The Top 10 Best Portable Air Conditioners of 2015 & 2016

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Portable Air Conditioners: Questions & Answers

How many BTU does a portable air conditioner need?

BTU (which stands for British thermal unit) measures how much energy is needed to cool one pound of water by one degree. The more BTU an air conditioning unit has, the more space it can cool. For example, for a 300-square foot room, your air conditioner (AC) should have about 10,000 BTU. Larger rooms up to 500-square feet need 14K, while some of the smaller air conditioners for smaller rooms (200-square feet) only need about 5,000-8,000 BTU.

How big are portable air conditioners?

Size is an important factor when choosing a portable air conditioner. If you have an apartment or want to use the air conditioner in a smaller room, you’ll want a more compact unit. These appliances tend to weigh between 50-70 pounds. Designs vary, so an AC meant for a small room will be both light, thin, and only take up a few feet of floor space. Some air conditioners are bulky and can weigh as much as 80 pounds. This could be a problem considering many portable air conditioners need to be vented to the outside and mounted in a window.

How much control do I have over the settings?

Most units are quite advanced, LED and LCD displays are commonly used to view and alter the settings. The difference between LED and LCD is that LED screens produce their own light, while LCD are often backlit so you can see the display in the dark even better. The display allows you to make adjustments like cooling speed, mode, and temperature so you can select the ideal temperature for whatever room the air conditioner is in. Timers are also included on many units so you can choose when you want the AC to turn on and off. Many units also include a remote control. In general, the more features the air conditioner display has, the more the unit will cost.

How loud are portable air conditioners?

Sound is definitely a concern with most portable air conditioners. Generally, the more powerful the air conditioner is, the louder it will be. The fans on the units are responsible for most of the noise, and in a small room, the highest fan speed can make normal conversation or watching TV difficult. Many machines have been designed to dampen the noise as much as possible, and include Sleep modes that do not require a fan. With the Sleep mode on, you can have the air conditioner turned on close to your bedrooms without disturbing anyone.

How energy-efficient are portable air conditioners?

Energy-efficiency varies by brand, but there are a couple of things to be on the lookout for. Air conditioners use hose systems to drag hot air in and send cool air back out. Appliances that use two hoses for this process (one to pull air in, and another one to push air out) are considered more efficient than one-hose designs. Another feature to look for is the Energy Star rating. Machines that have an Energy-Star rating have been proven to conserve more energy and save you money in energy costs. The last tip is to check out the EER rating. EER stands for Energy Efficiency Ratio, and is calculated by dividing the output cooling by the electrical power input. Portable air conditioners with a rating of 8-9 will save you more energy and money.

How much does the refrigerant matter?

An air conditioner’s refrigerant is the liquid substance used in the cooling process. Traditionally, R-22 was the refrigerant of choice, but now it is being phased out because it contributes to global warming. R-410A is the alternative and is not only eco-friendly, but it is more effective and gaining in popularity. This means your appliance will last longer and run more efficiently than if it used a non-green refrigerant.

Can I use an air conditioner as a dehumidifier?

In many climates, humidity is a source of heat and discomfort. Many portable air conditioners function very well as dehumidifiers. The dehumidifying mode is often known as the “Dry Mode” and is part of 3-in-1 portable air conditioners. Many can pull around 30-40 pints of moisture from the air in one day, so your air is drier and cooler.

What kind of maintenance do they require?

For maintenance, the main burden is to keep the AC drained. An air conditioner creates moisture when it cools the air, and that moisture has to go somewhere. It is usually contained in a water tank that you need to empty out. If you are using your air conditioner as a dehumidifier a lot, then you will have a lot of liquid to deal with. You also need to change out the unit’s filters when they get old.

Are there any portable air conditioners that don’t need to be drained?

Since emptying out a bucket several times a week or even a day can get really odd, many air conditioners now have self-maintaining systems in place. The three terms used the most are “self-evaporative”, “no-bucket design”, and “auto-evaporating.” These terms basically mean the air conditioner is able to get rid of the collected moisture through evaporation, and don’t need buckets or tanks.

What kind of filters do AC’s have?

Portable AC’s usually have at least one filter which is meant to clean out the cooled air before it shoots back into your room. More advanced air conditioners use two filters, one which is washable, and the other which is made of carbon to help get rid of odors like smoke. 3M designs electrostatic filters for many AC brands. This filter works by collecting dust and dander particles with electrostatically-charged fibers. These are great for people with allergies. Clean air ionizers and antibacterial filters are also designed to improve air quality, and deal with allergens, bacteria, and odor. Many of these filter types are washable, so you don’t have to change them out as often.

What kind of fan designs do they have?

The most basic fan design just sends out the cool air in one direction, where it gradually fills the room. Swing-air systems allow you to target the air in a specific direction, so you can cool your room more effectively and feel comfortable faster. 4-way air direction is also very popular, because the fan sends air out up, down, and to both sides.

How much do portable air conditioners cost?

Portable air conditioners are big purchases and don’t come cheap. The most expensive ones usually include a lot of BTU power, superior filters, and advanced displays. These can cost $500 or more. Machines that are designed to be more attractive than the traditional bulky unit also usually cost a bit more. The most affordable portable air conditioners you could probably find are around $300 and are meant for use in apartments and larger rooms, and not to cool your whole house.

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