Choosing the best portable air conditioner for your space may appear difficult for a first time buyer. There are many factors to consider such as drainage, BTU’s, venting, and energy/efficiency. It really helps to do a little research as going for the biggest and most powerful unit for your room might be a recipe for disaster.
Everybody has their preference, some like dual hoses, some prefer units that don’t need to be manually drained and some enjoy the luxury of sitting back while adjusting the temperature with a remote. Since there are so many manufacturers of potable air conditioners we’ve decided to break down some important points to consider while you embark on your search.
One of the most important factors that you have to consider is the amount of BTU’s. BTU stands for British Thermal Units and represents the portable AC’s total cooling capacity. The higher the BTU’s means the more space it can effectively cool. As a general rule of thumb, you need approx. 20-30 BTU’s per square foot of your room. Another thing to mention is that depending on your room or the number of people present, you may require even more BTU’s of power. For example if you have more than two people in your room you need to add 600 BTU’s for each additional person. If your room is very sunny you will be required to increase the amount of BTU’s by 10%(the opposite if shaded). Also if you place the portable AC in the kitchen, be prepared to add another 4,000 BTU’s to your overall total.
*Keep in mind, if you get a unit that doesn’t have enough BTU’s, you risk not being able to cool you room effectively. Although on the flipside, getting a unit with too many BTU’s won’t allow the compressor to run long enough to properly cool the air. This can sometimes lead to a cool but clammy environment.
BTU Power Breakdown(based on standard 8-foot ceilings)
- 7,500 BTUs will cover 150 sq. ft. x 8-ft. ceiling = 1,200 cubic feet
- 9,000 BTUs will cover 200 sq. ft. x 8-ft. ceiling = 1,600 cubic feet
- 10,000 BTUs will cover 300 sq. ft. x 8-ft. ceiling = 2,400 cubic feet
- 12,000 BTUs will cover 400 sq. ft. x 8-ft. ceiling = 3,200 cubic feet
- 13,000 BTUs will cover 450 sq. ft. x 8-ft. ceiling = 3,600 cubic feet
- 14,000 BTUs will cover 500 sq. ft. x 8-ft. ceiling = 4,000 cubic feet
Another thing to consider when purchasing a portable unit is drainage. Some machines need to be drained anywhere from 8 hours a day to only once a month. If that’s a problem, then no sweat. No pun intended : ) There are many manufacturers of portable AC’s that automatically evaporate the moisture so you don’t have to touch anything.
Single Hose vs Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioners
A single hose unit is more attractive, but may cause negative pressure within your room. Basically a single hose unit removes heat from the room with the power of a condenser, cools the air and then releases it back through the same exhaust hose. A dual hose unit is a little more efficient. Some say that they are the best portable air conditioners to go with. It essentially draws warm air out with one hose and uses the other hose to draw in air from outside to cool your unit. I’ve used both a single hose and dual hose units. To tell you the truth I couldn’t feel a big difference, plus the single hose was less expensive in the end.
Now most people vent their units out the window. Some people have rooms that could use the heat, so they vent it there instead. I live in an apartment, so my only option was outside. To be clear, you MUST vent your hot air somewhere otherwise you will defeat the purpose of the machine.
EER stands for Energy Efficiency Rating. The higher the EER pretty much means the more energy efficient the AC is at cooling down your room. Units with a higher EER usually cost more upfront, but can save you money on your electricity bill in the long run. To be sure you’re getting a machine that saves on power look for the “EnergyStar” compliancy logo, which generally has a rating of 10 and above. In my opinion, the best portable air conditioners have high EER ratings and work to maintain a clean environment while using less energy.
Finally, there are many extra bells and whistles to look out for when making your final decision. Are you looking for the convenience of a remote control? Or how about a 24 hour timer for when you arrive home from work? Also, Keep in mind some units are louder than others, while some are big and some small.
I hope with all the information I’ve provided you’ll now be able to go out and make and educated decision on which unit is the right fit for you and your room.
For more information on portable AC’s, see our review of the Haier Black & Decker BPC08CJ 8,000 BTU Single Hose Unit