May 3, 2022
Woman Relaxing enjoying her new AC in Sacramento California

Summers in California can be sweltering. If you’re like us, you rely on your AC to keep you cool. In this guide, we will discuss how portable air conditioners work. We also have tips for improving their efficiency and extending the life of your unit. 

How Do Portable Air Conditioners Work?

Portable air conditioners work by pulling hot air from an area and transferring it outside the home. The AC unit has a motor that cools the air circulated through the room. Your AC will also remove excess humidity from the air.

The primary purpose of your portable air conditioner is to remove heat from the room and transfer it outside. Three key components allow your portable air conditioner to accomplish these tasks.

First, you have the refrigerant, which facilitates the heat transfer. The compressor compresses the refrigerant, changing it from a liquid to a gas. A fan will move the air over the air conditioning coils to transfer heat and humidity.

Your portable AC will draw in hot, humid air from your indoor space. The hot air gets cool inside the air conditioner thanks to the condenser coils. The condenser coils also extract humidity and moisture from the air by cooling it until it becomes water vapor.

Next, your AC brings the hot air into contact with refrigerant in an evaporator coil. This heats the refrigerant, causing it to transform into a high-pressure gas that travels through the AC unit.

Finally, your unit will bring the pressurized refrigerant to the compressor. The compressor puts pressure on the refrigerant, causing heat transfer.

The Importance of Keeping the Condenser Coils Clean

Condenser coils can get dirty. The dirt and grime on the condenser coils can create insulation. This then prevents the refrigerant from absorbing the heat from the indoor environment.

If the coils get dirty, the compressor must work harder to cool the air. This could cause the compressor to overheat and eventually break down.

The principles that apply to portable air conditioners apply to all sizes of air conditioners. What sets apart a portable AC is every component is within one small unit.

Dual Hose Versus Single Hose Portable Air Conditioners

A key part of a portable air conditioner is its ability to vent hot air from inside your room outdoors. Your air conditioner will have one or two exhaust hoses to accomplish this.

A single-hose AC will suck air from a room and use that air to cool down the system. However, having only one hose can cause negative pressure in your room.

A two-hose AC will use one hose to suck in air from the outside and cool the unit. The other hose serves as an exhaust to remove the heated indoor air outside. As a result, dual-hose systems do not build up negative pressure in a room like their single-hose counterparts.

Where Should You Place the Vent/Exhaust Hose?

Most people will vent their portable air conditioner by sticking the exhaust hose out a nearby window. Expect your unit to come with an adapter to help it sit in a traditional window pane.

While it is possible, it is harder to vent your AC unit if you have sliding glass windows. Standard portable AC unit exhaust hoses are not long enough to fit the entire height of a sliding glass door.

If you are adamant about using a sliding glass door, talk to your portable AC manufacturer about getting an extension kit. You can also use Styrofoam or plywood to fill the empty void covering up the open area. Regardless of the window type you use, check the owner’s manual to ensure that you follow their guidelines.

Why Do Portable Air Conditioners Drip Water?

As mentioned, in addition to removing heat from your home, your portable air conditioner also extracts moisture. Expect to have to drain the water manually for some units. Generally, portable units have various ways of dealing with condensation and humidity.

Entirely self-evaporative air conditioning units are the most popular because they require little to no maintenance. A fully self-evaporative model is the most convenient option. They evaporate the moisture automatically from the exhaust hose at the same time. It removes the hot air.

With these models, you will rarely need to empty water collected from an internal tank.

Other models will use a gravity drain with or without a condensate pump. With this style of portable AC, there is a drain hose attached to the unit. Gravity pulls the water down that has collected on the coils. The water drains into the drip hose and ends on a nearby floor outside.

Portable Air Conditioning Requirements

Flexibility and ease of setup are the main benefits of portable air conditioners. For your AC unit to work, you will need a window where you can connect the exhaust hose. You will also need a 115/120-volt power outlet.

Portable AC units that use 14,000 BTUs or more and may require their own circuit and a different size outlet. AC units will put a heavy load on your home’s electrical network. Keeping your AC unit on a separate circuit from other high-energy devices is essential to avoid overloading the circuit.

Expert Heating, Air, and Plumbing Services in the North Valley

If you need advice or assistance with your portable air conditioners, feel free to give us a call. At Gallagher’s Plumbing, Heating, and Air, we have industry-leading experts in all things HVAC. We take pride in the quality of services that we bring to our customers.

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