How Your Portable Air Conditioner Works

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We have definitely left the days when a personal fan or sitting outside on the porch was enough to both cool down and satisfy.

Suffice it to say that people are so enamored with the current devices used to heat and cool the spaces in which they live that it would now be difficult to live without them.

Most don’t even romanticize about the days before air conditioning anymore.

Modern technology has made in-room cooling much more accessible than it was even a decade ago.

  • Gone is the need to have a ready window that carries enough heft to support a window unit.
  • New portable air conditioning units provide needed cooling while mitigating the need for a complete outside whole in the wall.
  • All that is required is a small place where a vent hose can be placed and the room is cooled.

A problem that people run into though is that these units, though small and portable, are not free.

  • They are also not readily available.
  • During hot spells portable air conditioning units are probably the first things to fly off the shelves of box home improvement stores and other retail sites.

So, it behooves an owner to understand enough of the operation and maintenance of the unit to be able to confidently make repairs themselves.

Thus, a treatise regarding how portable air conditioners work, what makes them effective, how they differ from other AC units and what standard parts can be purchased from a retailer.

portable-ac-air-flowHow A Portable Air Conditioner Works

Air conditioning is all conducted on an identical principle of exchange.

  • A gas, called a refrigerant, is introduced into the system to effect this exchange.
  • The gas is one that can easily, and quickly move from a low to a high pressure situation and also change from a gas to a liquid and back again rapidly.
  • It is this property that makes the air conditioning cooling reaction possible.
  • The low pressure gas is sent through a compressor where the gas is pressurized rapidly which converts the relatively cool gas is converted in to a heated, high pressure gas.
  • At this point in the process the hot gas begins to pass through the condenser coils which are meant to reduce the temperature of the gas (allow it to dissipate due to an expansion of volume) and it turns into its liquid form. The liquid is still at a high pressure but it is cooler.
  • The liquid passes in to the evaporator coils and its pressure drops rapidly.

This process turns the liquid back into a gas and cools it even more rapidly. This reaction is what gives the substance the name “refrigerant” because this reaction is what allows heated air to become cooled and sent out to the other areas of the house.

  • The cooled gas then goes back to the compressor to start the process all over again.
  • Hot air from the house is brought in past the evaporator coil and it is cooled, at which point a blower pushes it back out into the room.
  • This cooled air is exchanged constantly with the hotter air in the room until the reaction within the air conditioner has cooled the temperature in the room to some preset value on the unit.

This is very basically how a room is cooled with a portable air conditioner (or any other kind for that matter).

How is it Most Effective?

A portable air conditioner is meant to be used with a specific sized space.

  • On the box, owner’s manual and probably the unit itself, it will give a volume that the unit is designed to cool.
  • The specification will probably mention the square footage that it can work with.
  • So, to use the unit most effectively, make sure that you are not trying to cool too large a space. The portable air conditioner will not be able to do it.
  • Close doors and windows to ensure that it is only cooling what it is designed to.

AC-14100-LIFESTYLE-lAnother feature of a portable air conditioner is a hose.

  • This hose is what exhausts the heated air and condensate to the outside.
  • An air conditioner has to have a means in which to accomplish this.
  • Secure the hose in a slightly opened window (seal the it with plastic to make sure that you are maintaining the proper cooling area) so that the air conditioner can work properly.

How Does it Differ from Other AC Units?

Basically all air conditioners work the same, but this one is designed to be moved from room to room.

This allows the owner to use it in the bedroom at night and the living room during the day. It cuts the need for more window units.

Standard Parts

Standard Parts List: compressor, vent hose, condenser coils, evaporator coils, vent fan, blower, temperature control, case, expansion valve.





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2 thoughts on “How Your Portable Air Conditioner Works

  1. Thanks for your introduction. I have a portable air conditioner in my home and I want to make it work more efficiently. Can you give me any suggestions?

    1. Hi Annette,

      A few crucial tips:

      • Regular maintenance is a must. Be sure to clean the filters at least once a month.
      • Make sure your portable ac is the right size for the room you’re using it in. The manual should let you know the square footage it covers.
      • Remember that the amount of people in the room, and quality of insulation also play a role in how hard your ac works. More people = more body heat. Poor insulation = more work for your ac = shorter ac life span.
      • Also, use lower fan speeds and timer settings to reduce ac exhaustion.

      Happy to help!
      Your NewAir Team

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