Are portable air conditioners energy efficient?

Some say portable ac units save 60% energy than window units. Some would say they are 40% energy efficient. But if you ask me, I would say it totally depends on how you plan to use it. But definitely portable air conditioners are energy efficient.

Portable air conditioner units can save you 20-60% energy depending on the type and duration of use.

In this modern era, there is an air conditioner in every room of every house. But, due to the outdoor unit, the mobility of air conditioners is a problem. To solve this problem, portable air conditioners came into the field.

But the main question is, are portable air conditioners energy efficient? The answer depends on the use of the portable unit. Portable air conditioners are less efficient and effective than mounted or central air conditioners if we consider everyday use. And also, portable air conditioners are hard to maintain. Keep reading for a better breakdown on this topic with some statistics and decide for yourself.

Some basics you need to know about air conditioners

How does an air conditioner unit work?

Imagine a room filled with heat. You install an air conditioner. That air conditioner will suck out the heat of the room through the ac vent and that air goes through an evaporator coil. With the help of the refrigerant, the room is chilled. Then the gaseous refrigerant goes through a condenser and becomes cold again releasing the heat. And finally chilling the room again.

Room size and air conditioner

Room capacity plays a huge role in air conditioning units. Let it be portable air conditioners or window units. A single car garage can be 162 sq ft. So, a basic room can be 400-500 sq ft. You will need 0.0017 tons of ac per square foot.

Let’s do the math

First, let us know what BTU is. BTU is an abbreviation for British Thermal Unit. The power of an air conditioner depends on the amount of BTU the air conditioner can remove from a specific size room. 1 ton is equal to 12000 BTU. We know 0.0017 tons is needed per square foot. So, for 500 sq ft, we need 500 X 0.0017 = 0.85 which is close enough to one ton. For a 400 sq ft room, you will need about 8600 BTU. Ultimately, we will need approx of 1 ton or 12000 BTU air conditioner for an average-sized room. Next, we will be discussing the cost and power consumption of portable air conditioners and normal air conditioners.

The money matter

Air conditioners are costly and make your electric bills heavy. Portable air conditioners are less energy efficient so they can be more costly. So, actually how much they can cost? Previously we have discussed BTU and the ton system of air conditioners. If you operate a 1-ton air conditioner for 1 hour it will cost about 1000 watts per hour. 1000 units can cost about 12 cents. We gave a table on how much an air conditioner can cost if it operates for 1 hour with the size of the room.

BTUTonRoom size(sq ft)Cost ($/per hour)
180001.58000. 20

Pros and cons of a portable air conditioner

Portable air conditioners are famous for their portability or mobility. They can be best used as an alternative to window units. Portable air conditioners are not ideal in the case of regular use. You will also need a venting system for your portable unit. Evaporator units don’t need venting. But, they are hard to maintain.

Other than that portable ac units are effective. Central and window air conditioners can supply enough power at a low cost. On the other hand, portable ac units give you the flexibility to use it anywhere and hassle free. We have outlined the pros and cons of a portable ac below.


  • High mobility
  • Good for alternative
  • Cost friendly


  • Needs venting
  • Hard to maintain
  • Not energy efficient

Energy Efficiency of Portable AC unit

Now let us talk about the main question. Are portable air conditioners energy efficient? The question is not debatable. Regular air conditioners are better than portable air conditioners in case of all-day use. If your main air conditioner needs repairing, portable air conditioners are the best alternative. Again also moving into a new apartment you can get a portable air conditioner at a low price. And you can move a portable air conditioner from one room to another without any effort as they are lightweight.

The advantages of portable air conditioners are higher in number than disadvantages. If a portable air conditioner runs for a whole day the parts can be damaged. Again, most mount air conditioners come with inverters but portable air conditioners don’t come with inverter technology. As the inverter technology saves energy, portable as units get the demerit point here. For a portable ac, you will need a proper venting system too.

Let us take all this in one paragraph. Portable air conditioners are not as energy efficient as regular air conditioners. The electricity costs are higher in portable air conditioners than regular air conditioners. But, if you need to move it from room to room and even other places, you can consider buying a portable ac unit. We have listed the quietest portable ac units here. Check out now.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Here are some frequently asked questions on this issue.

Are portable air conditioners environment friendly?

Carbon emissions in portable air conditioners are ignorable. But generally, air conditioners are responsible for greenhouse gases.

Can I operate a portable air conditioner in a room with no window?

No, a portable air conditioner will need venting. It is unwise to operate a portable air conditioner is a compact room.

Will I have to drain water in a portable air conditioner?

Yes, water drainage in almost all air conditioners is common. So, you will need to drain the water out.

Some final words 

Portable air conditioners are not totally a bad choice. But, they are not energy efficient. These air conditioners can cost you a little bit more than the window air conditioner units in your room. They are good for portable and alternate use.

At the end of the day, the choice is yours. We might have missed something. You can enlighten us with your knowledge and help the community.


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