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Do Portable Air Conditioners Actually Work?

Many portable air conditioners are pretty cheap! We’ve found them for as low as $89. But perhaps a better question would be, do they actually work?

How does a portable A/C work?

In order to determine whether or not portable A/Cs DO work, it’s helpful to explain how they work mechanically, and how they’re different from standard whole-home air conditioners, or even from window air conditioners.

Some portable A/C units work by sucking in air from inside the room and using a motor to cool the air. This type of unit has one hose that takes the hot air and moisture and blows it out the window. However, there is another type of portable A/C with two hoses – one hose to pull in air from outside, and the other hose to dispose of the warm air and moisture. As you can imagine, these units are more effective, but they’re also more expensive.

The newer, cheaper version of a portable A/C

However, you may have been seeing ads lately for a third type of portable A/C that’s different from these other two more traditional types. These are smaller and less expensive – often as low as $89! They are different from what people usually think of when they picture a portable A/C, because these don’t have any hoses attached, and are light enough to easily pick up rather than wheel around from room to room. And it works by using cold water, instead of by setting a vent and hose by the window. It sounds amazing in theory – but does it actually work?

Can an $89 portable A/C cool down your home?

There are many portable A/C brands like this nowadays, where the unit is not much bigger than a toaster, and not much more expensive either … And often, these brands claim that you’ll be able to turn off your air conditioner unit completely and save lots of money on energy bills! But is this too good to be true?

To find our answer, we turned to an unbiased reviewer, Matt Hawkins of YouTube’s “Unbox Junkie.”[1] As Matt explains in his review of one $89 A/C model, essentially all you do is plug in the unit and add water to the reservoir. The first thing Matt noticed was that, when it came to the filter sheets that absorb the cold water, they were not sticking out enough to absorb any water. After Matt fixed this, the unit started working, and he said it was cooler than just having a fan by itself. However, a few cons that he noted were:

  • If it gets knocked over, all the filter sheets will be saturated, and the unit will stop working
  • The water reservoir has to be re-filled
  • The air is cool, but not cool enough to cool down the whole room

Overall, we think that a portable air conditioner could be a nice addition to your desk or workstation, and a great supplement to your regular air conditioner on super-hot days. But, it’s definitely unrealistic (and potentially dangerous) to think that such a device could actually replace your HVAC system! This is not only because of the danger of getting overheated on very hot days, but because your appliances and electronics often operate best within a certain temperature range, and also because your HVAC system functions to get rid of humidity (which an $89 A/C doesn’t, unfortunately!).

So we think it’s great if you want to try a portable A/C, as long as you don’t try and make it a substitute for a real A/C system. And in case something happens to that real A/C system, you can always rely on the best pros in Oakland County to repair it quickly! Schedule an appointment online or call H.A. Sun: (248) 335-4555


[1] YouTube