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Energy efficient portable ACs: pros, cons and costs

What should you look for in energy efficient portable ACs? Read on to find out.

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Energy efficient portable ACs exist, but are only ideal for a single room. Photo by Jökull Sólberg Auðunsson on Flickr.Most new home construction includes a central HVAC unit that provides a home with all of its heating and cooling needs. Older homes, converted areas or add-on spaces may not have a central air conditioner, though. Energy efficient portable ACs provide the cooling needed to make the space comfortable for residence.

While a portable air conditioner can generally do the job of cooling small spaces well, there are a few pros and cons that you should be aware of before making a buying decision.

All portable air conditioners have a British thermal unit (BTU) rating similar to central models. The higher the BTUs for the unit, the more space the air conditioner can cool efficiently.

Besides energy efficient portable ACs, ask area HVAC contractors for input and estimates on other AC types for your home!

When looking at energy efficient portable ACs, select a unit with a BTU rating that's suitable for the size of the area that you're cooling. Most portable ACs are designed for use in a single room, so finding one within the proper range should prove fairly easy.

If you choose one with a very low BTU, you'll have difficulty cooling the entire area. Whereas choosing one with a very high BTU will result in wasted energy, as the unit constantly turns itself on and off to keep the room at a consistent temperature. Generally, you should be looking for units with 25 BTU per square foot of space cooled.

The next thing you should look at when selecting energy efficient portable ACs is the seasonal energy efficiency ration (SEER) rating of the unit. The SEER rating is a ratio of the cooling output in BTUs divided by the energy provided to the unit. The higher the SEER is, the more energy efficient the unit becomes.

As of 2006, all ACs produced in the U.S. must have an SEER of 13 or higher. An SEER rating of 14 qualifies an AC unit for an Energy Star rating. While some newer units have SEERS of over 20.

The energy efficiency of a unit with a high SEER rating comes at a cost, though, as higher-rated units tend to cost significantly more than lower-rated ones.

The biggest advantage to having a portable air conditioner is the ability to move it wherever it's needed. For those with multiple rooms requiring cooling, the unit can be moved from room to room, providing cooling only for the room that is occupied. Yet, if you need more than one room cooled at once, then you should invest in a central air conditioner unit.

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Portable units are also relatively inexpensive. Portable air conditioner prices are about the same as window-mounted units, far less costly than central AC units or ductless systems.

Most portable units have a multi-year warranty that provides replacement or repair should something go wrong.

There are a few cons to consider, however. Portable units tend to be noisier than other cooling solutions, as the blowers in the machines are placed in the unit itself. They are also generally underpowered compared to wall units, cooling less space than other AC options.

You can generally find a business selling energy efficient portable ACs in your area. Once you've found a seller, provide the dimensions of the space needing cooling. If you decided against a portable unit, inquire to an area contractors about energy efficient, central AC units for your home.

Get your 4 free cooling estimates!

Photo credit: Jökull Sólberg Auðunsson via Compfight CC.