What is a Portable Air Conditioner?

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  • Written By: S. Mithra
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2019
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A portable air conditioner works in non-standard spaces, such as warehouses, boats, recreational vehicles, and trucks. It runs on electricity, like a window unit, yet is small enough to be used in spaces that are not well suited for central air conditioning or permanent installation.

Industrial spaces prompted the development of a portable air conditioner that could be rolled around from one work area to another since it would be wasteful and expensive to cool an entire warehouse. The portable air conditioner has since been modified for use outside of a commercial capacity. This involved changing the cooling technology, reducing the size, and adapting the power source to run off of battery converters.

The original type of portable air conditioner runs on coolant, similar to a permanently installed window unit. Using a chemical called freon, the unit gets power from an ordinary 120-volt electrical outlet. This type is as large as a window unit yet mounted on sturdy casters so it can be easily wheeled from one location to another. In warehouses, they cool spaces occupied by people, such as a small office, as well as temperature-sensitive equipment like motors or computers. To work properly, the air conditioner needs to be able to release hot air outside, so it must be vented through a duct or window.


A newer type of portable air conditioner uses evaporative technology, rather than coolant, similar to a swamp cooler. In these smaller, more portable devices, a reservoir of water is used to cool and humidify the air through evaporation. You could carry this compact portable air conditioner into your motor home, car, truck, boat, or anywhere you can power it off of a battery using a 12-volt converter. Although it must be maintained by refilling the reservoir, the portable air conditioner is effective at quickly cooling and freshening smaller spaces and doesn't need to be vented.

There are additional features available on portable air conditioners. Some are equipped with an air purification filter to ensure the air you breathe is free from indoor pollutants, such as cigarette smoke or exhaust fumes in your car. They may be fitted with a dehumidifier to make the atmosphere more comfortable in muggy climates. Whatever your temporary cooling needs, you can find a portable air conditioner to meet them.


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Post 5

You might note that evaporative coolers do not work well in humid climates. The drier the climate, the cooler the air will be.

Post 3

how do you add freon to a portable air conditioner?

Post 2

This pertains to "What is a Portable Air Conditioner?". I'm trying to find out the best way to cool my home during the summer possibly using a compact portable unit. I've looked around and tried to find as much info as possible, but I'm still unsure. Any help will be very much appreciated. Here's a little info that I thought might help...or not, LOL! I live in North Carolina and it gets extremely hot in my area. I feel like I can't even breath sometimes. I have asthma. Though our home is approximately 1500 sq ft, we've only been utilizing about 750, due to unfinished construction on the other half. My husband built it himself but was severely injured

a few years ago and has not been able to finish it and unfortunately we lack the funds to complete it at this time. I've lived several years using fans, but I just don't want to try to suffer through the summer that way another year. I thought we would have a completed home and central air by now. Life just doesn't always work out the way we planned it. So I need to find a solution and I thought a compact portable may be it. I do want to find the most energy efficient one I can so we could also afford to pay the bill it will create. I am hoping for something I can easily maintain on my own that if I opened all the doors in the 750 sq ft area, it would keep it relatively cool, the most inexpensive way. Any suggestions are welcome. Thanks again.
Post 1

I'm very curious about how much energy portable air conditioners use. There are a lot of situations that I'd like to use an air conditioner in, but I'm afraid of how much money it would cost to run. It seems to me that they are very energy inefficient.

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