Air Conditioners

Are Portable Air Conditioners Worth It? We Find Out!

portable ac unit lg

In the modern-day, air conditioning is something we can take for granted. Staying nice and cool is a luxury if you are sitting inside on a hot day. However, central air can be pretty expensive to run every day, all day. There are plenty of air conditioning alternatives, including portable air conditioning units. But are they worth it?

In short, portable air conditioners are worth buying, especially when compared to your central air system that cools your house daily. Portable air conditioners can save you money in the long run, and you must use them properly.

However, they can be more energy efficient than your central air system, and there are other alternatives you can use that are much better in terms of energy efficiency.

As you continue to read the article, we will discuss more portable air conditioning units and their worth versus your central air system and other air conditioning units that you can use instead. Let us get reading up on all there is to know! 

Are Portable Air Conditioners Worth It?

Portable air conditioners can indeed be worth it. However, this highly depends on how you use these types of air conditioners. The fact is that portable air conditioners use a ton of electricity to cool your home.

Unless you are using your portable air conditioner to cool a single room and not have it on all day is the only way you can effectively use a mobile air conditioning unit to save you money. 

On the other hand, if saving money is not on your to-do list, portable air conditioning units are a great way to supplement your central air system to stay exceptionally chilled in your home.

These units can be moved from room to room with relative ease, and depending on the model, they can be lightweight and only require an electric outlet and a button press to work.

Other types of air conditioning supplements are available on the market that can be flat out better than some brands of portable air conditioners. 

Window units are the most popular air conditioning supplement on the market. They offer a better cooling area, use less energy, require little maintenance after installation, and are typically less expensive than their portable counterparts.

Saving Money With A Portable Air Conditioner

Portable air conditioners can be an excellent way to save some money. However, this mainly depends on how you use the mobile AC unit. Below we will discuss a few ways you can save money while using your portable ac unit.

1. Choosing A Temperature For Your Portable Air Conditioner

The lower the temperature you set for any air conditioner, the more power it consumes. With that in mind, the hotter it is outside your home, the more electricity you use to cool your area with your portable air conditioner or an air conditioner, for that matter. 

Keeping that in mind, even on the hottest summer days, if saving money on your electricity bill is your primary goal, try setting your air conditioning units to 72 degrees Fahrenheit or 23 degrees Celsius. 

Putting your AC on these settings should provide the room you are cooling a comfortable atmosphere while only using a reasonable amount of electricity. 

Make a mental note that every degree you set your air conditioner below 72 or 73 degrees will cause the air conditioner to use 5% more electricity and thus a higher electricity bill.

2. Keep Your Portable Air Conditioner Up To Date

The difference between a portable air conditioning unit made ten or more years ago, and one that you can buy brand new off the shelf is vast. That may be obvious to some people. Well, it might not be to others. However, it is true. More recent models are cheaper than ten years ago and are VASTLY more energy efficient.  

The amount of money you can save on your electricity bill using a new portable air conditioner is quite alarming. Running a 10-year-old and a brand new mobile air conditioning unit for the same amount of time every day for a month can save you roughly $3 a month.

3. Use Your Portable Air Conditioner Wisely

Using your portable air conditioner wisely is essential when trying to save money. It is the most important thing you can do. As previously stated, portable air conditioners use an alarming amount of electricity. It is relative to the same amount of electricity your central air system uses if it was smaller.

That said, portable air conditioners are much smaller and can be moved from room to room with little or no installation process.

However, suppose you are trying to save money by not using your central air system as much as a portable air conditioner. In that case, you are mainly looking at the placement of your mobile AC unit. 

Portable air conditioner units are supposed to keep a single room cool. Therefore, turning off your central air system and using your mobile air conditioning unit to cool the room you are using will save you plenty on your electricity bill. Using your portable air conditioner like this can save you upwards of $400 a year.

4. Using Your Portable Air Conditioning Unit Less

Being able to use the unit less is a relatively simple tip. Using less electricity will save you money, which also applies to your portable air conditioners. Use your portable air conditioner to cool the room of your choice for only an hour or two at a time before turning it off and giving it a break before using it again to recool your room.

5. Use Your Ceiling Fans To Complement Your Portable Air Conditioner

On hot but not intolerable days, ceiling fans are an excellent alternative to utilizing an air conditioner to cool your house or the space you are in. 

Another fantastic option to save money on your central air conditioning system is to use your portable air conditioning unit in brief bursts to chill the room and your ceiling fan to assist in circulating the now colder air around the room.

Using either of these methods can save you anywhere from $50 to $200 a year.

6. Replacing Your Window Glass With Double Glazed Windows

Double glazed glass is a great way to reduce the amount of heat in your home. Double glazed glass can reduce the heat transfer through your window glass by up to 40%.

Having 40% less heat in your home will allow you to keep any air conditioning options you may have on less than you would without the double-glazed glass.

7. Replacing Your Ceiling Insulation

While adding or replacing extremely old insulation in your ceiling might be costly, it will save you a lot of money in the long term. Insulation will assist keep heat out while allowing cool air to stay inside for extended periods.

Advantages & Disadvantages Of Portable Air Conditioners

While portable air conditioning units have a lower energy efficiency rating (or EER) than other air conditioning units like your standard window unit, they are still quite effective. They do have the potential of saving your money while keeping yourself nice and cool.

As you continue to read this article section, we will discuss the pros and cons of portable air conditioners.

