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Unsure what type of air conditioner to purchase for your home? If you’re looking for either a window air conditioner or a portable room style unit, consider your options first.

Before going out and purchasing just any old one with the perfect price tag attached, take a few moments to learn the difference between the two. In doing so, you will come to an educated decision of which is right for your home and your wallet.

Portable Air Conditioners

A portable air conditioner is a cooling system that you can port around from room to room. Homeowners and renters alike can purchase a portable air conditioner for their individual needs. These also work well for the office environment. Review the following pros and cons of a portable air conditioner unit.

Portable Air Conditioner
Portable Air Conditioner

You Can Cool One Specific Room

If you have a home with a central air unit or a few large air conditioner units throughout your home or office, you understand that running the units continually can raise your electric bill.

Sometimes, family members go on vacation, you contain yourself to one room of your home to work on a project, or you have a visitor for the weekend. These are all excellent reasons you would want to cool only one particular room of a home rather than run your larger air conditioner units. This helps cool the one room and reduce your cooling costs. This is similar to being able to turn lights on in one single room instead of the entire home. Increased control over your comfort…

Add Extra Comfort to a Single Room

Another example is that if someone prefers a cooler room compared to others in your home. Cool air can escape just as heat can. If children are in and out of the home throughout the day, rooms of the home can warm up faster. Many people prefer to sleep at night in a much cooler room.

For instance, some asthma sufferers sleep better in a cool environment. On the contrast, other asthma sufferers must sleep in a warmer environment. So running a central air unit all night is not an option. Anyone else in the home could use a portable air conditioner unit to keep their bedroom at the desired temperature.

Consider the BTU’s Needed for a Central Unit

For some, the luxury of owning a central air unit is not possible. Also, if your landlord covers your electric bill, they may object because tenants may run it all day to cool their entire unit. A window unit would pull more British thermal units (BTUs) than a portable unit may because of its size. The BTU is the basic measure of thermal energy. The larger your space, the more BTUs your unit would need.

Easy to Install

Portable air conditioners do not require codes or following any sort of building or hvac permits. You simply run a 4″ hose to vent the warm air to an outside space. Incredibly easy to install. You can even move it around from room to room. Most are very lightweight and on wheels, so any family member may move it.

Portable Air Conditioner
Portable Air Conditioner

Additionally, if you are in an office environment, such as having a server room, you can get an installation kit and install your unit through a door or a ceiling so the heat can vent outside. The penetration to an exterior source is so small compared to larger window air conditioners which easily take up more than half of a window.

Disadvantages of Portable Air Conditioners

The above are the benefits associated with a portable air conditioner; however, a few disadvantages do exist. These include the need for a portable air conditioner to be drained, the purchase price, and its efficiency.

Requires Constant Draining

Many models of portable air conditioners require constant draining. If you use it as a humidifier, it pulls the excess moisture from the air. Well, that moisture must go somewhere. There would be an attached tank of which needs to be emptied on a regular basis. However, to overcome this, simply purchase an auto-evaporation system unit. This would not require draining. However, it will humidify the room again. In some homes, draining the water and condensation can become a chore every 30 mins. With this in mind, it is nearly impossible to leave these left unattended for any period of time. While some models do not require this additional maintenance, they do cost a bit more upfront. Consider which one would best suit your needs.

The Initial Purchase Price

The price of a portable unit is also a primary concern. Usually, the law of supply and demand would state that more people that want the portable units, the lower it would cost.

However, consumers are willing to spend more on something that offers value. So, consumers are doing their research to find portable air conditioner units that are of a reputable manufacturer. This guarantees their purchase has a warranty and performance they can rely on. Consumers want Energy Star products as well, so this name comes at a price. It is initially more expensive, but the savings over time can add up.

Most portable air conditioners start around $300 and can go up to $850. Some models offer the ability to heat during the winter months- known as a “heat pump” while others have air vanes that move once they sense motion allowing the system to make better use of it’s air.


Some believe that portable air conditioners are not as efficient as a window unit may be. This is especially true when you compare the BTUs of a unit.

Window Air Conditioners

A window air conditioner unit is a popular and affordable method of cooling your home. It has been around for years, when compared to portable units. You would place this in your window, and there are side panels to help it fit best for your window. Review the following reasons on why a window air conditioner would be right for your home.

