How Does a Portable Air Conditioner Work? Here is How!

Like most air conditioners, a Portable Air Conditioner operates on the general principle of drawing in hot air, processing it, and changing it into cold air. The resulting excess hot air from the process is then expelled through an exhaust hose to remove it from the room.

Generally, getting rid of the hot air is usually via a hose that goes through a window, maybe a drop ceiling, or through a hole in the wall. Positioning is pretty straightforward since setting up is easy. This is for as long as you have all the exhaust systems all connected and ready.

How Is Hot Air Exactly Processed to Convert to Cool Air?

The portable AC unit pulls in hot air from the room, and this hot air is condensed via a refrigerant very much, similar to regular air conditioners. This hot air then under specific scientific processes and condensation, is moved in and around the cooling pipes, which then produces cold air.

The resulting cold air from such condensation is then discharged into the room as cold air. On the other hose, being expelled is hot air. Since heat can only be dispersed or transferred, the resulting warm air is sent through that hose and vented outside the window.

Portable Air Conditioners Can Work as Dehumidifiers Too. In case of high humidity, these units also draw out moisture and collect them in a reservoir.

Types of Reservoirs For Portable Air Conditioner

Manual Removal

basic models would require you to remove water from the reservoir in an 8-hour cycle.

Gravity Drain

This process is done via a pump moving the water through a floor drain as it is being pumped out into a separate location like outside of the house.

Self-evaporative Technology

the latest portable air conditioners are already equipped with self evaporation systems that pump out and evaporate water at the same time.

All you have to do is plug it in and turn it on. Voila! You can now enjoy the cool breeze.

What Are the Advantages of Using Portable Air Conditioners Vs. Other Types?


Since most portable air ACs’ has built-in wheels, they are easy to move around from room to room. Just wheel it in, set up the exhaust, and turn it on. You can now enjoy cooling in your other room.

Easy to Install

Compared to your conventional air conditioner that requires professional installation, your unit is as easy as plugging it in and turning it on.

Easy Maintenance

The whole unit itself just needs cleaning at once a year. You can wipe it down with a natural fiber cloth and only wash the filter every two weeks. The good thing about it is you can even clean it yourself, no more calling the tech to do professional cleaning.

As long as you do the above instructions for cleaning, and provided that the cooling system itself is working great, you can expect consistent cooling service from your portable AC.

What are the Different Types of Portable Air Conditioning Units?

Single Hose/ Windowless Portable

These are units that pull in, cools, and then sends out hot air through a single hose. Simple enough? There’s a small drawback. Since it has only one hose, it can create a vacuum effect wherein any tiny crack or hole in the room would cause the hot air to rush in through that opening.

Resulting in the AC working harder to cool the space and in some larger rooms not being to cool it at all. Therefore, a single hose is only recommended for smaller areas.

Dual Hose

Duel hose units has two hoses where one is used for drawing in hot air and the other one to route cold air into the room. The problem of negative pressure or hot air rushing into little cracks in the room is resolved by this kind setup. No more hot air to contend with.

Moreover, dual hose units have better capacity at cooling bigger rooms more than single hose systems.

Ventless Portable Air Conditioner

This type features a water reservoir that is the central part of the mechanism of this unit. Basically, water is used to cool down the air that enters the unit. It uses evaporation as a way to cool down the surrounding air, subsequently bringing down the temperature of the room.

Is Portable Air Conditioning for Me?

It really depends on your need for cooling. If you currently have a central airconditioning system, you can get a portable air conditioner for the purpose of augmenting your need for cooling a part of your house that you spend most of your time in.

You won’t necessarily have the whole house cooled when you are just in one room for the most part. Nor do you have to spend or hire someone to install a window type air conditioner in that particular room.

All you have to do is purchase a portable air conditioner, then turn off your central air conditioning for the rest of the day, and maybe turn it on only when needed.

This way, you get to save up on having to purchase a window type air conditioner, and having it professionally installed. Plus, you can wheel in the portable unit anywhere in the house at any time.

If you feel like you can benefit from this scenario, then a portable air conditioner is for you.

Things you Should consider when buying a Portable AC for Camping:


It depends on how much you will be willing to carry on the back of your truck. Size perception varies from owner to owner.

Tent Size

The bigger the tent, the more cooling power you will need. Don’t forget to factor in the things that you will be stored inside the tent-like extra baggage and tent beds.

Power Source

Verify if your campsite has electricity. Otherwise, choose an AC than can alternatively run on batteries. Check the campsites voltage for compatibility to make sure your unit runs when you get there.


Recently designed tents already have ventilation holes built in them. If you have an older tent, you may want to figure out how to use one of its windows as ventilation shafts.

Noise levels

Check the noise level since you would want to enjoy your natural surroundings with all the forest sounds included. Anything under 60 dBa should suffice.

What Do I Need to Look Into When Buying One?

Room Size

Please keep in mind that the reason they are called portable is that they are designed to be mobile and to cool a specific room size (depending on its capacity) only one at a time.

In other words, you can expect uneven cooling if you attempt to cool 2 rooms at the same time. It would be useful to know how big of a floorspace you have, and if it matches the specs of the portable air conditioner that you are looking into. It is essential to know this before shelling out your money.


Since you’re out shopping for a portable unit, it would be wise to expect that it is going to come with a hose. Maybe even two hoses for that matter. One is for channeling cold air, and one is for expelling hot air.

Assuming that your room has a window, you would have to consider putting the unit near it. This is because the hose/hoses are usually short in length. Most models of portable air conditioners are designed to be close to the windows, hence the short hoses. If you don’t have windows, you can always opt for the ventless units.


Portable air conditioners may range from $200 to $850 for home versions, and it may even go up to $10,000 for the commercial ones. The larger the space that you will need to cool, the more the cost will factor in. Therefore, you will expect to pay more if you are looking to cool your living room over your bedroom, which might presumably be smaller.

Extra features like reversibility and dehumidifiers can add to the price as you would prefer. Also, you might want to consider subsequent costs like energy consumption and maintenance costs like filter change. Do check the energy efficiency of your prospect portable AC so you can make an estimate on how much you will be spending on your electric bill.

Final Word

Overall, deciding on a portable air conditioner wouldn’t be much of a problem. Just take note of your needs and the AC’s capacity to match them, then you’re good to go.

Recent Posts

How Does a Portable Air Conditioner Work?