Portable cooling is effective in healthcare and laboratory facilities for keeping people comfortable and protecting expensive equipment. (Photo courtesy of MovinCool.)
It’s the middle of summer, the temperature is soaring, and it’s time to think about keeping cool — especially where customers are concerned. Being uncomfortably warm can make even the most mild-mannered customers a little hot under the collar.

So what do you do when you have to take a building’s A/C system offline in order to make repairs? Or worse yet, what do you do when a system breaks down, and you’re going to have to wait a few days for a part? One answer is portable, or temporary, cooling.

These days, a number of portable cooling equipment distributors and manufacturers can get the right equipment to just about any corner of the U.S. very quickly. Whether it’s a huge chiller or a small room unit that’s needed, these companies will help you and your customers keep cool.

“Record heat in recent weeks has given rise to numerous requests for temporary or supplemental air conditioning solutions,” said Ted Doyle, product manager for Koldwave (a Mestek Company), a manufacturer of air-cooled and water-cooled portable air conditioners based in Westfield, MA. “Portable air conditioners, whether purchased or rented, are an ideal way to cool people, places, equipment, and processes in almost any situation.

“For example, they can provide temporary air conditioning during a cooling tower repair or replacement. Many companies keep units on hand all year round to protect their computers during an air conditioning repair, or when the overall system is insufficient. There’s almost no limit to the applications.”

In many healthcare and laboratory applications, portable units are a permanent fixture. (Photo courtesy of MovinCool.)


Not that long ago, most people thought of portable cooling as being needed only in case of an emergency. That’s changed, as more customers require permanent “spot” cooling in certain areas of a building. Those areas can include computer rooms, laboratories, assembly areas, entertainment venues, and facilities that operate after hours.

“We are constantly surprised by innovative applications,” says Stu Taylor, tech support, Quietside Corp., Whittier, CA. (Quietside manufactures portable A/C units ranging from 12,000 to 24,000 Btuh.) “Today, a contractor made a semi-permanent installation in an elevator pump room. Using outside air for supply air, he keeps the evaporator coil oil free and minimizes maintenance. He also installed a condensate pump instead of using the built-in sump.”

There are many applications in which portable air conditioners can be used permanently, notes John Doran, sales manager, MovinCool, Long Beach, CA. (MovinCool offers nine UL-listed portable air conditioning units ranging from 10,000 to 60,000 Btuh.) “For example, contractors can recommend MovinCool for their customer’s manufacturing processes to help reduce their cool-down time, heat-related defects, and additional scrap.”

Doran adds that portable units can also be used to protect expensive equipment from shutdowns in a client’s office; telecom, computer/server/network facilities; healthcare/hospital/laboratory facilities; and manufacturing environments. In addition, portable units can cool employees on the spot, preventing heat exhaustion and improving manufacturing quality and productivity.

Taylor notes that more applications now require permanent portable cooling. “Whether for industrial or human comfort, many portables have permanent homes. Their design makes them easy to replace when they are in extreme-use environments.”


It is still true that portable cooling is especially useful in emergency situations. “Examples of applications can include when equipment room A/C systems are shut down to service or repair the system. The portable A/C provides interim cooling during A/C downtime. The same applies when these A/C systems fail or shut down due to power outages,” says Garth Tagge, vice president, Spot Coolers, Atlanta, GA. (Spot Coolers provides air- and water-cooled portables in sizes ranging from 0.5 to 5 tons, as well as split system and heat pump portables, and 12- to 50-ton mobile equipment.)

Employing portable equipment is also a benefit to the contractor, notes Doran. “Contractors can offer their clients [portable equipment] for emergency backup cooling and as an uninterrupted service replacement during maintenance repairs.

“By providing this service,” says Doran, “a contractor can gain a competitive advantage over another contractor bidding for the job. Contractors can also generate additional revenue by selling or renting MovinCool to their customers.”

Taylor adds that while contractors wouldn’t necessarily want to own a fleet of portable A/C units, it might be in their best interests to own a few in order to be able to service customers immediately. “When a job requires it, then using a rental group would be perfect for them. The suppliers have abundant stock in clean, working order.”

Depending on the rental group being used, portable equipment can usually be to a jobsite within a few hours, or in the worst-case scenario, possibly a day.


