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How to install a portable air conditioner

When temperature soars, you might consider choosing a portable air cooling system to cool down your living spaces. These units are used for cooling small areas and to provide additional cooling in rooms already fitted with a central/window air conditioner unit. Portable air conditioners also serves as a quick fix or replacement for a faulty or damaged system. 

Why choose a portable air cooling system?

Portable air conditioner: Source: indiamart.com

Firstly, portable air coolers are mobile. The unit can be easily transferred to any desired location as and when the need arises. Since most units are fitted with caster wheels, moving it around is quite easy.

Secondly, for aesthetics. Some residential areas and apartments prohibit the installation of window air conditioners for aesthetic reasons. They might consider the part of the unit hanging out of the window, an eyesore. Also, apartments may ban window units for safety reasons, such as to prevent damages and injuries caused by the unit falling out of the window.  Portable units are neither a safety threat nor do they violate any norms.

Lastly, its installation. Besides the fact that portable units can be easily installed (and that too, by self), it also has many more installation options as compared to other units. Portable units can be installed via doors, windows and even ceilings using its specific installation kit. These options will be explored in detail, shortly.

Additionally portable air conditioner units consume less power and energy as compared to the other units, thereby making it a worthwhile purchase. 

If you are looking for a reliable step-by-step guide on how to install a portable air conditioner, then you don’t need to look any further. This guide will help you to install your cooling system quickly, easily, and correctly.

But first, let’s familiarize ourselves with the basics of this unit.

How does a portable air cooling system work? 

Similar to other air conditioner units, portable air conditioners also use refrigerants to cool the spaces in which they are installed. The refrigerant draws in warm air from the room, cools and circulates it back into the room. The heat generated by the system is channelled away from the room to the outside, using a hose which is connected to a window or any other similar openings.

Mechanism of portable air cooling system Source: dudegrows.com

At this point, it is important for you to understand that there are two designs of portable units available to us- the single hose and the dual hose system and their working mechanism differs slightly.

The single hose system uses a single hose to release the hot air outside. In order to cool the system, it draws in “cooled air” from the room, creating a negative air pressure within the room. As a result, to take up the space of the lost air, there is subsequent leaking of warm air into the room from other areas. Single hose systems therefore, are less efficient as it has to work more to cool the room.

The dual hose system on the other hand, employs two hoses, one to release the hot air outside, and another to draw in cool air from outside to cool the unit. Due to this feature, dual hose systems can avoid the problem of negative air pressure and work faster and more efficiently in cooling the room.

Step by step guide on how to install a portable air conditioner

Although most portable air conditioners utilize a single hose design, some are based on a dual hose design. For the sake of this guide, we will assume that you want to install a single hose air cooling solution. Furthermore, we will assume that your room has a window. The important point to know while installing portable air conditioners, is the venting.  Here is how you can correctly vent your unit.

Step 1: Read the installation guide

A portable air conditioner usually comes with an installation guide. This guide will enable you to understand the specifics of the brand that you have purchased. When you have completed reading the manual, remember to store the guide and other documents in a safe place for further use.

Step 2: Location

Select a suitable place for your portable cooling system. Ideally you should place your air conditioner near an outside window which has an electrical outlet close to it. This is essential for many reasons:

  • Cables can be tripping hazards especially if they are unsecured.
  • Extension cords must not be used as it is a fire hazard.
  • The power cable should be able to reach the outlet without being stretched too much. Similarly the exhaust/vent hose must also reach the window without being overly stretched. The optimal position for the hose should be as short and straight a position as possible.

The unit must be placed on hard level surfaces and the location selected must be free from obstructions such as furniture, walls, plants et cetera, as they can obstruct airflow and reduce the efficiency of your air conditioner. The instruction manual for very unit will state the unit’s minimum clearance space, that is the minimum acceptable distance between the unit and the wall. Place your unit from the wall, according to this distance

Once the unit has been placed in the position, you can start installing it.

Step 3: Check the window venting kit

Parts of venting kit- Source: Amazon.com

First check and ensure that you have all the parts essential to your installation process. This includes:

  • Exhaust connector
  • Vent/ exhaust hose
  • Vent hose adaptors
  • Window brackets
  • Window slider connector
  • Screws, foams and weather strips (optional)

You must also check to see if the window bracket is compatible with your window.  They are usually designed to fit in most standard windows, both sliding vertically and horizontally. In case it does not fit perfectly, you may need to do some improvisations. The width of your window, will determine whether you need to trim or expand your window adaptor kit. You can easily expand the kit by using a piece of plexiglass, plywood, or cardboard.

Step 4: Install the window kit 

If your window is a standard double-hung window, sliding vertically (up and down), open the window and place the bracket at the bottom. Extend it till in correctly fits the width of your window.

In case it is a horizontal sliding window (side-to-side), the kit should be vertically placed after opening the window and extended till it reaches the window height. Sometimes you might need a double bracket (a standard bracket along with a filler bracket) for a sliding window.

Place the weather foam/strips to seal and prevent insects and warm air from getting in. Secure the kit with screws (if included in the kit) and close the window sash to hold the kit in place.

