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Should I get a portable or window AC unit?

Is a portable unit the right AC unit for you?

If you want to make an informed decision about whether a portable or window AC unit is best for you, you need to understand how they work. All air conditioners function the same way – they pull in hot air, the hot air then runs over the cooling coils, the heat turns the refrigerant running through the coils into a gas, and a fan cools the gas back into a liquid while blowing the hot air outside. Portable and window air conditioners do all of this in one compact unit versus a central AC, which requires ductwork, a blower unit, an outdoor condenser unit, and refrigerant lines.

The most obvious difference between a portable and a window air conditioner is that a window unit is a single box that sits in your window while a portable unit has a box that sits on the floor with an exhaust vent that connects through a window, ceiling, wall or door. When choosing between the two, you'll want to consider a variety of factors including the layout of the room, the size of the room, and the number of windows.

Portable air conditioners.

Portable air conditioners provide utilitarian flexibility and savings. They give you a quick way to add air conditioning to a room as either a temporary or long-term solution.

Pros of portable air conditioners.

The most noteworthy advantage of portable air conditioners is that they're easy to install. Just take them out of the box and plug them in without any need to alter your window frame. This also means that you can move a portable air conditioner from room to room or even into your garage or onto your porch. Portable air conditioners also take up much less space in your windows, and you can easily remove the vent when you don't need air conditioning. Finally, portable air conditioners are generally more affordable than window air conditioners both in terms of the purchase price and not having to pay for installation.

Cons of portable air conditioners.

The biggest con to portable air conditioners is that you'll need floor space for a medium-sized appliance. This might require you to rearrange furniture or make a cramped space even more so. Further, you'll still need to make space to run the vent to your window, and the portable AC needs to be within a few feet of the window.

Noise may also be a concern with portable air conditioners. Although manufacturers work to keep the noise levels reasonable, because the unit runs inside, you'll still hear the hum whenever it's on.

Window air conditioners.

or is a window unit the right AC unit for you?

Window air conditioners provide a more permanent option that's short of installing central AC. They're not quite plug-and-play but can still provide cost and time savings while giving you the option to relocate the window AC unit in the future.

Pros of window air conditioners.

Window air conditioners save your exterior space by sitting in your window and only extending a few inches inside. There is no separate vent to worry about, and more noise is directed outside compared to a portable air conditioner.

In addition, window air conditioners are often more efficient than portable air conditioners allowing them to cool a larger space at a lower cost.

Cons of window air conditioners.

The biggest cons of window air conditioners are that they're difficult to install and block your window. If you're located on a higher floor, it is especially important to make sure that the AC unit is completely secure to prevent it from falling on something or someone below.

Window air conditioners are also noisier than a traditional central AC unit. While you'll still be able to carry on normal conversations or hear the TV, you won’t get complete peace and quiet.

Moving into a larger space?

An advantage of both portable and window air conditioners is that you can take them with you when you move. However, if you're moving from an apartment into a condo or house, you may want to switch to a more quiet, efficient, and permanent solution. Ductless mini split AC systems provide several advantages over window AC units, in the fact that their noisy parts are located outside where you can't hear them and they keep you safer from outside threats since they only require a small opening.

Need help?

Want a professional opinion on which air conditioning system is right for you? Contact a Petro Home Services technician to determine which AC system is best for your space or for additional cooling services, including AC installation, repair, and maintenance services.

Petro Home Services is proud to not only serve communities in DC, CT, MA, MD, NJ, NY, PA, and RI but we also proudly acknowledge the skills and experience of our expert team behind all resources. With insights on topics ranging from heating oil facts to common air conditioning questions, you can rely on Petro Home Services for facts and information to help you understand more about your heating, cooling and home comfort needs. This article and all articles on the Petro Home Services website have been approved by our team of home service experts.