According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), heating and cooling accounts for more than half of the energy used in a typical home, with the average family spending nearly $2,000 a year to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures. The DOE also reports that you can save up to 50% on your cooling bill by investing in a new, energy-efficient air conditioner.
Popular among homeowners as well as business owners, portable air conditioners (PACs) provide substantial energy-savings because they cool only one room instead of the entire home or office. Depending on size and frequency of use, PACs have operating costs that range from $6 to $40 per month.
Also known as spot coolers, portable ACs are easy to set up and move from room to room — so you can spend the evening chilling out in front of the television, and then roll your PAC into the bedroom for a comfortable night's rest.
There's no reason to cool your entire house if you spend most of your time in just one or two rooms. If you have central heat and air, a spot cooler will allow you to turn up the temperature on your thermostat during the summer. For each degree, you'll save about 1% on your electricity bill. For each degree above 78 degrees F, you'll save 3% to 5% on your energy bill. With a PAC, you'll enjoy lower energy costs without sacrificing comfort.
To achieve maximum energy efficiency, it's important to choose the right size portable air conditioner. The PAC's BTU, or British Thermal Unit, rating must be sufficient for the room in which it will be used.
Use these BTU guidelines for a standard room with 8-foot ceilings:
- 7,500 BTUs cover 150 sq. ft.
- 9,000 BTUs cover 200 sq. ft.
- 10,000 BTUs cover 300 sq. ft.
- 12,000 BTUs cover 400 sq. ft.
- 13,000 BTUs cover 450 sq. ft.
- 14,000 BTUs cover 500 sq. ft.
If your ceilings are taller than 8 feet, or if the indoor environment is extremely hot, then you'll need a higher BTU rating. Read our Portable Air Conditioner Buyer's Guide for more information on choosing among BTU ratings.
To get the most out of your portable air conditioner, keep all windows and doors shut tightly. Don't place objects on or near your PAC because you might inadvertently block the airflow.
You can reduce your summertime cooling bills further by following these tips:
- Take Advantage of Fans — A simple fan can make a room feel 3 to 4 degrees cooler. Remember to turn off the fan when you leave the room.
In addition, avoid placing lamps or appliances near your thermostat, as they could artificially inflate the thermostat's temperature reading. Also, keep the fan switch on auto. If you keep the fan on constantly, that could cost you an extra $25 per month.
- Program Your Thermostat — If you have central air conditioning, a programmable thermostat can automatically raise the temperature when you're not home and lower the temperature shortly before you return. (If you don't have a programmable thermostat, turn the temperature up a few degrees before you leave the house each day, and turn it back down as soon as you get home.)
- Maintain Your HVAC — If you have central HVAC, you should replace your furnace filters once a month during the summer. Dirty filters make HVAC units less efficient, and this translates to higher energy bills.
- Create Shade — Use drapes and blinds to block sunlight. Some people in hot environments also put awnings or bamboo shades on the exterior of windows. Trees and shrubbery also help to create shade near windows.
- Keep Cool Air Indoors — Don't air condition the whole neighborhood! Keep doors and windows closed, and seal any air leaks with weather stripping or caulk. Remember to turn off exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom, and if you have a fireplace, make sure that the damper is closed.
- Reduce Heat Production — Turn off lights and appliances when you're not using them. If you haven't done so already, replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). CFL bulbs use 75% less energy and produce 70% to 90% less heat. During the summer, keep the stove off and use an outdoor grill or microwave whenever possible. Start your clothes dryer at night or just before you leave for the day.
When the summer comes to an end, be sure to drain and clean your portable air conditioner. Store it in a safe, warm place so that any trapped water will not freeze and damage the PAC. With these dollar-saving tips and the right maintenance, you'll continue to enjoy energy-savings for years to come.