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Ask Dirk: Are portable air conditioning units a good alternative?

The summer heat has many looking for relief, but of all the options available, the portable AC unit doesn’t rise to the challenge.

Portability

Their packages and advertising show them without hoses and purported as no-installation needed, making portable ACs seems like a quick and easy solution to your cooling needs. However, portable units might not be just as portable as their name suggests.

For starters, the size of these units might deter users from wanting to actually move them. One of the smallest units on the market weighs 40 pounds in comparison to their heavier counterparts at more than 80 pounds. Additionally, if you plan to move the unit from room to room, an exhaust method is required in every room you wish to use it in.

Energy efficiency

The measurement for the amount of heat an AC unit can remove from a space is measured in BTUs (British thermal units). Generally speaking, a larger space or warmer climate would require a higher BTU AC unit to cool effectively. Unfortunately, the advertised BTUs of portable air conditioners aren’t always accurate.

Central air conditioners and window units use coolant to move heat from inside the home to its coils outside where the heat is then exhausted. A portable unit works similarly, except the warm air must get pushed through a hose and through the window vent before it gets outside. The mechanical components of portable units create heat as they operate. About one-third of the cooling power is consumed to make up for the heat the unit creates.

Most portable units are one-hose units. These units use air from the house to exhaust the heat to the outdoors. Any air that is exhausted from the house must be replaced. Typically, air will infiltrate into the house around doors or through other small openings to the outdoors. A two-hose unit is slightly more efficient than one-hose units because they use a hose to bring in air to cool the coil and another to vent the air outside. The window kit that comes with two-hose models to route the hoses through the window and block outside air from coming in often puts the two openings too close together. This causes some of the exhausted air to be drawn back in, so the air to cool the hot coil is warmer. The typical fix is to make a custom window adapter with openings for the two hoses separated as much as possible, but this fix might not be possible for all users.

Condensate draining

A portable unit collects condensate which must be periodically emptied. Depending on conditions, this can happen several times a day. Most units will detect that the container is full and shut off before it overflows. Draining the unit several times a day can be time consuming and reduce the run time of the unit.

Talk to your trusted technician to find an alternative that works for your budget and your comfort.

2019-09-11T14:38:52-07:00September 10th, 2019|