Do Portable Air Conditioner Towers Save More Electricity Than a Normal AC Unit?

We hear this question a lot: Do portable air conditioners save more electricity—and thus, more money—than standard AC units? And the simple answer to that is, no!

There may be some benefits to portable AC units, but conserving electricity is not one of them.

So, why are standard AC units more efficient?

Portable air conditioner towers are standalone air conditioners that can be moved from room to room. They condense and cool air, and then pump their hot air through an exhaust tube that can be set up to blow out any window. Their main benefit is their convenience. But when it comes to energy efficiency, they’re nowhere near the level of a standard air conditioning installation in St. Louis, MO.

There are several reasons why this is so:

  • Standard units have higher energy efficiency requirements: The most important reason is that, while standard AC units––such as HVAC units located outside the home, and window units––are highly regulated and have stringent energy efficiency standards they must uphold, portable units are essentially not regulated at all. This means that unless you’re using the very top-of-the-line portable unit, your portable unit simply won’t be engineered well enough to compete with a standard unit in terms of energy efficiency. On average, they use worse parts––aluminum instead of copper tubing—and less efficient systems for cooling—cap-tube evaporator coils rather than expansion valves—and are not built to stand the tests of time and the elements like a standard unit.
  • Portable ACs do not have efficient heat exhaust: The portable unit’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. Because it is indoors, you’re overly reliant on its exhaust setup to pump the hot air its motors make and then extract outdoors, and even then it is creating ambient heat while it cools. Standard units do all their work outdoors. The heat is separated from the cool air and then simply radiates into the air instead of into your house, making them more efficient.
  • Portable units create negative pressure: Whereas standard AC units circulate in cool air at the same rate they circulate out warm air––meaning there is no pressure added or removed from the rooms it works in––portable ACs create a negative pressure, which causes warm air to be pulled into your home from outside to fill the space left by the air your unit is venting outside. This greatly diminishes its energy efficiency.

Overall, the basic design of a portable system means it just can’t compete with standard AC units. They are only really useful if you live somewhere that’s almost always a habitable temperature and you’re only likely to need AC a few days a year. Otherwise, you’re better off with a standard AC setup.

Ashley Brothers Heating & Cooling has been providing air conditioning installation in St. Louis, MO since 1999, and we can help you get the best AC solution for your house. We install and consult, so give us a call if you’re thinking about home cooling.