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Will a Portable Air Conditioner Work for a Large Room?

During the hottest days of the year, when it gets truly, punishingly hot outside, air conditioning feels like more than a luxury: it feels like an absolute necessity. However, many buildings don’t actually have built-in air conditioning, and that’s why so many people choose to buy portable air conditioners to keep themselves cool when there’s no other way to do so.

The great benefit of a portable air conditioning unit is that it can be moved from room to room with relative ease, meaning that relief from the heat is always within your reach. However, one concern that many buyers of these units have is their ability to cool larger areas of the home. What type of air conditioner will you need for a larger area? How effective will it be? We’re here to help guide you when choosing a portable air conditioner for large room areas of your home.

How Does a Portable Air Conditioner Work?

A portable air conditioner works in much the same way as a built-in unit, albeit on a somewhat smaller scale. Essentially, it makes use of a motor to draw air into the unit. This air is then drawn across a refrigerant coil. The refrigerant in the coil draws heat energy out of the air, cooling it down as well as condensing it. As it does so, water vapor inside of the air condenses back into a liquid form, drying out the air and reducing uncomfortable humidity.

The air, which has now been appropriately cooled, can be circulated back into the room by way of a fan. The portable air conditioner then disposes of the excess heat and moisture outside of the room, by venting it through a hose that is connected to a nearby window.

This air conditioning unit is usually powered by a standard 120-volt electrical outlet. More powerful air conditioners may require 240 volts to operate. If you aren’t sure if your outlets have enough power for a portable air conditioner, you should ask your HVAC professional or a licensed electrician for more information.

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Why Opt for a Portable Air Conditioner?

There are several reasons why a portable air conditioner is preferable for certain people. For example, if you are a tenant renting a space that does not have access to conventional air conditioning, and your landlord will not allow you to install a larger air conditioning unit, a portable air conditioner may be your only option. Portable air conditioners can also be less invasive than window air conditioner units. In some cases, it may not be practical to have a large outdoor portion of the air conditioner installed.

As the name suggests, portable units are also beneficial because they can be moved from room to room with relative ease. Unlike window air conditioners, which can only really be used for one area of a given building, portable AC units can be picked up and carried (or rolled) from place to place without too much hassle.

The primary drawback of portable AC units is that they tend not to be as powerful as other cooling methods. If you need a portable air conditioner for large room areas like a garage or living room, you’ll have to do some research first.

How to Pick the Right Size

Portable air conditioners can certainly cool larger rooms and even sometimes multiple areas of a home or other building. However, not every AC unit is capable of this, and you’ll need to do some research to find out which ones are.

It’s critical to choose an air conditioner that’s the right size for the room that it’s in, for several reasons. If you select a portable air conditioner that isn’t powerful enough for a large room, it will constantly stay on, working at maximum capacity as it struggles to cool the room down. On the other hand, if you choose an air conditioner that’s too large and too powerful, it will constantly switch off and then be forced to cycle back on. Both of these cases can dramatically drive up your energy bill.

Choosing the right-sized air conditioner unit is a matter of looking at its capacity. The capacity of a portable air conditioner for a large room is measured in BTUs, or British Thermal Units. For smaller rooms, you’ll only need an air conditioning unit with a capacity of around 300 BTUs, but for larger rooms, you may need to go as high as 18,000 units.

To help select the right-sized air conditioning unit, try to figure out the square footage of the room that you are attempting to cool. You can do this by multiplying the length of the room by its width. If the room isn’t rectangular, you can calculate the square footage by dividing the space into several smaller rectangles and then adding them together. You can then match this square footage to the capacity of the air conditioning unit you are considering.

Alternatives to Portable Air Conditioning

Nowadays, there are other methods that can work just as well as a portable air conditioner for a large room. For example, mini-split heat pumps can be installed in a room of just about any size, and they do not require a lot of bulky equipment to be kept inside your home. These systems have the added benefit of doubling as a heater during the winter months, and their energy use can often be a lot less than most other methods of cooling a room. Like portable air conditioners, they can be used to target a single room, without the energy consumption that is required for cooling an entire building.

Window air conditioning units may also be practical, provided you have the outdoor space for them. If you’re unsure of what type of air conditioner is best for you, or if you have made a decision and now need a professional installation, contact an established and experienced company such as Entek. Our professionals are licensed, insured, and can assist you in every way for your air conditioning needs.


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