Some portable air conditioners (or PACs) have digital controls, integrated timers, and remote controls. Others feature built-in air purifiers, fans, dehumidifiers, or heaters. Such special features are wonderful—they add convenience to life—but this article is not about extra features. In this article, we'll examine the nitty-gritty of buying a portable air conditioner: the top five things to consider when shopping for the best PAC for your needs.
1. What size portable air conditioner do I need?
All air conditioners, including portable air conditioners, are rated in British Thermal Units (BTUs). Larger units with higher BTU ratings offer more cooling power. When shopping, make sure that the portable air conditioner you select has a sufficient BTU rating for your room. Otherwise, it will not be able to meet your cooling demands.
In a standard room with 8-foot ceilings:
- 7,500 BTUs will cover 150 sq. ft. (1,200 cubic feet)
- 9,000 BTUs will cover 200 sq. ft. (1,600 cubic feet)
- 10,000 BTUs will cover 300 sq. ft. (2,400 cubic feet)
- 12,000 BTUs will cover 400 sq. ft. (3,200 cubic feet)
- 13,000 BTUs will cover 450 sq. ft. (3,600 cubic feet)
- 14,000 BTUs will cover 500 sq. ft. (4,000 cubic feet)
Note that the above guidelines are not exact. Some factors may increase or decrease the number of BTUs required. For example, if you live in a hot, humid state like Florida; if your ceilings are taller than 8 feet; if the room contains several heat-producing appliances; or if you're trying to cool a poorly insulated room, such as a garage, then you'll need to increase the BTUs accordingly.
Also, keep in mind that BTU ratings for portable air conditioners are not exactly the same as BTU ratings for traditional window air conditioners. In general, portable air conditioners cover about half the area as window air conditioners with the same BTU rating. Therefore, if you're replacing an old window unit with a new PAC, you should double the BTU rating of the window unit.
2. Where will I place my new PAC?
During the cooling process, portable air conditioners produce hot air that must be exhausted. Usually, this hot air exits a nearby window through an exhaust hose. Most PACs come with a window kit that easily fits all standard windows.
Some commercial units, like Movincool portable air conditioners, are available with installation kits that allow the hot air to vent out through a drop ceiling or an adjacent wall.
3. How much maintenance will I have to perform?
Most PACs require little maintenance. However, some models require you to empty a drain bucket. Certain PACS, such as the DeLonghi portable air conditioners and American Comfort portable air conditioners, evaporate all or most of the water they collect, so there's a reduced need to empty buckets. All units offer drainage options to avoid the hassle of emptying buckets.
You'll also need to clean filters as directed and defrost the unit fully if ice builds up on the coils. Other than that, most PACs offer a "set it and forget it" approach to maintenance.
4. Is energy efficiency a concern?
If you're concerned about energy efficiency (for the sake of the environment and/or your monthly energy bills), then you should look at a PAC’
s Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER). The EER tells you how many BTUs are used for each watt of power. In other words, units with higher EERs are more energy efficient. Toyotomi portable air conditioners are known for their energy efficiency.
5. Is noise level a concern?
There's no getting around it. Any machine that generates airflow is going to produce some level of noise. Some PACs, however, are louder than others. If you're concerned about the noise level, be sure to compare the decibel (dB) levels produced by different units. Soleus Air portable air conditioners, for instance, are among the quieter models on the market, reaching 45 dBs on their highest settings. That's about as loud as falling raindrops.