Customers don’t mind waiting in line near a portable heat pump in a grocery story that is temporarily lacking heat. Portable heat pumps have become more popular for temporary heating solutions since general introduction about 2001.

Portable cooling is most often thought of in terms of an emergency. For example, a building’s chiller breaks down, and portable cooling is required immediately to keep tenants happy and/or critical applications up and running. By now, nearly everyone has at least heard of portable air conditioners. Also referred to as “spot coolers,” they serve as temporary cooling units when permanent a/c systems must be shut down or fail. Portable cooling is a perfect temporary solution.

Now, it’s not uncommon to find portable cooling being used in nonemergency situations, though certainly not any less important. For example, longer-term uses of portable cooling often include industrial process applications where just a bit more cooling will expedite a manufacturing operation. One such situation: a quick cool for a plastic resin might be needed today, but not for the batch tomorrow. Portables also serve as permanent-cooling systems for small-to-medium-sized equipment centers, such as telephone systems or server rooms.


But what about portable heating? Before 2001, portable heat pumps weren’t given much thought; in fact, the products really are a child of the 21st century. However, as the rising popularity of portable cooling continues, it was simply a logical conclusion that customers would ask about products that could be wheeled in place to satisfy temporary heating needs.

Sometimes, the problem that contractors and their customers are dealing with is a space that is not too hot, but one that is too cool. This happens for a number of reasons, including:

• A severe cold snap in an otherwise temperate location (such as Jacksonville, Fla., or Atlanta) where heating systems were not designed for extreme cold.

• The boiler or heating system fails or shuts down.

• The space is too close to ingress or egress (lobby, construction) and the space cannot maintain an adequate temperature.

Heat pump portables look exactly like their portable a/c counterparts. In fact, all heat pump portables are also portable air conditioners. They are air-cooled units that look and set up in an identical manner to the portable a/c units.

Though the portion of portable business sales that include heat pumps is a relatively smaller segment, compared to cooling-only portables, some people see tremendous growth ahead. “In a way, this is a large opportunity because there are so many markets that have heating climate needs, but usually for a limited period of time,” said Garth Tagge, vice president of sales at Spot Coolers.


The difference is completely internal. From the outside, you can only tell the difference between a heat pump and its cooling-only counterpart by a few extra buttons on the control panel.

They are called portable for two reasons: They are on wheels and easily movable, and they will fit through interior doorways, which allows placement inside any commercial building or space. This fact tends to limit their capacity and portables typically top out at 5-tons of capacity.

To make a distinction, portables are different from mobile air conditioners, which are also mounted on wheels but are often towed, trailered, or trucked to a jobsite. In addition, mobile units are usually much larger in physical size and capacity, and must be set up outside.

Portable air conditioning and heat pumps have come a long way in the last 20 years. And with continuous and rapid advances in computer technology and information processing, expect to find new and flexible products emerging from the portable industry.

Whatever the need may be, portable equipment companies are widely available to make sure the correct equipment is delivered for a particular job.

Publication Date:01/21/2008