“Portable air conditioners are a great solution to a variety of installation and location challenges,” said Mike Delwiche, Comfort-Aire’s sales manager for room air products. “They give the consumer the ability to put air conditioning where it’s needed, when it’s needed.”
The big advantage, of course, is that these units can be moved from room to room and quickly hooked up, he said, making them well suited to homes, apartments, schools, churches, offices, and more.
They also address the problem of adding air conditioning to historic properties and older structures, where installing a central system can be prohibitively expensive or impossible, and a window unit adversely affects the structure’s appearance.
SELLING PORTABLESLike window air conditioners, portables, especially in smaller sizes, may be considered the domain of the big box stores. But this doesn’t mean the contractor should write them off, said Delwiche.
There are times when a portable may be the best answer to a particular situation, he continued, and the contractor’s recommendation of economical equipment can show that he’s responsive to his customer’s needs and concerns.
One of the most effective contractor uses of portables is as a loaner, Delwiche said. “While a homeowner is waiting for parts to arrive or to fit into the service schedule, a portable offers relief from high heat and humidity, and can be moved from the living area to a bedroom as needed.”
Light weight, fast installation, and ease of operation make temporary use feasible - and a value-added service the contractor can offer to differentiate his company from others, Delwiche said.
BUYING PORTABLESWhether a contractor is helping customers pick a portable out or buying one for loaner use, the growing popularity of portable air conditioners is apparent in the number of suppliers entering the marketplace.
This proliferation can make the purchase decision confusing, said Delwiche, especially when many models have similar features. He added that it’s a good idea to shop around and see what’s available, rather than just buy on price.
Consider the unit’s size and appearance, the size of room that can be cooled, and ease of installing the hoses in a window. Take into consideration the unit’s overall design: A two-hose unit can be more effective at cooling than a single-hose system. Make sure you tell the customer about these options and benefits. “Don’t forget to find out about warranties and after-sale support.”
PORTABLE ADVANTAGESToday’s portables are a far cry from the boxy, metal cabinets of the past, he said. Sleek exteriors have rounded profiles and attractive grilles - some are designed with louvers that automatically close when the unit is turned off. Electronic controls are intuitive and the wireless remotes that come with many models are especially convenient.
Setting up a portable for use typically is fast and easy, he said. With the Comfort-Aire’s PE Series, for instance, a mounting bar that holds the unit’s hoses is placed in the window - the telescoping bracket can be used horizontally in double-hung windows or vertically for casement windows or patio doors (a foam filler may be needed on taller openings), Delwiche said.
The closed window or door holds the mounting bar in place and the unit is positioned near the window so the ends of the flexible hoses can be inserted into the openings in the mounting bar. The hoses lock in place so they don’t come loose during operation. Standard 115-V power eliminates the need for special wiring.
A portable is an attractive alternative to a window air conditioner, Delwiche added. Because Comfort-Aire’s hose mounting bar is only 4 inches high, it doesn’t interfere with the view from the window. Also, a portable can be rolled into a corner or a closet when not in use, unlike window air conditioners, which are typically installed for the entire cooling season.
TWO HOSESThe most effective portable air conditioners, Delwiche said, use two hoses. With a two-hose system, all condenser air is brought in from the outdoors through the condenser inlet hose. Heated condenser discharge air is exhausted to the outdoors.
The difference with a single-hose system, Delwiche continued, is that the air exhausted from the home must be made up from somewhere since there is no inlet hose. In a house with no other air conditioning, the heat brought in by the condenser makes the house even warmer, although there will be a blast of cool air in the vicinity of the unit’s discharge. If the portable provides supplemental cooling, the load on the central air conditioner is actually increased.
Condensate management is one of the critical features of a portable air conditioner. Some units capture the condensed water in a bucket that has to be emptied; operation is suspended when the bucket is full. Many have a drain hose connection, but the unit may not always be in a location where direct drainage is feasible.
With the evaporative method, moisture is thrown by the fan back onto the coil, where it helps cool the air passing through the coils. No attention is needed and efficiency is actually enhanced, Delwiche said.
With energy costs skyrocketing, even homeowners with central systems may find many instances when comfort can be maintained economically by a supplemental portable, he said, offering zoning options. Instead of cooling the entire house (especially when no one is home during the day), only a bedroom or other living area is conditioned with the portable unit. A timer on the unit can be programmed to turn on an hour or so before the occupants arrive home, and to turn off after they depart.
Some models can be used for more than cooling. They can be operated in the dehumidification-only and air-circulation modes. The addition of electric heat allows temporary spot heating.
For more information, visit www.comfortaire.com.