are portable air conditioners worth it

Are Portable Air Conditioners Worth It?

With temperatures on the rise each summer, it’s a must to have some cooling strategy. Among the myriad of cooling options out there, today I’ll be covering portable air conditioners, and answering – are they really worth it?

After burying myself in the world of BTUs, exhaust hoses, and energy efficiency I can confidently say that I can answer this question. Here’s what I found.

Table of Contents

What are Portable Air Conditioners?

First off, how about we go over what exactly portable air conditioners are. Here is the best ELI5 I can provide.

Portable air conditioners, or PACs, are small, movable units that can cool a limited area. Unlike central AC systems, these bad boys can be carted around your home, cooling where you need it most. They work by taking in warm air, cooling it through a refrigeration cycle, and then directing it back into the room while venting the excess heat out through an exhaust hose.

The Advantages of Portable Air Conditioners

Let’s talk the positives first. PACs have some perks despite what some might say:

  • Portability: They are relatively easy to move around. Want to cool your living room in the day and your bedroom at night? Aside from setting up the exhaust hose to a new window, you just roll it around!
  • Cost: They are typically cheaper than window units or central air conditioning systems. A win for the wallet!
  • Installation: Simple and quick. You don’t need a professional to set these up. Just a bit of DIY spirit!
  • Multi-functional Features: Many come with dehumidifiers, heaters, and air purifiers – it’s like getting a 3-in-1 deal!

The Disadvantages of Portable Air Conditioners

There’s always two sides to every coin right? Here are the things holding these ac units back:

  • Noise: PACs can be pretty noisy. This might be a deal-breaker if you need a quiet environment for work or sleep.
  • Space and Aesthetics: They aren’t exactly compact, and you might find them clashing with your home decor (not usually my thing but I’ll admit, it’s kind of annoying).
  • Limited Area Coverage: They are only really effective at cooling single rooms. If you’re thinking, “can a portable air conditioner cool an entire apartment?” The answer is, unfortunately, no, unless you have a tiny apartment.
  • Energy Efficiency: The big downside. PACs are notorious energy guzzlers.

Understanding BTU Ratings and Their Importance

BTU (British Thermal Unit) is a unit that measures energy. When it comes to air conditioners the higher the BTU, the more heat that can be removed from your room per hour. But it’s crucial to match the BTU rating with the size of your room – too high, and you waste energy; too low, and you’re left sweating.

Comparison of Portable Air Conditioners with Other Cooling Options

In the battle of “do portable air conditioners work as well as window units,” window units come out on top. They’re usually more efficient and better at cooling larger spaces.

Central AC, while the most expensive option, is also the most effective.

Ventless air conditioners or evaporative coolers (the ones you see being promoted at mall kiosks everywhere) are cost-effective and energy-efficient, but they don’t work well at all in most conditions, with portable air conditioners cooling much better comparatively.

Fans are the cheapest and easiest to use, but they can’t cool a room – they just keep the air moving. Sometimes, that is all you need in certain situations though. A well placed fan can make a world of difference!

Top Tips for Maximizing Efficiency and Lifespan of Portable Air Conditioners

To make the most of your PAC, remember these tips:

  • Position it correctly. Placing it near a window works best for ventilation and minimizing energy loss.
  • Regular cleaning and maintenance can extend its life. Make sure to clean the filters regularly.
  • Be smart with your usage. Use timers and adjust settings according to your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my portable AC not cooling my apartment?

It’s likely that your PAC isn’t powerful enough (it has a low BTU) for the size of your apartment. The next most likely cause is that it needs maintenance.

What is the best portable air conditioner?

The best one will depend on your specific needs, but higher BTU dual hose units are generally the most effective.

Why is my portable air conditioner not blowing cold air but running?

This could be due to a few reasons such as a refrigerant leak, dirty filter, or an issue with the thermostat. If the temperature in the room has already reached you desired temperature set on the unit, it will also run in this low idle mode.

Do portable air conditioners use a lot of electricity?

Yes, they do. They are inefficient and need lots of power to run. You’ll definitely notice a difference on your monthly energy bill, but how much exactly depends on how frequently you run it of course.

What does Reddit say about portable air conditioners?

As someone that always searches for what people on Reddit are saying about a topic I naturally searched this.

Redditors seem to agree that while PACs can work well for a single room, they are not as efficient as window units, particularly for larger spaces.

If you’re going to buy one, the consensus is to invest in high BTU dual hose units for the best performance.


From my research and testing, my takeaway on whether portable air conditioner units are worth it is this: they can be a good, even great solution for cooling a single room, like a bedroom. However, they’re generally not as effective as window units and can be very energy inefficient. If you already hate your high energy bills, you will be hating them even more after you get one of these.

Make sure to take your specific situation into account. Do you need ac in the entire apartment? I found that I only needed one in my bedroom to help me sleep at night so that I actually feel rested when I wake up in the mornings. That along with fans in the living spaces was enough for me. Decide that part for yourself, as only you will know the answer.

Until next time… stay cool! 😛

Got a comment, experience or question about portable air conditioners? Drop it below, let’s get this discussion flowing!

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