Although a portable air conditioner and a spot cooler may appear similar on the surface, they're actually designed for different applications, according to Mark Lupton, Heat Controller's national sales manager for room air products.

A spot cooler, explained Lupton, cools an area within a larger area. This can be a good solution for situations where temporary relief is needed - perhaps in a tent or on manufacturing lines where excessive heat may adversely affect materials, packaging, or personnel.

Portable air conditioning, on the other hand, conditions the air and maintains a certain temperature in an enclosed space. A portable unit is also designed to enhance indoor air quality (IAQ) with a filter that traps dust and certain other contaminants.

"Most significantly, a portable unit can be moved from room to room and quickly installed wherever cool, conditioned air is required," he said.

Heat Controller’s portable PD-121 unit has dual hoses to pull in outside air and exhaust stale indoor air.

A Lot Of Hot Air?

According to Lupton, portable air conditioning units with dual hoses - such as Heat Controller's PD-91 and PD-121 - function almost like a traditional air conditioner, pulling air from outside, picking up heat from the condenser, and exhausting it back outside.

The benefits of portability, combined with quick installation, make a portable unit suitable for a wide range of applications. The rental market is largely untapped, but has huge potential, especially during warm weather months.

"There are schools and churches that hold special summer sessions, for instance, where a convenient means of adding air conditioning for a week or two would be welcome," said Lupton. "Consider also guest houses or cottages that aren't used all the time, temporary office spaces - anyplace air conditioning in an enclosed space is needed."

Lupton believes every apartment complex and nursing home should own several portable units to be used as backup when permanent units fail. Similarly, a contractor can keep customers cool with a loaner portable, allowing him to schedule the job to fit his workload. This kind of added value can be a real differentiating factor among service companies, he indicated.

Many Uses

Areas where a permanent installation won't work are ideal candidates for a portable unit, said Lupton. "Historic homes, for instance, are difficult and expensive to prepare for central A/C, and a window unit can affect the aesthetics of the home," he said.

"For college students, a portable is a good investment. It's convenient for a dormitory room and can be taken from dorm to dorm, and even into an apartment."

In his estimation, homeowners with central air conditioning will find comfort can be maintained economically by using a portable - especially as the cost of energy continues to rise. Instead of cooling the entire house (especially for an individual or couple who is at work all day), only the bedroom or other living space can be cooled, he explained.

"In this case, a model with a timer can be a real boon," he said. "The unit can be programmed to turn on an hour or so before the owner arrives home."

Lupton pointed out some features to look for, including oscillating louvers that spread the conditioned air evenly throughout the room and hoses long enough to allow flexibility in placement. He noted that all controls should be user-friendly and a remote control can come in handy. The size of the casters can be important for ease in moving the unit.

"Two important features are window mounting brackets for the hoses and condensate management," he added. "The design of the window brackets should make installation quick and easy. Just attach the ends of the hoses to the bracket and place them in a window."

Brackets should include an extension to accommodate a wide range of window sizes and styles. According to Lupton, brackets like those with the Heat Controller PD series are less than 6 inches high, so the appearance from outside and the view from inside are not altered substantially.

Condensate, of course, is collected as the unit removes humidity from the air inside the living space. Some units capture this liquid in a bucket that has to be emptied. Overfill protection automatically suspends operation when the bucket is full, he explained.

"A direct drain can also be connected to a unit in locations where it's possible to run a drain hose," he said. "By far the easiest method for the home owner is evaporative."

The moisture that is removed from the air is collected and distributed on to the hot condenser. This moisture is evaporated and expelled from the unit through the discharge hose. An added benefit is that evaporation adds to the efficiency of the unit, he said.

Publication date: 07/11/2005