How Does a Portable Air Conditioner Work?

May 20, 2022
Woman enjoying clean air in Nacogdoches, TX

A portable air conditioner can be a good option for adding supplemental cooling or for cooling rooms that don’t have the benefit of a central AC system. One major advantage of a portable AC is that you can easily move it from room to room as needed, which really isn’t an option with window AC units. They also generally tend to be quieter than window ACs. Still, they are not always an ideal solution as they do have some downsides. With this in mind, let’s look at how portable ACs work to make it easier for you to understand both the pros and cons.

Understanding How Portable ACs Produce Cooling

Portable air conditioners work in virtually the same way as any other air conditioning system. It is a common misconception that air conditioners produce cold air, but this is only partly true. What ACs really do is absorb heat from the air inside the building and transfer it back outside. This means that the air coming out of the system is much cooler than the air being drawn into it. The primary difference between portable air conditioners and other cooling systems is that some types of portable ACs draw hot air in from outside instead of taking the air from inside the building.

All air conditioners work by using a refrigerant to capture heat and then transfer and release the heat back outside. All AC systems have an evaporator coil that is filled with cold refrigerant liquid. The system uses an intake fan to draw in hot air and force it over the evaporator, where the heat is absorbed by the cold refrigerant. As part of this process, moisture in the air condenses on the evaporator coil, which is how air conditioners also remove excess humidity from the air.

The refrigerant gets hot as it absorbs heat from the air, which turns the liquid into a gas. The heated gas refrigerant then passes to the condenser coil, where another fan works to allow the heat to be released into the air outside. The system then uses a compressor that further cools the refrigerant and turns it back into a liquid.

Types of Portable Air Conditioners

There are two main types of portable air conditioners: single-hose and dual-hose. A single-hose unit functions exactly like all other types of ACs in that it draws in hot air from around the unit and then pumps the heat through a hose and outside. A dual-hose unit, on the other hand, instead takes the hot air from outside through one hose, cools it, and then pumps the heat back out through the second hose. While this might sound counterproductive, dual-hose units are generally far more effective and especially for larger spaces.

The reason is that single-hose units create negative pressure inside the room or space. This results in air being sucked into the space from other rooms or from outside through any gaps or air leaks. One major issue with single-hose units is that they tend to make the other rooms in the house much warmer due to the negative pressure. Dual-hose units don’t create this issue, but they do tend to be quite a bit noisier, more expensive, and use more energy than single-hose units.

Comparing Portable ACs to Other Cooling Systems

Portable air conditioners can be great for situations where you can or don’t want to use a window AC. For instance, if there are regulations that prevent you from using a window AC or if you simply don’t like how the unit looks hanging outside your home. However, it is important to note that portable units tend to use more energy than window ACs. They also simply don’t provide nearly the same amount of cooling and especially not when used in larger spaces. On the other hand, they are much easier to clean and set up compared to bulky window units.

If you’re looking for a more permanent solution, a ductless AC system is generally the best option. Not only are these units much more effective, but they are also far more energy efficient than window ACs, portable units, or even central air conditioning systems. They are not the cheapest option, but they can still be well worth the price by ensuring the space stays cool in even the hottest weather.

Expert Cooling Solutions and Services

If you’re looking for options to keep your home cool during the lot, hot Texas summers, Nacogdoches Sheet Metal, Plumbing & Air Conditioning, LTD. is here to help. We can take you through the different air conditioning options and determine what best fits your home and your budget. Our certified HVAC technicians can service and repair all types of cooling systems from any manufacturer. As a Lennox Premier Dealer, we also carry a wide selection of new air conditioners, furnaces, and heat pumps. We also specialize in indoor air quality equipment and solutions, plumbing services, and sheet metal fabrication, and we serve customers in Nacogdoches and surrounding communities. Give us a call to learn more about your cooling options or if you have questions about any of our other services.