All portable air conditioners will have a BTU rating, which is directly proportional to how large an area (lengths x width= square foot in a room) it can cover. Another aspect to coverage is the height of ceiling, which for the following examples, is estimated to be 8 feet. A 7,500 BTU unit should be able to cover a 150 sq. ft. room, while a 10,000 BTU unit should be able to cover a 300 sq. ft. room. Most models come with suggested sq. ft. coverage ranges, so be sure to look for models that can cover the area you need to cool down (going for a model that is slightly larger than what you need in terms of BTU can help reduce how much it is used, but going under in size can result in poor performance and higher costs).
Aside from the BTU rating, it is important to consider if the portable air conditioner has any type of energy efficiency rating. In comparison to central, or sometimes even window units, portable air conditioning units can be much cheaper to use. However, in some climates, where they are used for longer periods or all year-round, the costs to use one can still be rather significant. Look for models that have an Energy Star Rating feature, which means they are designed to be more power efficient and cost less to operate (Honeywell, Frigidaire, LG, and Whynter are top selling brands that often feature Energy Star Ratings).
The lengths of the power chord and hoses/piping that are used with a portable air conditioner can severely limit its usage in some areas. Many models require access to a window for their ventilation/drainage lines. The length of the hoses/pipes/chords can very limited (5′ to 10′ are common lengths), so it is important to not only consider the room it is going to be used in, but also how much space you will need between it and the available window/outlet.
Whenever hot air is cooled, there will be some form of condensation produced during the process. Most portable air conditioners make use of drain pipes or canister/bucket compartments to collect the moisture that can build up during operation. When shopping for a portable air conditioner, consider which is more convenient for you, or what style works best with the area(s) you intend to use it in.
While most air conditioners do not double as air purifiers, it is necessary to have some level of filtration for the air being pulled into the unit. Dust and debris can damage the mechanical components, so a standard to any quality air conditioner will be some form of air filtration. The filters are either designed to be replaced, or cleansed on a regular basis. Depending on the cost of filter, it can really add up over time. Look for models that either have easily affordable replacement filters, or that offer reusable ones to help reduce the cost over time to operate.
In addition to basic filtration maintenance, there are also the hoses to consider. The hoses/pipes for portable air conditioners, much like other lines in a home (like the dryer line or central vents) need to be properly cleaned out from time to time. While this is more a matter of time than money, some models may have hoses that require replacement more often than others. For the least hassle, look for models that are low maintenance, or that have long lasting fittings, to help ensure that the upkeep does not detract to much from its initial value.
Often a second thought after a unit has been purchased, one thing to keep in mind is how noisy the unit may be. For areas such as workshops and garages, the noise may not be an issue, but inside the home, in bedrooms and living rooms, the noise can be a problem. Look for remarks, not only from the company on the listing, but also from reviewers as well in regards to how quiet or noisy the machine is. Honeywell, for example, is known to make professional quality units that are still fairly quiet, even at the 10,000 BTU range.
Fan Only Option
One of the most common features, that should not be overlooked, is a fan-only mode of operation. For many people who use their units quite a bit during the year, the option for it act as a fan can help reduce power consumption. This can also help with milder cooling needs, since portable air conditioning units tend to take up the use of a window, being able to use just a fan mode can replace the lack of being able to create cross breeze (opening opposing windows to let a strong breeze push warmer air out of a room). If you live in an area where there is a lot of transition between cold and hot weather, where mild cooling is needed, consider models that have a fan-only mode to help reduce costs and provide filtered airflow.
With a company reputation for making quality and fairly affordable products, Honeywell has several models of portable air conditioners that are highly popular among consumers. The MN10CESWW and MN12CES are 10,000 and 12,000 (respectively) BTU units that are professional quality in grade and make the top ten on many hot sellers lists. One feature that makes Honeywell really stand out is their no-drain dehumidifying system, which allows their portable air conditioners to run 24/7 without needing a drain line or emptying a container. This high level of sophisticated and convenient technology does come with a slightly larger than average price tag, but it is not generally a point consumers complain about, given how helpful it is.
A name well known for helping cold things stay cold and making hot things cooler, Frigidaire is not just a refrigerator company. They produce several models of air conditioning units, including a line of portable models. While most fall into the mid-range for pricing, they are known to be very compact and efficient machines, which also specialize in meeting smaller room needs (their portable units range between 5,000 to 12,000 BTU ratings).
As a global distributor, Haier has the largest market share in white goods for any single company. Their focus on home appliances include a line of portable air conditioners that range in quality, as well as pricing. From their basic models that are rated for no less than 8,000 BTU, to their top of the line professional models that rated for 14,000 BTU, Haire creates high quality, long lasting machines. Their long standing in the market and widespread reputation are contributing factors to their popularity among consumers the world over.
LG Electronics are known around the home, and are responsible many different items, such as major appliances and even smart phones. Their diverse selection of products all carry a reputation for being well made and reliable, and their portable air conditioners are no exception. They can be summed up in three words: simple, compact, and reliable. They have a line that includes 21 different models, with some as small as 7,000 BTU and their largest rated for 14,000 BTU. The difference, aside from room capacity, boils down to additional features (like remote control options), but most are well received by consumers (LP1014WNR remote control 10,000 BTU unit is one of their best selling models).
Despite the company not being as well known as others on the list, an important name to keep in mind among the portable air conditioner division of products is Whynter (not really hard when you think about cold things). They are making their mark by producing highly efficient, Eco-friendly machines that not only cool the air and dehumidify it as well, they recycle the moisture that is normally collected and disposed of, back into the system that is used to cool the air. Their standard unit is rated at 14,000 BTU and is recommended for a 500 sq. ft. room. Out of the ten units the company produces, none of them receive less than three stars among reviewers, and even then the only major complaint for the brand is that they are not really flexible in their price range.
A definite luxury found with higher quality unites, a remote control that allows you to not just turn the unit off and one, but also adjust its other settings, is a mark of a professional quality machine. Whynter, LG, Haire, and Honeywell are well known for their inclusion of an advanced remote with most of their professional grade units. If you plan on setting it up in an area that would be less than convenient to reach any time, then consider units that include a remote.
While some would consider wheels/casters a given on anything deemed portable, not all models of portable air conditioning units have them. The inclusion of them on standard quality models is less consistent than with professional or commercial quality machines. If you plan to move the unit around a lot, or want the most convenience when it comes to moving it into and out of storage, consider units that have either built in, or removable casters.
Another option found in commercial quality portable air conditioners is the inclusion of additional functions. Some units are designed to not just cool the air, but also help remove moisture (Whynter and Honeywell are both well known for adding this feature). Others take it a step further and also provide the option of heating as well (for this versatility, look towards LG and Whynter). If you lack central heating and cooling, consider a unit that can be used all year round, which can help reduce the costs of utilities and the need for more storage space during different seasons.
Available in standard and higher quality models, a timer feature can help manage energy used and more effectively keep an area cool. Some of the more advanced versions of this feature can be used to program specific schedules of not just being off/on, but also what temperature to work towards during these times. If you plan to use the unit a lot (if its your primary source of climate control), consider a model that has at least a basic timer to help ensure you are not using it more than is necessary (not can it help reduce the utility bill, it can help prolong the life of the machine).
Digital Control Panel
While knobs and buttons are the most popular form of control options for air conditioning units, professional grade models tend to include digital controls. As opposed to knobs, digital readouts and buttons provide a more precise level of control. They are also easier to read than normal knobs, and can help people with limited vision still operate them with ease. To get the most accurate and precise control over the machine’s output, opt for a digital control (just be sure it has a locking option if there are youngsters about).