Calls for sales of portable cooling units come from distributors and renters looking for “another option” when rental units are unavailable, said John Doran, senior manager of Commercial and Industrial Systems, MovinCool/DENSO Sales, California.

The economy is still the prime driver of today’s HVAC trends, and the portable cooling market is no exception. “We have certainly seen a pickup in the last six weeks,” said John Doran, senior manager of commercial and industrial systems, MovinCool/DENSO Sales.

Specifically, the ratio of sales versus rentals is starting to shift, he said. “The ratio is heading back toward sales. We have heard from our distributors that they make more revenue on rentals, and we do not see that reversing.

“The other thing we have heard is that some end users feel more secure having their own units on hand,” Doran continued. “That is something that we recommend to them as well.” Events that can cause people to rent include emergencies like weather and flooding. These can cause rental cooling units to be hard to come by.

It would stand to reason, then, that people who decide to buy their own portable units have not been able to rent when they wanted to in the past. “We know that they have experienced this,” said Doran. “Calls [for sales] come from distributors and renters looking for another option” when rental units are unavailable. “We sell exclusively to our distribution channel.”

There also are planned uses where the renters cannot have any downtime, like data centers, or during planned outages for regular maintenance.


“The data center trend keeps growing,” Doran continued. “For us that’s up to 80 percent of where our products go that we are able to track.” Some are installed permanently, others are there only temporarily. Permanent installations are broken into the subcategories of primary and supplemental cooling. Temporary systems can either be planned or emergency applications.

There’s the overall green trend, which impacts overall system efficiency. “The major disadvantage that all portables have is that they cannot compete with, say, a split system,” said Doran.

How a customer uses portable systems, though, “can certainly save energy,” he said. “In multi-tenant buildings, having a 2-ton portable running for one floor, instead of a 10-ton system for the whole building, is more efficient.”

Connectivity to building systems (fire, alarm, EMS) is a natural offshoot of the growing data center demand. “They want to monitor and control the units from remote locations. From a fire and safety point of view, you want these systems tied in so that if an alarm goes off, you want to limit the spread of smoke.” It’s advisable on both long-term and temporary applications, he said, and it’s one more thing for contractors to be aware of.


Contractors who would like to take advantage of rental cooling for their customers should keep a few things in mind. “It is good for them to be familiar with the products and peripherals required,” said Doran. This includes ducting, “like an exhaust duct but possibly also a return-air duct and plenum,” he said.

“Most permanent applications are supplementary cooling,” Doran said. They include satellite office leasing space, small data rooms, and cases where the installed cooling system isn’t enough.

Considering that data center demand is likely to keep increasing, Doran advised contractors that “they need the hot air exhaust but may not need the return air exhaust. In supplementary cooling, you don’t mind that outside air coming in; it’s typically cooler than the indoor air,” except if the room is small or airtight.

Another trend he sees is the increase in renters aware of the need for condensate removal. “We’re surprised how many people are aware of the condensate option,” Doran said. This shuts off the unit automatically when the tank fills up. “In a data center, adding a pump to that unit and running it to a drain is the ideal situation,” he said. Some units come with it as standard, and it’s available as an add-on pump.

“The better the contractor is prepared,” Doran said, “the better off the customer is in the long run.”

Publication date:06/28/2010