Obtaining portable cooling (and heating) equipment is no longer the expensive proposition it once was; mainly because demand has become greater, and competition has made these systems less of a niche product and more mainstream.

Tagge states that rental rates are very reasonable and vary depending on the rental period. “Equipment can be rented by the day, weekend, week, or the month. Charges are calculated on a sliding scale, getting cheaper the longer the term.”

It is true that when comparing dollars per Btuh, the cost to operate portable equipment is higher than most conventional air conditioners. “This cost difference is primarily due to higher component/manufacturing costs caused from the more stringent design requirements required to meet the rugged demands of portable air conditioning,” says Doran.

However, when compared to installing or reconfiguring existing air conditioning systems, the total cost of portable equipment is often less expensive. Doran adds that MovinCool portable air conditioners’ operating costs are as low as 13 cents per hour, “a fraction of what most central air conditioning systems cost to run.”

If there’s any question as to how much cooling a particular application requires, most rental companies have staff on hand to answer questions. “At MovinCool, contractors can call our application engineers to determine what units are needed for a job. Or, they can call their local MovinCool distributor. In addition, we have an application guide, which can help contractors calculate the cooling capacity required for a customer’s application,” says Doran.

Tagge notes that contractors sometimes already know what they want for an application, but if they don’t, help is only a phone call away. “Our nationwide call center is staffed with spot-cooling experts whose sole function is to size the job and dispatch the appropriate equipment to the jobsite. More often than not, a Spot Cooler technician determines the product requirement.”

Taylor adds that if contractors have not familiarized themselves with portable products in the last year or so, it’s worthwhile checking them out for pricing, features, and availability. “They can be a profitable tool in your business.”

Sidebar: Added Value To Contractors And Customers

Air conditioning contractors often purchase portable air conditioning units and then rent them to customers during air conditioning repairs or system upgrades. The contractor is providing a valuable service to his customers and increasing profits at the same time. Opportunities to offer a portable air conditioning solution include:

  • Emergency cooling during air conditioning shutdowns or extreme heat conditions;

  • Temporary cooling during repairs or new system installations;

  • Supplemental cooling for undersized systems, new additions; and

  • Spot cooling for assembly lines and process cooling operations.


    Air-cooled portable air conditioners are an ideal solution for emergency or backup cooling, primary or supplemental air conditioning, or spot cooling. Some units are UL-approved for outdoor operation, making them easy to use for outdoor applications, such as tented events, golf tournaments, and more. They are available in a wide range of sizes to serve any cooling requirement. Some manufacturers offer optional dual flexible air nozzles that allow cool air to be directed precisely where it is needed, and optional ducting kits for evaporator and condenser supply and return, as well as drop-in ceiling panels.

    Water-cooled portable models are ideal for applications where no venting is available. (Photo courtesy of Koldwave.)


    Water-cooled portable air conditioners come in horizontal, vertical, and compact console models, with a wide range of cooling capacities. They are ideal for interior spaces where no venting is available. Simply connect the unit to a water supply and drain and plug it in. Some water-cooled portables are available with a reverse-cycle heat pump option, providing all-season comfort in one unit. Others offer electrofin coating and cupro/nickel coils for corrosive environments.

    Among the many applications for portable air conditioning are:

  • Cooling tower repairs/replacements;

  • Data centers with heat-sensitive computers, electronics, and telecom equipment;

  • Offices and additions;

  • Warehouses and factories;

  • Hospitals and clinics;

  • Automotive service centers;

  • Food processing plants;

  • Printing plants;

  • Dry cleaning facilities;

  • Commercial kitchens;

  • Outdoor tents for weddings, parties, and sporting events;

  • Aircraft hangars;

  • High-rise apartments;

  • Windowless basements and offices;

  • Medical/dental examination rooms;

  • Manufacturing, processing, and production areas;

  • Labs and other testing facilities;

  • Health clubs;

  • Conference rooms;

  • Classrooms;

  • Audio/video studios;

  • Hotels/restaurants;

  • Laundromats; and

  • Photo labs.

    If you’re looking for a way to provide a valuable service to your customers and expand your profits, portable air conditioners may be the answer.

    Publication date: 07/15/2002