Are Portable Air Conditioners Any Good?


The pros and cons of portable air conditioners and how they fair up against a wall-mounted system.

As summer is approaching, you may find yourself in the predicament of deciding between a wall mounted split system vs a portable AC system.

The consideration is that the portable AC system may be cheaper to purchase, is easily moved and doesn’t require any installation process, it’s simply ‘plug & play’. This is particularly beneficial for those who might be renting or on a tight budget.

However, there are some factors that will determine how effective your AC unit is, especially in Australia where temperatures can soar well past 40 degrees. There’s also the question of ‘is reverse cycle air conditioning better’? 

With so many different types of AC units on the market, it can be difficult to know which one is best for you. To help make your decision easier, we list the pros and cons of portable air conditioners, and where they are most applicable versus a wall mounted split systems.

But first let’s take a look at…

How does a portable air conditioner actually work?

Based on personal experience, the first thing that pops into mind when I hear the word portable air conditioner is those large square units on wheels that require you to pour water onto the back padding. On really hot days I’d stick ice in the back tray. But that’s not what we are referring to here. 

These days, most portable AC systems have a duct connected to the back that requires it to be connected to a window. The unit will remove the warm air in a room, pass it through it’s system, cooling it and circulating it back into the room. The hot air is then expelled out the window through the connecting duct.

Pros of a portable air conditioner

  • Mobility: The obvious benefit of a portable air conditioner is that they can be easily moved when needed. Unlike a wall mounted split system, you don’t have to choose what room in the house is going to have an AC system. This means you are free to move it as you please, including being able to easily store it away. This is particularly handy for those who are renting, as you’ll be able to take it with you when you move.
  • No installation required: It’s as simple as plugging it in and letting the good times flow. You will however, need to connect the ducting/ place the air exhaust vent out the window, apart from that you’re ready to go.
  • Price: Compared to the likes of a wall mounted split system or ducted air conditioning systems, a portable AC unit is extremely affordable and generally costs around $450 – $1,000. However, it’s important to take into consideration the running costs in addition to the cost of the unit.

Cons of a portable air conditioner

  • Power limitations: Most portable air conditioners are around 2kW, which is just enough power to effectively cool a small room of around 20sqm. Whereas wall mounted split systems start from 2.0kW and go up to 9.5kW and are capable of cooling/heating up to 60sqm.
  • Inefficient to run: Due to their size and cooling capacity, portable AC systems are fairly inefficient to run, compared to Mitsubishi’s Avanti Plus Series wall mounted split system of a similar size, which boasts a 7star energy rating.
  • Take up floor space: A portable air conditioner needs to be positioned near a window, this may require you to move around furniture to accommodate it.
  • Noisy: Because all the components of the portable air conditioner are housed in a small box sitting inside the room, as opposed to outside (like a wall-mounted split system), they are far noisier. 

Where are portable air conditioners most applicable?

  1. If you’re renting and need a quick and affordable solution to cooling/heating your home.
  2. You need spot cooling or heating in a singular room of your house. (keep in mind that it’s only effective up to 20sqm)
  3. Strict landlords or strata companies may restrict your choices of air conditioning and prevent you from being able to choose wall-mounted systems (that require an external unit) or ducted air conditioning.
  4. If you’re on a tight budget and need an effective and temporary cooling system.

Still unsure what air conditioning system is right for you? We can help. We install air conditioning units and systems every day for residential and commercial. tell us what your needs are and we’ll be able to come up with a solution that suits you. 

Find out why the Mitsubishi Avanti Plus Series is Australia’s most energy efficient wall mounted split system.

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