Air Conditioners

The Portable Air Conditioner Safety Guide

portable air conditioner on

Air conditioning is a luxury we have taken for granted in this day and age. Just about every room in every building is cooled to your comfort. Whether you are cooling yourself off with the central heating and cooling system, an installed window unit, or a portable air conditioning unit, you will not be hot for too long.

However, when your central AC unit is not working, you will likely want to find a supplement to keep your house, or most active rooms cooled. Portable air conditioning units are perfect for that duty. Moving them from room to room to keep themselves nice and cool is their main attraction. But how safe are portable air conditioners?

Portable air conditioning units are very safe to use. However, some alternatives are safer and better at cooling down space while saving you more money in the long run. 

Regarding portable air conditioners, their main drawback is the need to circulate hot air somewhere. For instance, the hot air is circulated outside using a window unit. The same goes for a spit micro air conditioning system. Portable air conditioners are more often than not just recirculating the same hot air in a room over and over.

As you continue to read this article, we will go more in-depth with how safe portable air conditioners are to use, some safer alternatives, and a comprehensive list of safety tips you should follow when using a portable air conditioner. Keep reading to find out all the information there is to know about mobile AC safety! 

Are Portable Air Conditioners Safe to Use?

The quick answer is yes, they are safe to use. If the portable AC unit were not safe to use, it would not be made and put on the market for sale. 

However, there are safer alternatives than a portable air conditioning unit—for instance, a window unit or a professionally installed mini split system. There are plenty of reasons why these air conditioning systems are safer than their portable counterparts.

As previously stated, for air conditioners to work, they need to cycle the hot air in a room somewhere and either cool it down and send it back or replace that hot air with colder air that is taken in from outside. That is why you install a window unit exactly where it is.

The hot air taken in by the window unit is cycled outside and replaced by air taken in from outside. It is then cooled down internally before being distributed into the room.

However, with portable units, this is mostly not the case. Portable air conditioners usually come with a sort of window ventilation add-on that needs to be installed. This ventilation add-on is what a portable air conditioner needs to replace the hot air effectively in a room. The downside is that most ventilation add-ons are less than 5 feet long.

So when purchasing a portable air conditioner, keep in mind where you intend to put it throughout your home and the length of ventilation you need to disperse the hot air outside effectively. 

While portable air conditioners do not need this ventilation exhaust to cool down a room, it does help out a lot. With that in mind, if you intend on using your portable air conditioning unit without the ventilation system attached to it, it will not be as effective, and the room will not be as cool as you need it to be. 

It needs a vent because the hot air that the portable air conditioner takes in is recycled back into the room through the back of the unit. In short, it keeps the unit’s general area quite warm.

This also applies to the portable air conditioners attached to the ventilation system that might not get installed adequately after moving from one room to another. 

Portable Air Conditioner Safety Tips

This section of the article is all about how to use your portable air conditioning unit as safely as possible while keeping you and your home nice, cool, and comfortable. 

Like any new appliance you purchase, there is a period of getting used to it and how it works. You also have to learn how to do the typical cleaning and maintenance upkeep to ensure that your new appliance is working in peak condition. 

Regardless of how or where you intend to install your portable air conditioning unit, learn how to install it and how it works in every room you intend for it to be used. This is essential for getting the most out of your portable air conditioning unit.

To help you get through that process quickly and understand how to use your portable air conditioner safely and effectively, we have developed a list of helpful safety tips you should adhere to when setting up or moving your portable air conditioner around. 

1. Installing Your Unit In The Right Spots For Every Room

Something to keep in mind is where you intend on installing your portable air conditioning unit. While this step is not always avoidable, there are plenty of areas in your home where you should avoid setting your portable air conditioner when installing your unit in a room you intend to cool down. 

Avoid Spots That See A Lot Of Sun

When setting up your portable air conditioner, if at all possible, try to avoid setting it up in areas that see a lot of sunlight activity. This additional heat radiating onto your portable air conditioner will cause it to heat up and thus make it work much harder than it needs to keep a room nice and cool.

Suppose there are some reasonably active rooms in your home that you need to cool off often, and you can not avoid setting your portable air conditioner in these sunny spots.

In that case, you can expect your portable air conditioner to have a shorter lifespan due to the extra work it will be doing.

Watch Out For Very Humid Areas

Something else to keep in mind when installing your portable air conditioners is areas with a lot of humidity. Try to set your mobile air conditioning units in regions of the house with lower humidity levels

This is mainly due to how air conditioners work. When they cool down the air, they tend to turn some of the water vapor naturally in the air we breathe back into its liquid form.

That being said, placing your portable air conditioners in areas with a higher humidity level will cause your unit to produce more liquid water than average.

The high humidity will cause the AC unit to need to be drained more frequently. Failure to do this can and will cause the unit to malfunction in a few different ways. 

If you live in areas that are just constantly humid, there are plenty of portable air conditioners with a built-in dehumidifier that will help combat this issue. 

2. Keep The Room Ventilated

No matter what room you plan on cooling down, ventilation will always be a factor in effective cooling and setting up. Setting up your ventilation on your portable air conditioners properly will guarantee that your system will last the entire length of its expected life span.

Proper ventilation on your portable air conditioner will help by directing hot air away from the compressor. This primarily helps your unit from overheating while also allowing it to keep the room as cool as possible.

3. Make Sure You Use The Right Ventilation For Your Windows

While it is true that most portable air conditioners come with a “one size fits all” ventilation system for your windows. However, the “one size fits all” does not strictly apply to everything. Some things that determine a “one size fits all” factor:

  • When the construction workers or yourself built your home.
  • The style of your household.
  • The region you live in.

