Even though UK homes are rarely built with air conditioning, there are definitely times when a fan alone just won’t cut it.
Portable air conditioning units are far cheaper and easier to install than permanent units. They can be moved between rooms and stored away in the winter, so there’s no bulky wall unit that remains out of use for 9 months of the year.
There are a number of portable air conditioners on the market, so it helps to know what to look out for. Check out the tips below to find the best portable air conditioner for your home.
Multi-Functional Air Conditioning Units
The cheapest portable air conditioners will have one function – air conditioning. However, for only slightly more money you can get units that offer several functions. These generally offer much better value for money, as you can get more year-round use out of the air conditioner.
These are some of the most common functions that can be carried out by a portable air conditioner (besides air conditioning):
- Cool fan – a standard fan for when the weather isn’t warm enough to require air conditioning
- Dehumidifier – the unit will pull water from the air and collect it, reducing humidity and dampness inside the home
- Heater – this is less common to find, but some air conditioning units will also double up as space heaters for winter
Understanding BTUs (British Thermal Units)
Most commonly, BTUs are used to describe a heater’s power, but they are also used for air conditioning units.
Traditionally 1 BTU describes the amount of energy a heater required to heat 1 lb of water by 1°F (for metric lovers, that’s 454 g of water by 0.5°C). For air conditioners, BTUs describes the amount of energy required to cool 1 lb of water by 1°F. Therefore, it’s quite a good indication of an air conditioner’s potential.
Although BTUs don’t tell the whole story, they’re one of the best figures to go off when buying an air conditioner. The power of the machine’s motor, and the efficiency of its design, will also impact its cooling potential.
This is a rough guide for how many BTUs you should look for too cool each size room:
|Small room (up to 18 m²)
|Medium room (up to 24 m²)
|Large rooms (up to 36 m²)
|Bigger spaces (over 36 m²)
||Two air conditioning units required
Remember that other factors will also alter how effective the portable air conditioner can be. If there are a lot of people in the room, or if there’s a lot of electrical equipment, you may need a more powerful air conditioning unit because it will be harder to cool.
Also, be aware that most portable air conditioning units can’t cool to the same low temperatures as wall-mounted units. Portable air conditioning units generally cool down to around 16°C. This might not sound like much, but on a hot day it can make a lot of difference.
Weight and Manoeuvrability
Portable air conditioning units often weigh between 25 – 35 kg. If you will need to frequently carry it up and downstairs, the weight might be an important consideration.
A lot of portable air conditioning units are fitted with castor wheels which make them easier to move around from room to room on the same level of the house. Lighter units are also often fitted with a carry handle.
Portable air conditioning units needs to be located near a window, so you’ll need enough space by the window for the unit, and for the windows to be easily accessible.
Portable air conditioning units can be noisy, so if you’re after something very quiet you may need to look a little harder to find a model designed for quiet operation.
The quietest portable air conditioning units are around 55 dB. More commonly, they are around 65 dB. If there’s no decibel rating indicated on the unit, I recommend reading customer reviews before you make a purchase to find out how others rate it.
Installation and Set Up
The best portable air conditioners come with a ‘window kit’ included. This is because the extractor tube of the air conditioner needs to be positioned out of the window, to send warm air out of the room.
A window kit will contain a window seal. This is a piece of thin plastic with a hole in it for the extractor tube to fit through. The thin plastic will cover the gap created by having the window open, but will allow the extractor tube to send warm air outside.
There are different types of window kit available for different windows (casement windows, double hung windows, slider window/sash windows, etc.). In an ideal world, the portable air conditioning unit will come with a window kit that suits your window type. However, it’s not uncommon to have to buy an appropriate window kit separately.
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