Photo of a Portable and Window Air Conditioner Units

With the hot summer heat already causing unpleasant temperatures across the globe, you’re likely on the hunt for an affordable air conditioning unit.

However, with so many different options out there, how do you know which one to buy: a portable air conditioner vs window unit?

Finding the right solution for your needs comes down to knowing what each of these units does and why you should choose one over the other.

Below, you’ll find some simple guidelines regarding portable AC vs window AC as well as the pros and cons of each type of device.

Portable Air Conditioner vs Window Unit

The Basics of Air Conditioners

Before we get into comparing different kinds of air conditioning units, let’s first discuss how an air conditioner works.

Air conditioners utilize refrigerants that are liquids specifically designed to help remove heat from the surrounding air.

Put into coils that make up the inside of AC units, the refrigerant will change from a liquid into a gas when it takes on heat. 

Evacuating the heat outside, the cool air is left and the refrigerant turns back into a liquid to start the process again.

The major difference between portable AC vs window unit is that a portable unit uses an exhaust hose to funnel the air to a window while a window unit expels the hot are out the back of the system.

Determining Your Needs for a Portable AC vs Window AC

While portable air conditioners and window AC units both work similarly, your particular situation will make one far better than the other.

In general, there are two things that you should consider before you make your decision on portable vs window AC.

  1. Where will you be installing the unit?
  2. Do you have a window?
  3. Do you have a place for a vent?
  4. What is the size of the space you are cooling? Is it a single room or multiples rooms?

It is common for both businesses and homes to have HVAC (heating ventilation and cooling) units installed that provide central air and heat.

While super effective, it is the most expensive option out there and several times the cost of a portable or window air conditioner. (See our central air vs window units page as an example).

The HVAC systems are also more costly when it comes to energy.  If you are trying to cool only a single room, these systems cannot do that.

It has to cool the whole home or business at once.

A portable or window air conditioner, on the other hand, can cool one specific room, which makes these devices more cost-effective.

See what the best small AC unit options are here.

As a final thought, you can supplement your existing HVAC with a portable unit if one room is not getting to a comfortable temperature. 

This can be a far cheaper alternative to updating or improving your existing HVAC system.

See all of Amazon's Best Selling Portable AC Units

The Pros of Getting a Portable Unit

By far a portable unit is the easiest one to install in a room.

Your unit will most likely come with a kit to take the exhaust out through a window.

Another benefit is that they are not an eyesore from outside the home. 

Some associations ban the use of window air conditioners because they hang out and are considered unattractive.

The mobility of the unit means that you can easily change its location depending on where the greatest need is.

Along with installing the exhaust through a window, you can also hook it up to an existing exhaust system, like your kitchen exhaust to cut down the cost and keep your window free.

Some portable air conditioners also offer a ventless design, meaning that you don’t have to exhaust them out a window.

These units contain fans and use water to deliver cool air into a room.

If that sounds appealing, take a look at our more in-depth article on portable air conditioners without window access here.

The Pros of Getting a Window Air Conditioning Unit

Want air conditioning without taking up your interior space?

A window unit will provide all the benefits of a portable unit when it comes to cooling without taking up any space.

You will also not have to worry about the exhaust as they are built in such a way to vent outward.

In addition to taking up less space, a window air conditioning unit typically requires less electricity.

Measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs), air conditioners typically come with a rating that you can use to judge how efficient they are.

When the number is higher, the amount of space that can be cooled is increased as well.

Typically, units will provide an estimate for what sized space they can cool. For more information, check out our best window AC units list.

If you’re looking to cool a small space and save the most amount of money, we also have a guide on choosing a cheap portable AC unit here.

Another thing worth mentioning here is that there are window-style AC units that can be installed through a wall. This design allows you to keep access to your windows.

You can find our reviews of the best wall AC unit and learn more about how they work. But just know that these air conditioners are considered to be a permanent solution for cooling and heating rather than a temporary device that you just use during the hotter months.

See all of Amazon's Best Selling Window AC Units

A Final Consideration for Portable vs Window AC Unit

For some people, noise matters and different air conditioning units will produce varying amounts of noise ranging from barely noticeable to very loud.

Noise level is measured in dB (decibels) with higher numbers meaning louder noise.

For the most part, when it comes to portable AC vs window AC, the window units win.

That’s because window air conditioners are usually much quieter than portable air conditioners.

Portable AC units hover around 70 dB while window AC units tend to be near 50 dB which is one-eighth quieter.

If noise bothers you, aim for an air conditioner with the lowest dB number.

We hope this guide detailing the differences between a portable air conditioner vs window unit has helped you get closer to a final decision on which one you should buy.

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About David Morrison

David is an Air Quality & Comfort Technician. He has expert knowledge on the technology and design of air purification, air conditioning, and heating systems. His main role is to write content that helps people get the most value out of their air purifiers, air conditioners, and heating units. (See Full Bio)