Most people want to save money, and the price of a portable air conditioning system may seem attractive at first. “Why spend thousands to install a central air system when a portable will only cost you hundreds?”, you may be asking yourself.
If you’re tempted to get a portable air conditioner you really need to read this, because that low price comes with a lot of problems and hidden costs.
Central air conditioner systems need to have a minimum of 13 SEER/11 EER efficiency rating. Portable units have way less – even when the manufacturers list them. A random sampling of portable air conditioners on a popular big box store showed that the efficiency rating wasn’t even listed. Of the ones we could see, the best had a rating of 9.5.
That means you pay way more in electricity bills than you would with a central air system for the same amount of cooling.
A licensed air conditioner installer will carefully match the size of your home to the air conditioner, so you get the right amount of cooling power. This means you get an even amount of cooling throughout your home.
A portable unit is only capable of cooling a smaller area. Depending on the size of the unit you buy, you may only be able to cool one room.
With a central air system, the condenser unit stays outside. With a portable, it’s right in your living space. Since many people need the cooling power to sleep, that means the source of the noise is near to them and therefore may be disturbing.
While manufacturers do their best to make portable air conditioners look good, they will always be a big box in the middle of your room. If you’re trying to make the most of your decor, that doesn’t help. And that’s not even counting the big hose that comes out the back.
When you look at a picture of a portable AC, notice that they never show the giant exhaust hose that needs to go out your window. But it’s an essential part of helping a portable work. All air conditioners need somewhere to dump their heat. With a central system, the warm air is transferred outside where the condenser unit allows the heat to escape. With a portable, it goes out through the hose.
In fact, while many sellers claim that portables are “installation free”, but you do in fact have to set up the window kit that holds the exhaust hose in place. This window kit, by the way, means your window is not really closed or locked. That’s a security risk.
While you can take the kit down to close the window, which takes time and is frankly quite annoying, as there are several parts to the frame. If you’re like most of us you just don’t have the time to be taking down the window kit every time you leave your home and setting it up again every time you come home.
Most portable air conditioners weigh about 50 pounds or more. If you’re strong you could lift that, but what if you’re a smaller woman or a senior? If you have a couple of floors in your home that you need to cool, could you imagine trying to move it down a flight of stairs? This means you actually have to buy multiple portable units to get any cooling done.
If you have a bungalow or an apartment, you may think the wheels will make it easy to move the unit from room to room. Well, they help, but the unit is still heavy and the wheels actually can get stuck in carpeting.
Food for Thought
When buying heating and cooling equipment for your home, you need to consider cost but if you’re smart you’ll also consider value. Central air systems are more efficient, quieter and definitely more convenient. Plus, a central air conditioning system may cost less than you think.
Before you make your decision, talk to a licensed cooling provider and find out what the full benefits are.
Author: Jennifer blogs about home improvement, HVAC and plumbing for a number of Canadian companies including Dr HVAC. Yes, it does get hot up here, and we do need help keeping cool in summer 🙂
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