Find the right air conditioning system for your home

Not ready to invest in central air conditioning? Consider a portable or window air conditioner instead. Both are easy to install, don’t require conduits, and can be taken with you on the go.

But these two cooling systems are not the same. So before you buy, study the differences to decide which one is right for you. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of portable air conditioners over window air conditioners.

Window air conditioner – advantages

Better cooling capacity. Check the BTU rating of the machine you are considering – the higher the BTU, the greater its cooling capacity. TIP: If you’re cooling a medium-sized room (rather than a large open-plan area), buying the more powerful machine is a mistake. Ask an expert to calculate the optimal size.

Bells and whistles. Many window air conditioners come with accessories such as a remote control, digital thermostat, and programmable timer.

Window air conditioner – cons

Complicated installation. You will need to hire a professional for the installation of the AC window. You will also need a well-placed window. Otherwise, you will need to invest in a “through the wall” air conditioning unit, and cut a hole in your wall for mounting.

Adjust. Window air conditioners are made to work with double hung windows, so consult an HVAC professional for solutions if you have a different style of window. Ditto if the unit you want does not fit in the available space of the window.

Cost. Besides the cost of professional installation, the purchase price of this device is higher than that of a laptop. Also, since the AC window consumes a lot of power, you may need to add a dedicated electrical circuit.

Portable air conditioner – the advantages

Cost. You will pay a lower initial purchase cost for a portable air conditioner compared to a window air conditioner.

Easy to install. You can easily do it yourself to save on air conditioning installation costs. Laptops are handy for remodeled spaces such as finished attics or garages, as well as areas that only need cooling occasionally, such as guest bedrooms.

Easily movable. Its light weight and wheels allow flexible positioning. A portable air conditioner can be moved to any room as needed. You can also easily store it in a closet or storage room for the winter.

Do not protrude outside. Many homeowner association and condo committee regulations prohibit air conditioning with rooms sticking out of your window.

Multitask. A device can combine three functions: cooling, dehumidification and fan. Some also offer heating.

Portable air conditioner – disadvantages

Ventilation. Portable air conditioning must be ventilated to the outside with a special pipe, which traditionally exhausts hot air through a window. However, recent models offer options such as ventilation through an exterior door or even your ceiling.

Problems. An inexpensive unit, because it dehumidifies the air, collects the condensate in a container which must either be emptied daily or ducted outside. High-end portable air conditioners are more user-friendly; their exhaust pipe wicks moisture to the outside.

Limited cooling. A portable air conditioner is generally capable of cooling 500 to 700 square feet maximum.

Save money on air conditioning

When considering a portable air conditioner or window air conditioner, keep in mind that either can save you money by supplementing a central air conditioning system. Cool a particularly warm room with a small, energy-efficient window or portable air conditioning, and take it easy with the more expensive central air.

Add a ceiling fan to circulate the air cooled by your portable or window air conditioner and you really save energy and money.

Get the most out of your air conditioner. Make sure that the flow of fresh air is not blocked by window treatments or furniture.

Repair cracks, insulate and cut the cold for energy-efficient and less expensive heating AND cooling.

Advice on air conditioners

A portable or window air conditioner is a convenient renovation in a ductless home. Another possibility is mini-split air conditioning.

The mini air conditioning is often noisy. This is not necessarily a portable air conditioner or window air conditioner problem, but depends on the individual make and model. If you are sensitive to noise, do advanced research to find quiet models. And once the air conditioner is installed, regular maintenance (cleaning the fins and tightening the screws) will help keep it quiet.

Before installing your window air conditioner, decide whether to leave it on all winter. If this is the case, the installation should include an exterior weather protection cover. If not, plan to take the air conditioning apart every fall (a job for two people) and find a storage place.

Laura Firszt writes for

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