1963 GE Window Air Conditioner
1963 GE Window Air Conditioner

Helps Keep an Organized Home

A window air conditioner sits in your window. It is outside your living space, so it reduces clutter. You do not have to worry about backing a chair into it or your children playing too close to one. Because it is stationary, you do not have to try to remember where you last placed it.

Cool Multiple Rooms of Your Home with the Central Air Unit Cost

A major pro of the window air conditioner unit is that you get similar results as using a central air unit, without the cost associated. You do not have to worry about installing or updating ductwork either.

You can cool your entire home in a short amount of time. You cannot get that effect with a portable air conditioner unit. A window unit can be powerful enough to cool two or three rooms if you have a straight airflow. A newer model window air conditioner unit also may be more energy efficient. This helps you save a considerable amount of money on your energy bill.

To further boost the capabilities of a window air conditioner, you can use additional fans to help move the cool air around your home.

Very Efficient Cooling System

If you are home all day and roam from room to room, this is a good investment when compared to a portable air conditioner. You can keep your kitchen and office cool while going back and forth between the two rooms if they are on the same level. This is also a good idea if you have pets that need to keep out of the heat. It is also more likely you will find an Energy Star window air conditioner than a portable air conditioner.

Disadvantages of Window Air Conditioners

As with every purchase, there are always a few disadvantages. A window air conditioners cons include the noise levels, they are unattractive and prohibited in some areas, have a difficult setup process, and you lose the use of a window.

Disturbing Noise Levels

Window air conditioner units can be disturbing from the outside. The motor makes noise as well as that it may rub against the windowsill causing the loud sound. The noise it makes can be annoying for those trying to read or sleep.

It is worth mentioning that a portable unit could be disturbing as well. As soon as the motor and compressor starts, the noise is now inside your home.

They are Unattractive and Even Prohibited in Some Areas

For those that live in condos or have a homeowners association, you will find there are many restrictions. One of which is the prohibition of air conditioner units. They are considered bulky and unattractive as they hang outside of the window. Most HOA’s want everything uniform, so if they do allow the unit, you can be sure everyone will have one of the same.

Unsightly Window Air Conditioner
Unsightly Window Air Conditioner

Another common issue is that they drip water. So if your window is along a common walking path, this may be discouraged as well.

Loss of the Use of a Window

You will find it more difficult to enjoy your window space if you install a window air conditioner unit. It takes away from your use of the window, to put a plant on the sill or even draw your curtains down.

Difficulty Installing Into Your Window

Finally, window air conditioners only fit in standard sized windows. Some may find it more difficult to install the unit than others may. For the most part, it is a one-person operation, but a larger unit could require assistance or some sort of bracing to support along the bottom.

The Window and Portable Air Conditioner Units Share Some of the Same Benefits

As technology has greatly improved, so have the benefits with air conditioner units. When deciding between which to have, you want to consider which of the following has the best features of the unit.

Comes with Programmable Timers

Portable and window air conditioner units offer programmable timers and thermostats. So you could turn your temperature off or to a higher temperature while you are away from home. Then, program it to a lower temperature when you come back home. Using this option helps control your costs.

Multipurpose Units

An air conditioning unit does more these days than just cool your home. These units also serve as heaters and dehumidifiers. You may pay a bit more, but it offsets the cost of purchasing something separate to do so and takes up less space.

Important Questions to Help You Decide Which is Best

There are two important questions to ask yourself if you are deciding between having a portable or window air conditioner unit.

How much space do I have?

First, how much space do you have? If you do not have much space, a window unit may be right for you. A window unit does not use any floor space. It is out of the way of furniture and file cabinets. Common sizes of window air conditioners are 6,000 BTU all the way up to 12,000 BTU. The larger your space, the more BTU’s you will need. Also consider the age and construction of your home. A newer home will have more insulation in attics and walls unlike an 20+ year old home which allows more heat and cool air to escape. If the window air conditioner will be getting direct sunlight, also consider going up in size.

A good rule of thumb for sizing is 18 BTU’s per thousand.

1000 square feet would require 18,000 BTUS. So, purchase 2 9,000 BTU models.

Where do I want the unit to be?

Are you more concerned with cooling your bedroom or office? If so, a portable unit may work great for you. Once you close the doors to these types of rooms, the air is locked in. Without doors to a living room, the air can escape, and you will find yourself running the unit longer or on colder temperatures. This is an inefficient use of your energy.

Hopefully this guide will help you make a decision if a portable or window air conditioner unit is right for your home.

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