Ahh, the sunny, hot, and humid days of summer are fast-approaching. In some parts of Canada, they’re already here. Which means it’s time to turn off the heat, pour the ice cold beer (lemonade for the kids, of course), and get that AC running on full blast.
When it comes to purchasing an AC unit, however, you’re presented with a dilemma: should you go window or portable?
Here’s an outline of both to help you make your decision.
Windows-Based AC Unit
A window AC unit fastens to a standard-sized window (or even a cut-out in the wall) and provides cool air within a room.
These models are typically more affordable than portable AC, and sometimes less noisy, too. They can also, in most cases, cool a larger room than a portable AC unit: figures vary depending on the model, but it usually ranges from 300-1,600 square-feet for the ideal cooling space. They can be removed and stored for the winter, though perhaps not as quickly and easily as a portable unit.
That’s because window AC units typically involve a lengthier and more long-term installation process than a portable model, and they can (usually) only fit standard-sized windows. If you live in an apartment, or if you’re renting, you might not be able to install a window-based AC unit at all, leaving portable as your only option.
Portable AC Unit
A portable air conditioning unit is, as the name implies, a compact device that uses a hose to exhaust air from the room, than run that air out through a window or wall. There are also dual-hose models, with one hose that can bring in air from outside to cool the condenser, and a second hose to exhaust the heated air out.
Some experts say that a portable model isn’t as effective as a window AC unit in cooling large spaces, and in cooling as well, and using as little energy. Estimates for the average room size hover around the 300-400 square-foot range. So you might want to opt for these only if you’re looking to cool relatively small spaces. They can also be noisier. Again, this will vary from unit to unit, and depends on the space you’re using it in as well. Because of the convenience factors noted above, portable AC units can also be more expensive.
The key advantage here is, in fact, the portability: you can move it easily from one room to another, to help cut costs, and chill the room(s) you’re in as needed. This also means you can easily wheel it away and store it once the chilly cold temps return. One person can easily tend to it without calling a friend to help with installation. As noted, if you live in an apartment, a portable AC unit might be your only choice.
What to Look For
Regardless of whether you decide to go window or portable, look for a model that offers a relatively easy installation process, and has easy to clean filters and a simple process for water drainage (even better if the design eliminates the need to empty a bucket altogether). You can save on energy by looking for a model with multiple settings so you can adjust how cool the room gets, and especially if you opt for one with a dedicated energy savings mode. Even better if you can set times when it goes on and off. For example, you might want to have it kick in every day a half hour before you arrive home from work, then shut off first thing in the morning.
On the window side, models like the Haier 10,000 BTU ESA410M and the Danby 12,000 BTU horizontal DAC120EB2GDB have three fan speeds, an energy saver mode, and come with a remote for controlling them from the comfort of your couch. The latter even lets you set it on a schedule.
Meanwhile, on the portable end, Haier’s 14,000 BTU CPN14XCP has a dedicated dehumidifier function and comes with a remote, plus adds auto evaporation so there’s no need to empty buckets of water, a 24-hour timer, and auto start. Claiming a 5-minute setup process, DeLonghi’s highly-rated PACWE125 Pinguino 12,500 BTU 4-in-1 includes features like a 24-hour timer, 3 fan speeds, a remote, and an LCD screen on the front that shows the temperature.
Once you’ve selected the right one for you, sit back and enjoy the summer heat. Now that’s cool!
Best Buy offers a wide selection of both window and portable air conditioners.