Of course, portability is the key benefit. The units can be moved from room to room, wherever cool, conditioned air is needed. And they can be installed quickly and easily. Telescoping brackets that hold the hose (or hoses, in the case of dual-pipe models) slide into window openings and the window closes to hold them in place. The only other thing that’s needed is a standard 115-V outlet.
It’s this portability and ease of installation that makes a portable air conditioner especially suited to a wide variety of applications and situations.
Churches typically have classrooms that are used only once or twice a week, or only for an hour or two. It may be more economical to use a portable during hot weather months than to install a permanent system … and the unit can be moved to another classroom or meeting space on other days or at different times.
Offices inside warehouses are frequently difficult to air condition, but a portable makes it simple, whether or not there’s a window. Of course, a window installation works best, but if the telescoping brackets for the hose have been designed for patio doors, in many cases they can be installed in an office doorway. The hot air is exhausted to unconditioned warehouse space while the office stays cool. Of course, this kind of installation won’t work if people are coming in and out of the office door on a frequent basis, but it offers another possible solution to a comfort problem.
Although nursing homes and hospitals generally have in-room heating-cooling systems - PTACs, for instance - a room may be unusable if the a/c goes down, especially during extreme weather. A portable serves as a great back up when a failure occurs, making an otherwise uncomfortable room habitable while repairs are made.
Managers of apartment complexes and rental properties can also use a portable to provide back-up cooling when service and/or parts are not immediately available. Depending on the size of building, having two or three or more back-up portables available could keep renters comfortable and alleviate heat-related complaints.
Renters living in homes or buildings without air conditioning will find that a portable is a good investment because it’s simple to install and easy to move to the next location. Similarly, college students can move a portable from dorm to dorm, and store it during winter months when cooling isn’t needed. It may also come in handy in a first apartment.
Loaners are a concept that contractors and dealers can take to the bank. When a heat wave hits, same-day service isn’t always possible. If parts have to be ordered, the wait can be even longer. But a portable can be loaned until service can be scheduled or parts arrive. The homeowner can use the portable in the living or family room during the day, and move it to a bedroom at night to make sleeping more comfortable. This kind of value-added service can really pay off in increased customer loyalty.
RESIDENTIAL APPSWindow air conditioners can certainly be effective, but some homeowners don’t appreciate the appearance: they can really detract from the aesthetics of an historic home, for instance. And adding ductwork for a central a/c system can be problematic and expensive in an older home. A portable, on the other hand, doesn’t affect the external appearance, can be operated in whatever room is being used, and can be easily stored in a closet or utility area when not in use.
A portable can even have a place in a home with central air conditioning. To save energy, the air conditioning can be set back at night, with the portable used in the bedroom to keep that room cool for sleeping. Having a timer built into the controls is especially handy for this type of use. In the same vein, a room that’s not well served by the central system - perhaps due to poor duct design or improperly sized equipment - can be kept comfortable with supplemental cooling from a portable.
A portable lends itself to other areas of the home when temporary cooling or dehumidification is needed. Think about a workshop on the weekends or the kitchen when there’s an activity that generates a lot of heat, such as canning or food preparation. Large groups of people can really warm up a space, even in cooler weather: with a portable the room can be cooled without turning on the central a/c system.
FEATURESWhether used in a residential or commercial setting, there are some features to look for in a portable. One of the most important is condensate management. Most people don’t want to empty a bucket or have the unit turn off because the bucket is full. Many units, such as those by Comfort-Aire, have an evaporative method of handling condensate that doesn’t require any attention and improves efficiency. Moisture removed from the air is thrown back onto the coil where it helps cool the air passing across the coils and is evaporated by the heat in the coil.
Window brackets should be long enough to accommodate a wide variety of window sizes - both double hung and casement style - and they should install quickly and easily. Comfort-Aire’s, for example, are 4 inches high; they don’t block as much light and are unobtrusive from the outside. Hoses should be long enough for convenience in placing the unit.
Controls that are easy to understand make it simple to use a portable. A wireless remote is especially handy - the home- owner doesn’t have to get out of bed in the middle of the night or interrupt dinner to adjust the temperature. Many models have timers that turn the unit on or off at preset times for energy savings. Quiet operation, especially in office or home settings, is essential.
Separate dehumidification and air circulation (fan only) modes can be effective in maintaining comfort. A portable does more than just blow out cool air - it actually dehumidifies and it is often the humidity in the air that makes us uncomfortable. A portable can be effective in removing excess moisture from the air, even on a cool or rainy day.
“As you begin to focus on how a portable can be used and its benefits,” Delwiche explained, “you can find more and more situations that make a portable the best choice, whether for convenience, economy or multi-purposing.”