10 Best Portable Air Conditioners | March 2017
- reusable air filters save money
- compact size body
- must be vented to the outside
- feather-touch digital controls
- dehumidifies nearly 80 pints per day
- confusing temperature display
- adjustable fan speeds
- generous 59-inch hose
- weak exhaust coupling
- hose is easy to extend
- lcdi plug reduces the risk of fire
- window kit is far from universal
- patented auto-drain function
- can be modified to fit any window
- power button is too small
- ul and csa approved
- precise temperature controls
- over-cold protection function
- easy to use self-evaporative system
- quick start-up with snap-in hoses
- convenient 24-hour timer
Beating The Heat
Let's face it. Depending on where you live, the summer can get hot. Without a way to cool off indoors, you become susceptible to dangerous levels of dehydration, among other health risks. So what do you do if you live in an apartment complex without central and/or window air conditioning? Even in a large home, how would you cope with rising energy costs associated with maintaining central air conditioning for every room?
This is where the portable air conditioner (PAC) comes in handy. Much like its name suggests, a portable air conditioner is a mobile air conditioning system that is ideal for cooling single rooms. Most PACs stand approximately 28-34 inches tall and include built-in caster wheels for easy transport between rooms. Unlike central and window air conditioners, the PAC does not require permanent installation, so if you spend a majority of your time in your bedroom or living room, moving the unit is fairly easy.
The process by which a portable unit cools the surrounding air involves altering the humidity and temperature levels of the outside air (which is processeed by the PAC unit) such that the thermal comfort level reflects more optimal indoor living conditions within single rooms. PACs are either evaporative or refrigerative in design. The compressor-based refrigerant PACs are air-cooled, meaning they use air to exchange heat. During this process, the air is being cooled and dehumidified. Condensed water is also collected, which produces hot air that needs to be vented. By contrast, evaporative air conditioners do not have compressors or condensers and instead use evaporated water to cool the air, much like humans and animals do during the sweating process to cool their bodies.
PACs are measured in British Thermal Units or BTUs. A BTU is equal to the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. But wait, I'm trying to cool my room, not make it hotter by increasing the temperature of water. Let's cool off for just a second, as we need to think of BTUs as a measurement of energy. For the purposes of portable air conditioners, this measurement is used to describe how many BTUs per hour your PAC can remove from the air. The BTU measurement is directly proportional to the size of the room in which the air conditioner is placed. For example, a PAC that has 7-8,000 BTUs of energy can cool small rooms up to 250 square feet with 8-foot ceilings. Larger rooms would require a PAC with a higher BTU measurement.
PACs can also be single or double-hosed with respect to their cooling and venting processes. PACs expel warm air through an exhaust hose that is typically installed as part of a window kit. Single-hosed PACs use air from within the room to cool their condensers and then vent the warm air outside. Double-hosed PACs not only expel warm air and moisture, but they simultaneously pull more air in to cool, making them more efficient than single-hosed units.
Getting The Most Out Of Your Portable Air Conditioner
When choosing a PAC, selecting the appropriate BTU measurement is important. A high BTU doesn't always mean that the PAC is better than one with a low BTU rating. For example, if you're using a PAC with a BTU that is higher than necessary for cooling a small room, you may find the unit cycling off more often than it really needs to. If the PAC continually cycles on and off over time in that fashion, its compressor could wear out more quickly than anticipated. For that reason, finding the right balance between BTUs and room size is a good question for a salesperson for pointing you in the right direction as you shop.
Think about where the unit will be placed. Even though PACs accommodate more than one type of room, some rooms will get more direct sunlight than others. You need to make sure that your PAC is powerful enough to adequately cool a room that receives direct sunlight for extended periods of time, even if the room is small.
If you suffer from allergies and live in very humid climates, a big selling point for your PAC is its ability to operate as both an air conditioner and/or a dehumidifier, since high humidity promotes the growth of allergens like mold.
Some PACs also come with built-in digital displays, adjustable fan speeds, and convenient remotes for easy monitoring and adjusting of their controls.
Portable Air Conditioning: From Deserts To Interior Decor
The concept of air conditioning dates all the way back to the times of ancient Egypt, even before the development of electricity. The ancient Egyptians used a primitive form of evaporative cooling technology by hanging reeds or wet cloth in both windows and doorways to cool the surrounding air from a breeze.
The ancient Romans also used rudimentary aqueduct routing systems through the walls of their homes to promote circulation of water with evaporative qualities to cool the air.
In 1902, Willis Carrier developed the first modern electrical air conditioning unit. Residential air conditioners became more common by the 1950s followed by popularized central air conditioning systems by the 1970s.