Landry Mechanical Inc Plumbing HVAC & Electric Blog: Posts Tagged ‘Ductless’

A Guide to Portable Air Conditioners and How They Work

Tuesday, May 10th, 2022

With the summers in Massachusetts tending to be quite hot and humid, having adequate air conditioning in your home is vital. In this sense, there are a variety of different options that can help keep your house cool, including portable air conditioners. Although they can help to overcome issues with high indoor heat and humidity, a portable AC usually isn’t the best option. To understand why, let’s look at how portable air conditioners work and how they compare to other types of AC units.

How Air Conditioning Produces Cooling

All types of air conditioning systems, including portable ACs, work in exactly the same way. Although most people believe that air conditioning produces cold air, this technically isn’t true. Instead, air conditioning works by absorbing heat and humidity from the air. As a result, the air coming out of the system is much colder than the air going into it. Typically, the air coming out of the system will be around 20 degrees cooler than the air inside the building.

All air conditioning systems require three main things to function: refrigerant to absorb heat from the air, a fan to move the air, and a compressor to turn the refrigerant from a gas into a liquid. The process works like this. First, the air conditioner draws hot air into the system and forces it over an evaporator coil that contains cold refrigerant liquid. The refrigerant works to absorb the heat from the air. As part of this process, moisture in the hot air condenses into water, which is how air conditioning also reduces the humidity level.

As the refrigerant absorbs heat energy from the air, it warms up the refrigerant and turns it from a liquid to a gas. The heat that’s collected from the air is then vented outside the building. With a central AC or ductless air conditioner, the heated refrigerant is directed outside the building to the compressor unit, whereas a portable AC uses a hose to blow the heat outside. In either case, the refrigerant liquid then passes through the compressor that condenses the refrigerant. This turns it back from a gas into a liquid while simultaneously cooling the refrigerant so that it can be sent back to the evaporator coil.

Types of Portable Air Conditioners

If you’re shopping for a portable air conditioner, there are several options for you to consider. Portable ACs can differ based on both where they draw the hot air from and how they deal with the moisture that they absorb from the air. In terms of moisture, a portable AC will either have an evaporation system that pumps the water vapor outside the house or a reservoir that collects the moisture from the evaporator coil. Portable ACs with an evaporation system are by far more convenient since you won’t have to worry about dumping water out of the reservoir or it overflowing, but they’re also more expensive.

In terms of where the system draws the hot air from, there are both single-hose and dual-hose models. With a single-hose unit, the system will take the hot air directly from the room where the unit is located. The issue with this is that it creates negative pressure inside the space. When negative pressure is created, the air inside the room will need to be replaced.

In most cases, a single-hose portable AC will cause hot air to be drawn inside the building through any windows, doors, or anywhere else where air can leak in from outside. Typically, this results in those other areas becoming much hotter and more humid due to the outside air leaking in. Although this type of unit can be good at cooling one room or area, it will often raise the overall temperature inside the rest of the building.

A dual-hose system overcomes this issue by instead drawing hot air into the system from outside of the house to maintain the pressure inside the building. With this system, one hose is responsible for drawing hot air into the unit and the other hose then vents the heat absorbed by the system back outside. The only real drawback to a dual-hose unit is that they tend to be quite a bit louder than a single-hose system. This is because a more powerful fan is required to draw air in from outside compared to taking the air from around the unit.

Comparing Portable ACs to Other Cooling Systems

Although portable ACs function in the same way as all other air conditioning systems, they tend to use far more energy. This is why they’re usually only recommended for situations where you don’t have any other options, like if your building regulations won’t allow you to install a window AC unit. To understand why this is, it’s important to look at how the energy efficiency of air conditioners is measured.

The energy efficiency of an air conditioner is measured by comparing how many BTUs (British Thermal Units) of cooling are produced per watt of electricity the system uses. Generally speaking, most portable air conditioners consume much more energy to produce the same cooling output as a window AC unit, and this difference becomes even greater when comparing portable ACs to central air conditioning or ductless units.

Compared to other AC systems, portable units are also less effective. In most cases, they’re really only suited for smaller rooms. If you’re trying to cool a larger area, you’ll get much better results and use less energy by using a powerful window AC unit.

All this being said, portable ACs do have their advantages. For starters, they’re much easier to move around and install compared to a window AC unit. This means you can easily cool any space in your home by moving the unit and attaching the hose to the window kit. Another advantage of portable ACs is that they’re usually a bit quieter than window units.

Alternatives to Portable Air Conditioners

Portable ACs aren’t really an effective option for cooling anything other than one room. In most cases, they’re used to supplement a home’s existing AC system or to add cooling to any areas not connected to the central HVAC system. Still, if you’re considering a portable AC for these purposes, you’re generally always better off going with either a window unit or a ductless AC system.

Ductless ACs are usually the most energy-efficient option. In fact, ductless systems tend to be far more energy-efficient than even central air conditioners. These systems work exactly like a central AC, except they utilize one or more separate air handlers for each space. The benefit of this type of system is that it allows you to control the temperature at each air handler independently. Although ductless systems are definitely more expensive than window units and portable ACs, they can be well worth it both for the increased comfort level and energy savings they provide.

If you’re considering your options for cooling your home, Landry Mechanical Inc Plumbing HVAC & Electric can help you determine what type of air conditioning system is the best choice. We specialize in a full range of cooling and heating services from maintenance and repairs to installation. Our team also includes professional plumbers and electricians who can maintain and repair your home’s plumbing and electrical systems. We’re located in Sutton, and our team serves customers throughout central Massachusetts and the MetroWest area. To learn more about your AC options or to schedule an appointment, contact Landry Mechanical Inc Plumbing HVAC & Electric today.

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