, a digital thermostat with a remote control, and a washable air filter. It runs on just 902 watts and produces 54dBA worth of noise.
Arctic Wind AP10018
For about $40 more, the Arctic Wind AP10018 cools spaces up to 450 square feet. This is a significant jump in performance for only a little more up front. It’s a 3-in-1 portable air conditioner with a built in dehumidifier and a fan-only mode.
Although it also features self-evaporation, this unit can be run in dry mode where the condensate tube is attached. The dehumidifying mode also utilizes the attached condensate tube. At 51 pints of water removed from the air in a 24 hour period, the built in dehumidifier is a contender compared to single purpose dehumidifiers in this price range.
The jump in performance is also obvious in the energy rating, with this unit pulling a total of 2340 watts of electricity. This is a significant difference from the SPT model, although the 58dBA sound rating is not much of a change.
Now firmly in the $300 price range, the SPT WA-1240AE packs a whallopping 12,000 BTU with a 550 square feet maximum cooling area. Like the others, it’s a 3-in-1 system with multiple fan speeds and a removable filter. It also features a 24-hour timer and a stronger dehumidifier, with a 60-pint daily pull for water exclusively.
Despite the increase in cooling performance, the SPT WA-1240AE at 1350 watts runs on nearly half as much electricity as the Arctic White AP10018. It also sports a quieter fan that measures in at 55 dBA.
The RCA RACP1404 portable air conditioner might be the star of the list. At under $400 retail, it features performance capabilities of machines nearly twice its price. It falls in at an incredible 14,000 BTU with a maximum cooling range of 700 square feet. Much like its predecessors, it features dehumidifying and fan-only modes and a digital LED display.
The included remote control makes adjustments on the fly easier than ever. It’s also no surprise that with its performance capabilities, it has a significantly greater electrical pull of 3100 watts. It also barely makes the top of the list at 59 dBAs of noise.
Emerson Quiet Kool
It’s hard to find stronger portable air conditioners than the RCA RACP1404, even in the $400+ range. But, the Emerson Quiet Kool comes with several unique features that are hard to find on lower-priced devices.
It sports a bucket-less auto-evaporation system that automatically removes the water in the machine on days with normal humidity levels. During dehumidifier mode, it pulls a staggering 4.4 pints of water out of your air every hour. This portable air conditioner has the strongest built in dehumidifier yet.
Like its name suggests, the Emerson Quiet Kool packs performance in a quiet package. The noise level is just 54 dBA, which is equal to machines with a 40% lower BTU rating. Although the cooling area maxes at 500 square feet, the additional features make the Emerson Quiet Kool a contender.
The last portable air conditioner on the list, the LG LP1417SHR, is also one of the priciest consumer machines available. Although it matches the BTU rating of the prior mentions, this LG also sports indoor heating at 12,000 BTU. That means you have an all-in-one heating and cooling system with the LG LP1417SHR.
Other features include an oscillating air vent for better exhaust, overload protection for less wear on the motor, and a digital remote control.
There are many choices in the world of portable air conditioners, giving the consumer multiple options regardless of the extent of his or her budget. Although noise level, electricity usage, and cooling performance varies from unit to unit, each needs an exhaust hose connected to a window for warm air to vent out of the machine. These hoses are tricky to install while keeping a tight seal with the window in use. A trained HVAC professional can insure both the air exhaust and water exhaust hoses are installed safely. This will prevent unwanted water damage as well.