What Everyone Needs To Know About HVAC Systems

Should I Buy A Portable Or A Window Air Conditioning Unit?

by Amelia Martin

Even if your house already has a central air system, cooling down individual rooms can often be done more cheaply by using a portable or window air conditioning unit. There are pros and cons of each one, and when it comes down to it, the best choice is dependent on your needs; one is not necessarily better than the other. However, they do function differently enough to make it worth your while to do a little research before buying your unit.

Room Size

While both window units and portable units are great for cooling small rooms, portable units aren't as effective once rooms start to get larger. Once you get to about 600 square feet or more, you'll probably want a window unit for the most effective cooling. High-capacity window units can cool rooms of over 1,000 square feet.


If your primary concern is how the unit will look inside, window units tend to be the preferred choice since most of the actual unit is outside. A portable unit by itself doesn't look too bad, but the hose or hoses that it comes with can take up a lot of room and may be unsightly, especially if you don't have a space where the hose can rest without getting in the way.

Window Use

If you want to retain the functionality of your window, a window unit will get in the way. While a portable unit only has a small hose that goes to the window, a window unit is larger and more permanent and sometimes requires a fixture to keep it steady. This means that opening and closing the window, or even finding blinds or curtains to fit around it, can be a struggle.

It can be even more of a hassle if your window opens horizontally. While the unit can still be installed in a horizontally opening window at a minimal cost, you'll need to install a separate piece of immovable glass to cover the extra open space.

Energy Efficiency

Window units are slightly more energy efficient than their portable counterparts, so if cost is your primary concern, a window unit might be your best choice. In addition to using energy more efficiently, they lack the exhaust hoses that portable units use, which by themselves can generate extra heat in your room as they carry heat away – or even remove cold air.

Cooling Multiple Rooms

If you want to cool multiple, smaller rooms but don't have the budget for multiple units, a portable unit is definitely your best choice. They don't require any special window fixtures, and can be moved from room to room depending on where you need it most. The minimal decrease in energy efficiency is offset by the fact that you don't need to purchase more than one.

Noise Levels

If you're concerned about a noisy air conditioner, both portable and window units are roughly on the same level. The difference, then, comes in where you can place it. For example, if your window is right above your bed, but a portable unit could be set some distance away, a portable unit would end up being the quieter option. Whatever you choose, many products will have a decibel rating you can look at to see how loud each one is, both in fan mode and when the compressor kicks in.


If you're looking at a portable unit, you'll pay for the convenience; portable units can be up to hundreds of dollars more expensive than an equivalent window unit. If you are okay with this price, look for an Energy Star model to help offset that initial cost.

For more information, contact John Legg's Heating & Air Conditioning or a similar company.