They are portableThere are better cost-efficient ways to save money
Very easy to move with little to no installationThey can produce much noise
Can easily be stored & kept out of viewNot suitable for large rooms
Requires you to empty drip trays

Pros of Using a Portable Air Conditioning Unit

1. The Portable Aspect of Portable Air Conditioners

The mobility of portable air conditioners is their finest feature. Based on the device’s power in question, they are usually light. Some even have wheels to make getting from one area to the next much easier. Simply remove the vent from the window if your portable air conditioner has one, then carry or slide the unit to a different room, replace the vent, plug it in, and boom, immediate cold air.

2. Very Easy To Use With Little Or No Installation Requirements

This implies you won’t need to hire air conditioning professionals to help you set up this unit. Simply plug it all in and turn it on, and the temperature in the room will begin to drop within moments. At most, you’ll need to partially open up a window and place a small air vent connected to your portable air conditioning unit, then close it like you would a window unit.

3. Portable Air Conditioners Can Be Easily Stored & Kept Out Of View

Another benefit that goes hand in hand with the mobility of these air conditioning units is that they can simply be stowed in a closet or some other storage area when they are not in use, such as during the winter months. Another option is to keep these gadgets hidden when they’re in use.

While new portable air conditioners have a sleek look, some might think that these appliances can throw off the Fung Shui of a room.

Because these devices are small and light enough to be easily moved from room to room, they can cool an entire room with ease from basically anywhere.

As long as your model does not require ventilation from a window, you can simply hide these appliances in the corner behind an end table or plant and have them cool off the room.

Cons of Using a Portable Air Conditioning Unit

1. There Are More Efficient Air Conditioners You Can Use Instead

As stated in the article above, portable air conditioning units can be used in specific ways to save money on your electric bill.

The fact is that just about every type of air conditioning supplement other than your home’s central air system has a better energy efficiency rating. This is by far the worst aspect of portable air conditioners. 

Other types of air conditioning supplements like a window unit or a split air conditioning system can cost less than a portable one while also saving you more money on your electricity bill than a portable air conditioner.

2. Portable Air Conditioning Units Can Produce Lots Of Noise

Portable air conditioners can be very noisy; this trait can be linked to all types of air conditioners. However, because the portable air conditioners can be much closer to you than the other air conditioning units, you might notice the noise more often than not.

If you are the type of person who can be easily agitated by unnecessary noises, you might find a portable air conditioner quite annoying. All kinds of air conditioning supplements might not be a good idea for you to own and use other than your central air system.

3. Portable Air Conditioning Units Are Not Suited To Cool Large Rooms

Among the most standard portable air conditioners typically have a BTU of 6,000 to 8,000. These types of units are mainly used to cool down smaller rooms. Most portable air conditioners can only cool down a room of 300 to 350 square feet.

While other portable air conditioning units have a much higher BUT of 14,000 or more, they can cool down a room that is A LOT bigger than your standard portable air conditioner. However, these units are much bigger and vastly more expensive.

If you have a portable air conditioning unit that is not cutting it and is not cooling your entire room down, you can consider 1 of 2 things. 

Either find a better spot to place your portable air conditioner, or you can purchase a different type of air conditioner like a window unit. The window unit will quickly cool down more square feet than your portable unit while using less electricity.

4. Portable Air Conditioners Require Your To Empty Drip Trays

Most portable air conditioners have a drip tray to catch the water vapor cooled into the liquid inside the unit. This process happens with all types of air conditioners.

However, the vast majority have some parts outside and some drip pipes or areas where the water inside the device can drip freely. 

Because portable air conditioners are entirely inside at any given moment, the water they accumulate can not just drip onto your floor. This is why having a drip tray that you will need to check and regularly empty to avoid damage to your portable unit and the interior of your home.

How Much Will A Portable Air Conditioning Unit Raise my Electric Bill?

The amount of energy a portable air conditioner will use varies; thus, the amount they will increase your electricity bill will also vary. You will need to consider a few things to figure out how much a portable air conditioner will increase your electric bill.

Firstly, the wattage and BTU of the portable unit in question. The higher these values are, the more electricity they require to cool down their effective area.

Next is how often you are going to be using this device. Followed by what temperature it is outside when you need to pull out your portable air conditioner and how long you plan to use it each day. Lastly and most importantly, how are you going to use it? 

Considering you have a standard type of portable air conditioner with 8,000 BTU and 500W of power required to use it. During the hot summer months, you use this device every day for 8 hours while also turning your central cooling system up to conserve more energy.

If this is the case for you, you can expect your single 8,000BTU portable air conditioning unit to cost you roughly $4 to $6 to run every month. 

Something to keep in mind with this formula is that this is an example that provides the best possible samples for that pricing. When in fact, you might not experience these perfect conditions every day for an entire month.

You might experience a sweltering week during the summer or the complete opposite. You might live in a very humid area, or you might not. The actual cost of a portable air conditioner varies from day to day. 

Final Thoughts

Portable air conditioners can make a great addition to any home that wishes to cool down specific rooms of their home. That being said, they are not the most energy-efficient air conditioning supplements on the market.

Portable air conditioners have a better energy efficiency than your standard central air system. They can even save you some money on your electricity bill if you use them appropriately. 


Hubert Miles | Licensed Home Inspector, CMI, CPI

Hubert Miles is a licensed home inspector (RBI# 2556) with more than two decades of experience in inspection and construction. Since 2008, he has been serving South Carolina through his company, Patriot Home Inspections LLC. As a Certified Master Inspector, Hubert is dedicated to providing his expertise in home inspections, repairs, maintenance, and DIY projects.