An Energy Efficiency Guide To Portable Air Conditioners

Electric Bill

Portable air conditioners can be a godsend on sweltering days. When your conventional AC system is not cutting it, having a mobile AC unit in the same room as you are in can help keep you cool and comfortable. However, the question we will be answering for you today is, are portable air conditioners truly energy efficient?

In short, portable air conditioners are energy-efficient. However, this greatly depends on how you are using it. Using a portable air conditioner as a suitable replacement for your conventional AC unit that cools down your whole house can save you quite a bit of money. This does depend on if you are using it only to cool the room you are in. 

As you continue to read this article, it will go much more in-depth about the actual costs of using a portable air conditioner and how much money it can save you, depending on how you use it. Let us get learning! 

Are Portable Air Conditioners Energy-Efficient?

Portable air conditioner energy efficiency is truly dependent on how you are using it and what you are comparing it to. A portable air conditioner will save you money on your electricity bill year after year when compared to your central heating and cooling system. However, this also greatly depends on how you use it. 

When comparing portable air conditioner units to other room cooling systems like window units or ductless air conditioner units, mobile air conditioner units are among the worst in terms of energy efficiency rating (EER).

The simple truth of the matter is that portable air conditioner units are one of the worst options in saving money on your electricity bill compared to all of the other options that you would consider using for the same purpose.

However, using the portable air con unit smartly can save money compared to your central cooling system for your whole home. 

Saving Money

How To Save Money With Portable Air Conditioner Units

Portable air conditioner units are an excellent way to save money. However, it would be best if you used it wisely for this to occur. If you plan to use one of these types of air conditioner units to cool your whole home, you are effectively wasting money.

It is cheaper to use your central cooling system at that point.

Below, we will discuss how you can use a portable air condition unit to cool your home while also saving you money compared to using your central cooling system.

1. New Units vs. Old Units

Here is a good reason to update your portable air conditioning unit. The age of your portable air conditioner can significantly determine how much money it can save you. When looking at a ten year or older model vs. a unit you bought today, the amount of money a new model can save you can be pretty alarming.

Because new models are built with better technology, their energy consumption is vastly reduced compared to much older models. With the comparison given above, a unit that you bought to replace your old model can save up upwards of $170 per year.

2. Wisely Choosing Temperatures For Your Portable Air Conditioner

The simple thing is, the lower the temperature you set for any air conditioning unit, the more electricity it uses. With that in mind, the hotter the day, the more electricity you use on top of that. That is if you keep it at a reasonably low temperature.

Keeping that in mind, even on the hottest of days, it is wise to set your portable air conditioner to roughly 72 or 73 degrees Fahrenheit. For each degree you put your portable air conditioner below that, you can expect to be using at least 5% more energy, even on the newest models.

3. Positioning Your Portable Air Conditioner Wisely

The most significant way you can expect to save money when using a portable air conditioning unit is to use your mobile AC unit to cool the rooms you are in. Using the portable air conditioner to cool down your whole house is not a viable option. One of these reasons is that you would be using more electricity than using your central cooling system.

Using your portable air conditioner to cool a single room in use and turning it off when you leave the room can save you upwards of $400 per year. That is a fantastic amount of money you can save just by cooling a single room in your home.

4. Use Ceiling Fans Instead Or In Conjunction With Your Portable AC

Using ceiling fans to cool your home or the room you are in on hot but not unbearable days is an excellent alternative to using any AC unit.

Using your portable air conditioning unit in short bursts to cool the room and your ceiling fan to help circulate the now cooler air throughout the room is another exceptional way to save money over your central cooling system. 

Either of these methods can save you anywhere from $50 to $200 a year, depending on where you live.

5. Using Your Portable Air Conditioning Unit Less

Using your portable air conditioning unit in short bursts to cool your home is a great way to save money. Using your mobile air conditioning unit for only an hour or two at a time can significantly reduce your electricity bill.

6. Installing Ceiling Insulation

While this can be pretty expensive to do, either installing or replacing old insulation in your ceiling will save you tons of money in the long run. The insulation will help keep heat out of your home while keeping the cool air inside for much more extended periods.

7. Installing Double Glazed Windows

Double glazed windows are a great addition to any home, and they are excellent at reducing air conditioning costs. They mainly do this by reflecting 40% of the heat of ordinary glass, thus reducing the heat inside of your home, making it more bearable, and not requiring your ac to be on as long as usual.

Portable AC Unit

How Much Will A Portable Air Conditioner Raise My Electric Bill?

As said many times before in this article, this greatly depends on a few things. Firstly, you will be asking yourself a few questions:

  • What is the BTU of your portable air conditioner unit?
  • Secondly, how often will you use it, at what temperature, and for how long each day?
  • Most importantly, how are you going to use it?

These questions are all essential to understanding saving energy.

With all of these variables in mind, you can expect a brand new unit that has a BTU rating of 6,000 to 8,000, using it correctly to cool down a single room for an appropriate amount of time each day for an entire month, to roughly cost you $5 a month to run. This equates to approximately $60 a year from this appliance alone.

Keep in mind this cost can vary widely. All of the variables mentioned above all consider how much it will cost you to run one of these devices. The example we provided is the best possible conditions and usage possibilities.

Pros & Cons Of Portable Air Condition Units

While the portable air conditioner’s EER is lower than other types of room cooling units, they are still quite effective and can save you money. Below we will go over the brief pros and cons of these types of units. 

AdvantagesDisadvantages
Easy to use & little installation requirementsTend to get noisy
Can easily be moved from room to roomOther AC units are cheaper to run
Units get cheaper each year due to technological advancesYou need to regularly empty their drip trays
Can easily be stored & hidden out of viewNot suited to cool larger rooms

Pros Of Using a Portable Air Conditioning Unit

1. Ease of Use & Very Little Installation Requirements

Being easy to use essentially means you do not need to call any air conditioning services to help you install this device. All you will need to do is plug it in and turn it on, and the room will start to get colder in minutes.

