How Does a Portable Air Conditioner Work

As the world temperature is rising at an alarming rate, the importance of having an air conditioner unit has become more than just a necessity. When it comes to buying an air conditioning unit, it often puts people in a great dilemma. Usually, people tend to go for windows AC units for their home or office. Although portable air conditioners are becoming more popular nowadays because of their mobility and easy installation process.

Most people are naive about the functionality of a portable AC unit, and they often have this same question, how does a portable air conditioner work? Some people even mistake a portable AC unit with an air cooler. I am going to give you a complete guide about portable AC and help you make a smart buy.

Table of Contents

What is A Portable Air Conditioner?

A portable air conditioner is a complete air conditioning unit like conventional windows air conditioner units. Unlike a windows AC, you can move it to places according to your requirement. It’s a self-contained portable system powerful enough to cool down a single room. Coming with an installation kit for quick setup, you can put it on the floor. To make it more user-friendly, most models come with wheels so that you can move to whichever room you want.

How Does a Portable Air Conditioner Work?

The notion of how Portable air conditioners function is almost the same as built in air conditioning. The idea is simple, extracting in warm and humid air first. Then comes the cooling and dehumidifying it inside the unit, and giving the cooled air back into the room.

The Key components of Cooling and Dehumidification System of Every Portable Air Conditioner.

There are three very major components of the Cooling and Dehumidification System of Every Portable Air Conditioner. They are Refrigerant, Compressor, and Fan.

Let’s take a look at the whole process:

Step 1: The hot and humid air extracted from the room is sucked inside the portable air conditioner by a fan.

Step 2: By condensing on cold coils, the hot and humid air gets cooled down and moisture is extracted from the air. The heat from the air is transferred to the refrigerant which converts the refrigerant fluid into a gas.

Step 3: Venting back the cool air into the room.

Step 4: The moisture from the air is can be vented outside or removing the bucket manually also works.

Step 5: The heat released by this process is evacuated out of the room through the window with an exhaust hose.

Types of Portable Air Conditioners

As we already know, the main differences between a windows AC and a Portable ac are mobility and taking up window space. Like windows AC units, portable ac units also require something to exhaust the warm air outside the room.

Unlike a window AC unit, it does not take a significant amount of space from your wall or window. Duck tubes work to evacuate the warmed air from the room and you can set them up easily with an adjustable frame that comes with the product. I should make you aware of two different kinds of portable AC units though. It may come with a single hose or double hose. Before we talk about them, let’s take a look at what is a hose for.

What Does a Hose Do?

The whole idea of having a hose is simple. We already know how an AC unit works and how it needs warmed air of your room vented outside the room to keep it cool. We should know, an AC unit creates more heat than it cools in the process, and the heat must be evacuated outside. Having said that, a hose is used to exhaust this heat outside the room through a window.

Single-Hose Portable AC Units

When a portable AC comes with a single hose, it extracts the warm air from the room and after cooling it down, it sends back the heat and unnecessary moisture outside with that hose. With a single hose AC unit, there is a chance that hot air from the outside leaking into the room because of a potential negative air pressure situation inside and makes it a lot harder for the AC unit to cool the room down more efficiently.

Although this problem can be solved by making sure there are no malfunctioning windows which may invite the hot air outside the room to inside. However, this isn’t a problem if the cooling area is relatively smaller. A single-hose portable ac unit works perfectly under this circumstance.

A single-hose portable ac unit is a good option when you need to change the location of your AC frequently. Make sure the room you are cooling is not furnished with computers or refrigerators. It might take a much stronger machine should it be the case. Additionally, determining the BTUs of your AC unit is also important.

Dual Hose Air Conditioning Units

Unlike a single-hose portable air conditioning unit, dual-hose AC takes two hoses for the cooling process. The difference is by functioning with two different hoses, a duel-hose portable AC unit effectively solves the negative air pressure problem we have talked about earlier. Both intake and outtake hoses keep exchanging the air from inside and outside during their regular cooling process that makes the air pressure remain stable and cools the room more efficiently.

You should know that a duel-hose AC unit unsurprisingly consumes more energy which means more costs. Although if you need to cool a larger area, your money is worth it. Make sure you consider the BTUs of your AC before going for it. 

Portable Air Conditioner Features

A portable air conditioner may come with a variety of features depending on the company or product you are buying. Let’s take a look at some key features that portable AC units usually come with.

1. Refrigerating Ability

This is a common and key feature of every AC unit. As for a portable air conditioning unit, the BTU (British Thermal Units) is the key factor to determine if it would be capable enough to cool your room down. The bigger your cooling area is, the higher BTU your portable AC unit should have.

2. Energy Consumption

Portable air conditioners tend to consume relatively more energy than windows AC units. Therefore it’s important to calculate the actual size of your room and buy an ac unit accordingly to optimize your energy and cost.

3. Noise

Noise can be a major concern for a portable AC unit buyer. It’s well-known that it’s quite impossible to silent this device entirely, although the amount of sound may vary depending on the price of your product.

4. Programmability

This might come as handy if you want to pre-cool your room before arriving there. Some portable air conditioners come with features that you can set up when you want them to start cooling.

5. Selective Mode

Some portable AC units have the feature of performing a single task instead of doing their default jobs. Some may only do the dehumidification or just do the ventilation work.

6. Remote Control

Some may come with a remote control feature which is super useful at times.

Benefits of Portable Air Conditioner

A portable air conditioning unit can benefit you in various ways. As we have already discussed earlier, it’s the most user-friendly AC device you can easily afford in the market nowadays. Let’s see some of the benefits of portable AC units.

1. Easy to Use

A portable air conditioning unit will ease the pressure of heavy installation as it is comparatively easy to install and use. The level of user-friendliness may differ depending on the price.