While it is implausible that you will have issues installing your ventilation system from your portable air conditioning unit, there are other options you can use if you are having problems. This primarily includes ventilation kits that you can purchase to attach to sliding doors and even drop ceilings.

4. Keeping Your Ventilation Hose As Straight As Possible

Once you have correctly installed your ventilation system to your portable air conditioner and your window, it is time to ensure that your ventilation hose has no twists or kinks.

Limiting the number of twists and irregularities in the ventilation hose and keeping it as straight as possible will ensure your hose’s and ac unit’s longevity. 

What Happens If The Ventilation Hose Gets Twisted Or Has Kinks In It?

The main issue with this problem is that it will cause the air conditioning unit to have cooling problems and expel the hot air it produces and takes in. If you have a twist or kink in the ventilation hose for long periods, it will cause the moisture in the hot air expelled to start collecting in these areas.

This causes unneeded water to collect into the ventilation hose, leading to this moisture pooling and eventually dripping down back into the unit. This added moisture in the unit can and will cause malfunctions to happen in your unit.

1. Keep It A Decent Distance Away From Your Walls

Whether you decide to put your portable air conditioning unit on, keeping it a decent distance away from your walls is key to its longevity and cooling effectiveness. 

Keep the unit at least 1 to 2 feet away from the wall. Any less than that and the air your unit can take in will be drastically reduced. Thus its cooling effect is reduced, and it will need to work hard to reach the cold temperatures you want. Causing your unit to work harder than it needs to leads to a shorter life span. 

2. Keep It As Clean As Possible

Keeping your portable air conditioning unit clean will ensure you get the most out of it. This is the easiest way to ensure that, and it takes little time.

There are three ways you can clean your air conditioning units, and 1 of them is something you might never have to do if you keep up on your cleaning.

The Simple Quick Clean

The simplest way to clean your portable air conditioner is to take a clean rag or cloth and dampen it with warm or hot water. Just as long as the rag or fabric is not dripping water, you should be in the clear.

Take the rag and whip off the device’s exterior and the vents where the cool air comes out. Be sure not to use any chemicals during this process, and be sure that the rag or cloth you are using is not soaking or dripping wet.

You want to do this process at least once a month.

The Deeper Clean

When you need to clean the entirety of your portable air conditioner, you will need to clean the coils that cool down the air it takes in. To do this, you must turn off and unplug the device, locate precisely where the coils are, and spray it with a coil cleaning solution.

You can purchase a coil cleaning solution from a store or make a simple one with water and lemon juice. Once you spray them, leave the answer on the coils for a few minutes, then remove it. 

This process should be done while you do a simple clean on the unit. If you clean the coils, you might as well clean the whole thing. It would be best if you did this deep clean at least once a year.

Calling A Professional to Clean Your Air Conditioner

Even if you are cleaning your unit regularly, there are rare occasions that it may need an even deeper clean. However, this is more common and needed when you neglect to clean your device over long periods. 

If you are experiencing issues with your air conditioning unit that you can not resolve, do not hesitate to contact a professional. Continued use of appliances with unresolved issues can lead to devastating consequences. 

2. Clean Or Replace Your Air Filter Regularly

You should do this step with literally every type of air conditioning unit. While this may seem quite apparent to everyone, it still needs to be stated. Cleaning or replacing your air filter is critical in ensuring that your air conditioner operates consistently at its highest level.

Depending on how often you use your air conditioner, it should be inspected every 4 to 6 weeks to see if it needs to be replaced. If your home is particularly dusty or if you or someone in your home has allergies, then you might want to consider replacing your filter more regularly.

If you do not change your filter, you can expect the following issues to start occurring

  • Less cooling effectiveness
  • Increase in cost to use
  • Force’s air conditioner to work harder
  • Take to reach the desired temperature for its entire effective cooling area
  • It might compromise the quality of air by circulating more dust and debris 

3. Learn To Store The Device Properly

When the winter months start to roll in, and you do not intend on using your portable air conditioner, it is wise to learn how to properly store the device to keep it from getting damaged or excessively dusty.

Above all else, avoid storing your portable air conditioning unit in areas with excessive heat, like your garage or shed. 

Before you disassemble your portable ac unit and get it ready for storage, there are a few steps you need to take before storing it away for the coming months.

  • Make sure to drain all water from the device.
  • Leave the device on its fan setting for 30 minutes to an hour to ensure it is entirely dry.
  • Make sure the ventilation hose is compressed to prevent damage.
  • Please go through the deep clean process discussed above and allow the device to dry completely.
  • Cover the ac unit with a dry clean sheet; this helps prevent dust from accumulating on the device.
  • Make sure you store your device in a climate-controlled area like a hallway closet.

4. Make Sure You Meet The Electrical Requirements Of Your Device

When it comes to any electrical appliance, the most critical safety tip we can provide is to ensure that you are meeting the electrical requirements of said device. Portable air conditioners tend to operate on the standard 120v outlet that most modern homes have. 

If your home does not meet the requirements, operating your ac unit under these circumstances can cause devastating consequences, like short-circuiting your ac unit or even causing a house fire.

portable air conditioner

Final Thoughts

When it comes to portable air conditioners, their safety should not be in question. Most malfunctions in these types of devices are caused by user error.

Keeping that in mind, as long as you follow our safety tips, you can ensure that these malfunctions will most likely not happen to you, and you will be able to enjoy a nice, cool, and comfortable environment at your will.


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.