At most, you will need to open a window slightly and put a small air vent that is connected to your portable air conditioning unit in your window and close it like you would for a window unit.

2. The Ability To Move It From One Room To Room Quite Easily

The best part about portable air conditioners is their portability. They tend to be reasonably lightweight, depending on the power of the appliance in question. Some of them even come with wheels for even easier mobility from one room to another.

Take the vent out of the window (if your unit has one), and either lift or slide your unit to another room and reinstall the vent into the window and plug it in and voila, instant cool air. 

3. Portable Air Conditioning Units Are Getting Cheaper Everyday

As the title says, portable air conditioners are getting cheaper and cheaper. As technology improves, the requirements to make these devices get reduced; thus, the price matches the amount of work required to make them.

Also, due to portable air conditioning units getting smaller and smaller, the amount of materials needed to make these appliances is reduced, reducing the cost of said appliances.

4. Portable Air Conditioners Can Be Easily Stored & Hidden Out Of View

Another advantage that runs in tandem with these air conditioning units’ portability is the fact that these units can be easily stored in a closet when they are not needed, like during the winter season. Something else you can do is kind of hide these devices while they are in use. 

Portable air conditioners are sleek in design, but they can be an eyesore and ruin your view of your room. You can essentially hide these devices in the corners of the room (as long as they do not need a vent that leads outside).

Like in the corner behind an end table, for instance. This allows the portable air conditioners to cool the room still effectively while also being relatively out of sight.

Cons Of Using A Portable Air Conditioning Unit

1. Portable Air Conditioners Can Be Quite Noisy

Portable air conditioners, like all types of air conditioners, can produce quite a bit of noise.

That being said, if you are the type of person that can get easily irritated, but unwanted noise, portable air conditioning units or any air conditioner besides your central heating and cooling system might not be suitable for you.

2. Other Types of Air Conditioning Supplements Are Cheaper To Run

As previously stated multiple times in this article above, portable air conditioners are cheaper to run than your central cooling system, depending on how you use them.

However, almost all other air conditioning supplements, like a window unit or a split air conditioning system, have a higher EER than a portable air conditioner. This is by far the worst drawback of portable air conditioners.

3. Portable Air Conditioners Require You to Empty Their Drip Trays Regularly

Many portable air conditioners on the marker have a drip tray located somewhere on the device.

Because of how air conditioners work by taking in air and cooling it inside the device, the water vapor naturally in the air that we breathe will condense and form liquid water that air conditioners can not release back into the air.

That being said, portable air conditioners need their drip trays to be emptied regularly to prevent the device from malfunctioning.

4. Typical Portable Air Conditioners Are Not Suited To Cool Large Rooms

The most standard portable ac units have a BTU rating of 6,000 to 8,000, and they are only able to cool a space of 350 square feet reliably. While there are portable air conditioners with a much higher BTU rating, they are MUCH bigger and a lot more expensive. 

Suppose your portable air conditioning unit fails to cool your entire room. In that case, it may be wiser to switch to a different unit like a window unit, which uses less electricity but can put out much more cold air than the portable units.

The Most Energy Efficient Portable Air Conditioning Units

If you wish to find a good AC unit that you want, these are some highly recommended ones!

1. LG LP1419IVSM Dual Inverter – $899.99

The LG LP1419IVSM portable air conditioner is difficult not to like. Simply looking at the specifications will reveal that it is the quietest, most energy-efficient, and, most of all, capable of chilling bigger rooms while lowering humidity to unprecedented levels.

No portable air conditioner will have a decibel level lower than 50. In general, all portable air conditioners are much louder. LG used their Lo-Decibel technology in this model to provide the quietest portable air conditioner on the market.

The name Lo-Decibel indicates that LG employed a quiet BLDC motor and a Dual Inverter Compressor in the LP1419IVSM model.

All of this and this LG model provide the best dehumidification on the market. While many portable air conditioning units have a dehumidifier, none of them quite close to the level of this LG model.

This portable air conditioner eliminates 6.7 quarts of moisture from the interior air each hour. No other portable air conditioner can handle more than 5 quarts per hour, for example.

2. Whynter ARC-14S Dual-Hose – $859.99

This Whynter portable ac model is hands down one of the best on the market. If you have been looking for the most cost-saving portable AC models, odds are you have run into this model at least once. Being one of the top 3 mobile air conditioning units on the market, this model boasts the highest EER out of any commercial model.

This model had a dual hose that needs to be led outside through your window. Double hose units tend to have the best EER out of all of the portable ac units while also producing tremendous amounts of cold air into your home. 

The ARC-14S has 14,000 BTU and can effectively cool an area of 500 square feet in a matter of minutes. Letting you cool down your living room on a hot day as soon as you get home so you can start relaxing immediately.

3. Honeywell MN10CES – $449.99

Many individuals aren’t interested in spending a lot of money on a portable air conditioner. Some individuals want to relax without having to compare metrics, pricing, or low decibel levels. This Honeywell model fits all of those criteria and more.

This model is probably the cheapest, most well-rounded portable air conditioner on the market. This medium-sized mobile AC unit had 10,000 BTU and can cool down an area of roughly 450 square feet.

This device also sports three devices in one. Having a good dehumidifier for apparent reasons and a fan to help circulate air for everyday comfort and the air conditioning aspect of this device.

Final Thoughts

Portable air conditioners are not the most cost-effective form of cooling down essential rooms in your home. While it can be cheaper than your central air system depending on how you use them, more than anything, just about every other type of air conditioner can save you more money on your electricity bill every month.

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
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