2. Cheaper

The traditional windows AC units take a lot of both your space and money. Portable Ac units, on the other hand, may save your money and provide some hazard-free service.

3. Mobility

The term ‘portable’ speaks for itself here. Mobility is the primary feature and advantage of this type of AC which makes it edge past the conventional AC units. You do not necessarily have to buy multiple AC units for both your living room and bedroom, instead, you can make the best use of its portability by switching it as per your requirement.

4. Controlled Consumption of Energy

A portable air conditioning unit may typically consume more energy than other versions, however, you can control your consumption by selecting an optimum amount of BTU according to the size of your room while buying a portable AC. Thus you can save a significant amount of energy.

Maintenance of Portable Air Conditioner

Maintenance is the key to have a sustainable service from electric devices. We can easily operate a portable AC unit and its maintenance is also not rocket science. Let’s take a look at how we can implement proper maintenance of a portable AC unit.

1. Positioning

The position of your device is a vital factor when you move it from one room to another. Any dirt or small particle in the room may result in a serious malfunction of your portable AC unit. Take good care when air is more humid than ever, it may produce more moisture and frequent maintenance is very important.

2. Adequate Power Source

Try to use a direct plug-in instead of extended lines. A portable AC unit requires a constant supply of energy to make the best use of the compressor and fan motors.

3. Straight Exhaust Hose

Keep the exhaust hose straight and short. This will prevent the building or moisture inside it. Check up your exhaust regularly to avoid any unwanted moisture inside.

4. While Moving

When you move your house or you take your portable ac unit elsewhere, make sure you keep it in rest at least for 4 hours to let the gas set still.

5. Maintenance of Filters

Try to clean the filter according to the instruction it originally comes with. A regular clean-up of your filter can increase the sustainability of your device and provide an efficient service.

6. While Storing

When your portable AC unit is not being used, try to store it properly. Empty the drain moisture and let it dry under the fan for two hours before wrapping it with plastic papers. How you store your device would decide how long it lasts.

Use a Portable AC Unit for Several Rooms

We have already learned how a portable AC unit can be used in multiple rooms. Now the question is how we are going to do that.

Well, most portable AC units come with wheels, so we can move yet quite easily. However, some may come without them, make sure you don’t cause any malfunction by shaking its internal elements too hard. Try to be extra careful while you are moving them.

When you use them in a different room, make sure there is enough window space to set up the ventilation hose. Additionally, make sure the room is clean and dry to avoid any malfunctioning that may be triggered by the dirt of your room. 

Moisture Removal System of Portable Air Conditioner

Moisture removal system is a major concern for many buyers. Many people believe maintaining and removing moisture produced by a portable AC unit can be difficult at times. Let’s take a look at the different types of moisture removal systems:

1. Manuel Removal

Portable AC units that do not have self-evaporating options need to be drained manually to keep them going. The full instruction on how to do the whole draining process will be given as a manual while you are buying a portable AC unit.

2. Gravity Drain and Condensate Pump

Condensate pumps can drain water instead of relying on gravity. One hose is connected from the pump to the AC unit while the other is connected at the pump with an open end to drain the water. The drainage part of the hose can be placed outside the window. It automatically turns on once a certain level of water is collected inside the unit. At the same time, it automatically turns off once the draining is finished.

3. Self-Evaporation Technology

When you buy a fully self-evaporating portable AC unit, you don’t have to take any extra hazard to drain the moisture manually. A place with excessive humidity can produce a lot of moisture and removing them manually regularly can come up as a major challenge for some people. That’s why many people choose to buy a self-evaporating portable AC unit.


How do I vent an Ac unit?

The process is quite simple. All you have to do is to find an appropriate place near a traditional window. Every portable AC unit comes with an adjustable frame and you can easily adjust it with your window and vent the AC unit. A standard window kit usually comes with a window bracket, one or two vent hoses, and vent hose adapters. A vent hose can be extended 4 to 5 feet, which means it’s better to be near a window.

How do portable air conditioners work without a window?

A window is not what it takes for a portable AC unit to function efficiently. It just needs a place that can exhaust the warmed air outside of the room. So if your room does not have a window or ventilation unit, you can make a hole through the wall and make your AC work. Having a window is a privilege but you can still make it work without it.

How do portable air conditioners drain water?

There are three different ways a portable air conditioner can drain water. 

  1. Manual Draining, which means it needs to be done by someone regularly
  2. Gravity drain and condensate pump is also an effective way
  3. Self-evaporation technology

What is required to set up a portable AC?

It does not require many things or professional assistance to set up a portable AC unit. All you need is a good place to put your AC unit near a window so that you can vent the hose. It’s quite easy actually, it comes with a manual and you do it by following those manuals. Few things you should keep in mind while installing a portable AC unit.

  • Do not use a power extension or power strip
  • Keep your children away from it
  • Make sure the filter is installed
  • Move them carefully, they are quite heavy
  • Seek professional help if anything happens instead of trying to repair it yourself.

How often do you have to drain a portable air conditioner?

It entirely depends on the humidity of your area. Places with very high humidity may produce more moisture than a place with lower humidity. You will eventually learn how often you have to drain the portable AC unit.

Final Thoughts

Purchasing an AC unit is no longer a luxury for many people. The effect of climate change has seen a significant rise in global temperature and people in the relatively warmer areas are suffering the most. As a result, portable AC units are gaining popularity nowadays. I believe this article has made you clear about how a portable air conditioner works and it would be helpful to make your decision while buying an AC unit for your home.

We, (Dominic and Ignatius) are the editors of Elegant Home Pro, we are Senior Air Quality and Comfort Specialist. We do in-depth research and analysis for high-performance home products with reputation and reasonable preferences to make your day-to-day exertion at ease.

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