How To Install Portable Air Conditioner

Source: cooland portable.com

Step 5: Attach the exhaust hose to your portable air conditioner
This step varies from one model to another. Therefore read the installation guide thoroughly, to identify your next step.

First, connect an exhaust connector to the unit. Some units will already have this attached to it. Attach the vent hose to the exhaust connector. Connect the other end of the vent hose to the  window adaptor.

Extend the hose till the connector can be attached to the slider kit. When extending the hose, remember that you want it in a short (not more than 9 feet) and in straight path till the window, to avoid restricting the air flow. Otherwise the cooling function of the unit will be impaired and it can even damage the unit.

Attaching the exhaust pipe

Attaching the exhaust pipe

Step 6: Secure the window adapter and the exhaust hose
To fill the gap between the window and the window adapter, you should adjust the kit sliders until the space is completely closed. You should also ensure that everything is firmly held in place. You can use duct tapes to secure your connections at both ends of the vent hose.

Step 7: Test your cooling system
Now, test your portable air conditioner to ensure that it runs as expected.

The unit has an indicator light that lights up when the unit is powered on. Also observe that the plug has two buttons with “RESET” and “TEST” written on it.

Use the “test” button to activate the safety feature, built into the system. In case of any issue with the power flow, this feature will instantly cut the power off to the system, turning off the indicator light and unit. Afterwards, press “reset” to reconnect the unit. Once the unit powers on after “resetting” the unit is ready for use.

The video given below, is an instructional video outlining the steps of installing a portable air conditioner

Portable Air Conditioner Installation Steps. Source: LG USA Home Appliances and Services

Installing portable air cooling systems in garages and apartments

While portable air cooling units can certainly be installed in garages and apartments, you might have to make some accommodations. For instance, garages may not have any windows for venting the unit. Similarly, not all apartments have the standard window type. They may differ. In such situations, what is it that you can do? Here are your options

Windowless venting- What to do?

No window? You can still vent your unit through your:

  • Sliding doors
  • Walls
  • Ceilings

Sliding Doors: 

The installation process is similar to that of window venting, and is done either by using a slider kit, specially designed for sliding doors; or with a window venting kit. The advantage of using a slider kit is that it will cover the full height of the door. On the other hand, with a window venting kit, you will have to use a filler material like Plexiglas to cover the remaining gap.

Check out this video below to see how easy it is to install a unit through a sliding door.

Source: Better Air with Sylvane

 Walls: 

To vent the unit through a wall, create a hole( slightly bigger diameter than that of the venting hose) in an outside wall. Connect the hose to the hole and secure and seal it using silicone caulk. You could also make a small wooden frame with a hole (same diameter as the hole on the wall) and place it on the wall as a cover.

Ceilings:

Drop Ceiling Kit for Portable AC. Source: Amazon.com

Venting through drop ceilings are commonly seen in offices and server rooms of IT companies.  You will need a drop ceiling kit for this installation. Remove a ceiling tile and replace it with the one from the kit. This will be an insulated metal kit. The vent hose is also insulated to prevent warm air from seeping into the air. Connect the hose to the tile. Finally connect the hose to the unit and switch on.

Venting Through Different Window Types

Installing through Casement/ Crank Windows:

Venting through Crank window

Source: learn.compactappliance.com

To vent portable air conditioners through casement windows, you will need to create an insert using Plexiglas (recommended) or any other available material. This helps to block the rest of the area and prevent air from escaping or entering into the room.

First, you need to cut your Plexiglas insert according to your window measurement. It should have a hole (same diameter as the hose) in it for the vent hose. Next, open the window and  using a latch, connect the frame to the window. Carefully position the insert and use twist clamps to secure it in place in the insert.

Seal and waterproof the insert using caulk. You can also place weather strips at the intersection between casing and window frame to seal the arrangement. Lastly attach the hose to the weather proofed insert and power the unit on.

Installing through Sliding Windows:

In case of horizontal sliding windows, the window bracket is placed vertically and extended to reach the height of the window. The exhaust hose is connected to the window adaptor and the sash is closed to secure the unit.

Installing through Awning Windows

The awning window is opened and the frame and the jamb of the window is cleaned thoroughly.  A type of adhesive (Cool Seal) is measured and cut to fit the height of the window sash and stuck to the sash. The window is gently closed and the back of the adhesive sticks to the window. As it opens it forms a sort of accordian panel. The venting kit is then installed at the bottom track of the window and the exhaust hose is connected to it.

Portable air conditioners are versatile, effective and can be easily installed in any room. Do not let the type of window or the lack of it, prevent you from enjoying the benefits of a portable air conditioner.



FYI: The Air Geeks' top-rated portable AC units tested in 2019:
1. Black+Decker – BPACT14WT: the all-around best option (very large rooms)
2. Whynter - Elite Arc 122DS: the best value (large rooms)
3. Honeywell - MN10CSWW: superior unit, great price (avg. rooms)
4. Honeywell – MO08CESWK: a very good entry-level option (small rooms)