Portable air conditioners (PACs) are a great substitute for an air conditioning system, especially if you are living in a property that you do not own. PACs are easily movable from room to room and do not require an electrician in order to be installed. There are some factors to consider before you hop out and purchase a PAC to replace your pedestal or ceiling fan, however, and these five factors should be seriously considered.
1. Size/Cooling Power
All PACs are rated in British Thermal Units (BTUs) that represent the cooling power of the air conditioning unit. The higher the BTU rating, the higher the cooling power. Do not, however, purchase the highest rated unit following assumptions that the unit will be able to provide maximum cooling power – if you buy a unit that is too large for the intended room you could be throwing away money unnecessarily, and if you buy a unit that is too small you are losing energy efficiency.
The following BTU values are basic guidelines:
• 7,500 BTUs – 150 ft2
• 9,000 BTUs – 200 ft2
• 10,000 BTUs – 300 ft2
• 12,000 BTUs – 400 ft2
• 13,000 BTUs – 450 ft2
• 14,000 BTUs – 500 ft2
The above guidelines are assuming a standard room with 8-foot high ceilings.
Here is an online BTU calculator that will generate a more specific BTU value as it takes into consideration the insulation in the intended room, the amount of light received, and whether or not it is intended for kitchen use.
2. Position/Air Ventilation
During usage, typical PACs will produce hot air that will need to be exhausted. Units usually come with a window kit that fits standard windows, and the provided exhaust hose that will be connected to a window will easily provide the needed ventilation. Some units come with installation kits that allow hot air to leave through a drop ceiling or an adjacent wall. Position your PAC according to how the hot air needs to be ventilated.
Evaporative PACs do not use refrigerant technology, instead drawing warm air into the unit and cooling it before releasing the air throughout the room. These units are cheaper but less effective, and require regular filling of water. Drip PAC models discharge excess water into a drain bucket that needs to be periodically emptied, whereas non-drip models recycle excess water through evaporation, and thus do not require a drain bucket. Non-drip models tend to be more expensive. Filters need to be cleaned regularly, and if ice builds up inside of the unit, the ice will need to be defrosted.
4. Energy Efficiency
PACs are labeled with an Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER). The higher the EER value, the more energy efficient the unit is. The EER value shows you how many BTUs are used for each watt of power.
5. Noise Level
PACs are generally louder than air conditioning systems, but they do not generate enough noise to be considered disruptive. PAC units usually come with decibel levels (dBs), so take the time to compare the dB levels of different PACs.