How Do Portable Air Conditioners Work?

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Updated May 18, 2023

If you are new to the world of personal cooling, you may wonder how does a portable air conditioner work. Some of the best air conditioners, after all, are portable units. So what are the benefits of a portable AC unit and how do they work? Keep reading to find out.


  • Portable air conditioners offer the same cooling power as window units, but with a portable form factor and additional energy efficiency.
  • Make sure you have access to the outside air before setting up your portable air conditioners and set up the exhaust hose correctly.
  • To properly maintain your portable air conditioning unit, whether it features single hoses or a dual hose design, change or clean the filters regularly and keep the exterior clean and tidy.

How Do Portable AC Units Work?

Portable air conditioning units work similarly to other per-room designs if you are wondering how does a window air conditioner work. The design isn’t even that different from air coolers if you are wondering how portable air coolers work.

Insider Tip

Make sure you hold on to any warranty information that ships with your portable AC.

Essentially, portable air conditioners need outside air, which is cooled via internal mechanisms, and then pumped back into your atmosphere. In this way, they are similar to other types, if you are wondering how a gas air conditioner works. However, you must have a hole leading to the outside, which is unique to just portable ACs, if you want to learn how tower AC units work.

Benefits of a Portable AC Unit

There are many benefits to choosing a portable AC over a window unit or other designs. First of all, these models are portable. They often come on wheels, with light form factors, making it easy to move them around your home as needed. Next, they conserve energy when compared to central units or even some window units, so you can count on a reduced monthly energy bill. Now the thing about portable units is that they tend to not be as efficient in cooling a room versus the average window-mounted air conditioner like the one in our Frigidaire 10000 BTU air conditioner review.

Finally, these models are fairly easy to install, just like the best ventless air conditioner, so long as you have access to the outside air. Installation is quick and easy. Most portable models will come with a single-hose air conditioner exhaust hose kit. All you need is a nearby window for the window kit to exhaust air outside the room.

Taking Care of Your Portable AC

Here are some basic maintenance tips to ensure you take care of your portable unit so it can last you a long time before requiring repairs or a replacement device.

  • Replace or clean the filters – It is very important that you clean or replace the air filters according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Most filters need replacement every two to three months.
  • Clean the AC – Take time to clean the various components of your portable AC so as to make sure each part works properly.
  • Keep away from pets and kids – These units rest on the floor, so find a location where they are not near children or animals.


Do you have to drain water from a portable air conditioner?

You do not have to drain any water, as the unit pushes pints of water back into the atmosphere via the exhaust vent during use. This is the same for a window air conditioning unit or even a simple window kit.

Can you extend the exhaust hose to a portable air conditioner?

Some single hoses are on the shorter side, and swapping them out for lengthier hoses is certainly possible, but it could void your warranty.

Do you have to put water in a portable air conditioner?

You won’t need to put water in portable AC units, as they operate similarly to window air conditioners. Just as with a central air conditioning system, portable units pull in water from the air to cool many square feet within. y our home.

STAT: For a medium-sized room, like a den or family room, opt for a 12,000 BTU portable air conditioner. These will thoroughly circulate cool air throughout the space. (source)

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