Photo of a Portable Air ConditionerPortable air conditioners are a practical way to cool a single room and are great devices for assisting a central air system that cannot keep up with the demands of the household.

In this post, we’ll address the most common topics and provide answers related to the question “How do portable air conditioners work?”

By the end of this guide, you’ll have a clear understanding of how does a portable AC unit work to cool down your home.

Requirements for a portable air conditioner

Different models of portable air conditioners will require different things, but most of them are easily set up.

The whole point of a portable AC is to remove hot air while cooling. Because of this, these units need a way to move that warm air to somewhere else. The most common way that these air conditioners are vented is through an outside window, but some models may be exhausted through a drop ceiling or a wall.

After the exhaust is set up, all you have to do is plug in your portable AC unit and turn it on to begin cooling.

Most portable air conditioners can be used on a normal 115/120 volt power, so they will not need a special outlet or any particular wiring. The only exception to this are units that use upwards of 14,000 BTUs. These may require to be on their own circuit. Because of this it is important to check the owner’s manual to be sure the portable air conditioner can be used on your particular outlet.

As you probably know, any air conditioner is going to use a considerable amount of energy, so it is important to keep other high energy devices on a separate circuit to keep from overloading one circuit.

Using a portable AC unit in more than one room

Depending on your particular unit, you may be able to cool several rooms.

Just like a regular window air conditioner, they can cool an immediate area, but the cold air will not be able to travel through hallways or doorways.

If you are trying to cool two rooms with large openings between them it may work to cool the two areas, but the cooling may not be even.

To find out what your options are, take a look at our guide on portable air conditioner reviews. We also have a guide on the top cheap portable AC units too.

How are single hose and dual hose units different?

Portable air conditioning units will either have one exhaust hose for hot air or they will have two.

If your unit has one hose, it takes air from the room that it is placed in and then returns most it after the cooling process. However, since a small amount of air is always removed from the room, it will cause some negative pressure.

If your unit has two hoses, one will be to bring air in from the outside, and the other will exhaust it. Dual hoses will not create the negative pressure like the single hose, but because of this design it does result in less efficiency.

Can you extend the exhaust hose (if applicable)

It is not ideal to lengthen the hose on your portable air conditioner. The hose is designed at a specific length for the machine to operate most efficiently. Extending the hose could also cause your unit to overheat and will void the manufacturer warranty.

Venting exhaust through windows and sliding doors

Many portable AC units are able to be vented to sliding glass windows using the standard window kit. This same kit can also be use on a traditional window.

It is much harder and more complicated to use a sliding glass door to vent the exhaust hose. These window kits usually are not long enough to extend to fit the entire height of a door.

If you want to install your portable air conditioner to a sliding glass door, it is probably necessary to use at least two installation kits. You want to make sure these kits are designed to be used with your model of portable air conditioner. The installation kits can be put together with screws. It is also possible to use Styrofoam or plywood to cover the open area from the sliding glass door. They can also help with insulation.

No matter which installation route you plan on using, it is important to check the owner’s manual to make sure all guidelines are followed.

Getting rid of collected moisture

One of the main jobs of a portable air conditioner is to take moisture out of the air and remove any warm air.  We know the warm air is removed through the exhaust hose that leads outside, but where does the moisture go?

Portable air conditioners have several different ways of dealing with condensation and moisture.

One model is a full self-evaporative model.

These type of portable air conditioners are very advanced in the way that they evaporate the moisture automatically out of the exhaust hose at the same time as the hot air. With this model you will rarely have to empty any collected water. This model of portable AC is one of the most popular because of the little maintenance involved. Some brands that have this self-evaporative model are Avallon, DeLonghi, and Whynter.

Another model is the gravity drain with a condensate pump.

This style portable air conditioner rids water through a drain hose that can be attached to the unit. These usually come with the portable air conditioner when purchased. You just need to hook up the hose to the drain on the air conditioner and let the water drain into a bucket or it can even be lead to a drain. These AC models have been designed to be attached to pump accessories to aid in pumping the water into a hose to move it to another location.

Some portable air conditioners may require manual removal of water.

This is how a basic portable air conditioner will work. They require regular removal of moisture and have buckets inside of the unit that will require emptying at regular intervals. Some as much as every 8 hours. To do this, you need to turn the air conditioner off, empty the unit of any water, and return the collection bucket to the unit to begin cooling again

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