Should You Purchase a Portable or Window Air Conditioner?

When the temperature starts to rise, most people rely on their air conditioning units to keep their homes and offices at a comfortable temperature. There are a number of options on the market when it comes to the type of unit you use. If you aren’t sure if you should use a portable or a window model, here are a few guidelines that might help you.

How A/C Units Work

Portable vs. Window Air Conditioner

Before making any decisions, it is a good idea to have a basic understanding regarding how air conditioners work. No matter if you have a portable or window unit, both take a gas, convert it to a liquid and then convert it back to a gas again.

Essentially, a unit utilizes chemicals called refrigerants. These liquid substances absorb the heat from the air as it passes over a set of coils and works to chill indoor air. As the refrigerant absorbs the heat, it changes from a liquid to a gas. A compressor then pressurizes the gas that creates a heat that is evacuated elsewhere, usually outside. A portable unit uses an exhaust pipe that funnels the air out your window. A window unit is already outside and simply expunges the hot air that way.

Determining Your Needs

Now that you have a basic understanding on how air conditioners work, you can start to assess your current needs to determine which kind of unit will best cool your space. There are two main factors that will affect your decision:

  • The size of your space
  • Where you want to install the unit

Many home and business owners already have a central air conditioning unit installed. However, these systems tend to be costlier than they need to be, as they work to cool a large space that is not always occupied. Whether you choose a portable or a window unit, you will almost certainly save money on your energy bills as you can shut off your A/C and just cool one room at a time.

You do not need to totally replace your central unit with either a portable or window model. Many people choose to use these alternatives to supplement what their existing units already do. This is especially helpful when your air conditioner does not cool your home evenly, or if you prefer to have a single space such as your bedroom cooler at night.

Why Choose a Portable Unit

EdgeStar Portable Air Conditioner - AP12000HS

One of the most attractive features of a portable air conditioner is that it is extremely easy to install. You will receive a window kit through which you will place a small exhaust. This is so the heat removed from the air in your room can be evacuated. Some homeowners’ associations ban the use of window units because they hang outside of a window. Portable units do not have any pieces that will protrude from your window and violate such regulations.

Thanks to the unit’s mobility, you can move it from room to room depending on where you are and which area needs attention. Unlike a window unit that is installed and tends to remain in one spot, you can move your portable unit from your bedroom upstairs to your study downstairs should the need arise.

Another advantage of a portable air conditioner is that it has more flexible installation options. It can easily be moved from window to window as you want to cool different rooms. Furthermore, you can actually easily install through a door using an extended portable air conditioner installation kit. Lastly, you can also install a portable air conditioner to vent through a ceiling using a ceiling vent kit. A ceiling vent installation is extremely common with installing a portable air conditioner in a server room.

Why Choose a Window Unit

LG Window Air Conditioner - LW2413HR

On the other hand, a window unit is stored entirely outside of your living space, which is attractive to some people who like the idea of reducing clutter. What’s more, a window air conditioner actually uses energy more efficiently than a portable unit does. That means you get even more cooling power per BTU.

When you are looking at window units, pay attention to the BTU rating. The higher that number is, the bigger the room the unit can cool. Window units, like portable units, can come with a number of features such as digital thermostats, remotes and timers. All of these conveniences may help you make your decision as well.

It is important to note that some window air conditioner can also be installed through the wall which does not require an actual window space. In order for this type of installation, you will need to purchase a Through-the-Wall Window Air Conditioner that has a specific kit that allows the unit to fit that particular type of area.

Things to Consider

Some people may decide that the noise level of the unit is important. Air conditioners are notorious for making a humming sound when they kick on. While there is no discernible difference between portable and window devices, you can find differences between specific models. If the noise factor is important to you, look for the decibel (dB) rating on the product information. When choosing between two models, you would want to pick the unit with the lower dB rating.

Either a portable or a window air conditioning unit is a great tool for efficiently cooling your home. Both devices can actually reduce your energy bills in warmer months. By assessing your needs and taking into account the benefits of each, you can make a right decision between the two.

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Kara Zorn

Kara Zorn

Kara Zorn is a wife and working mom who loves life hacks that help her schedule allow for as much quality family time as possible. She enjoys cooking with locally sourced food and produce and recently took up brewing Kombucha.


  1. Stephanie Smith says:

    No way! I wasn’t aware of portable air conditioners. I haven’t done any sort of work like this before so that’s probably why, but that’s such a relief to me. I’ll have to let my husband know so we can look into it a bit more, but great article, thank you.

  2. Jim Ackermann says:

    You might want to address the HOA considerations.

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