A Basic Overview of Portable Air Conditioners

Portable A/C Unit

One of the main benefits of portable air conditioners (and what differentiates them from other cooling systems) is mobility. No matter your cooling needs, a portable air conditioner can meet them without requiring permanent installation.

How They Work

Portable air conditioners work similarly to other air conditioning systems, by pulling in warm air, circulating and cooling it through the unit, and then blowing the cooled air out through the front of the unit. Remaining warm air is then vented out of the room through the connected exhaust hose.

Common Uses

Inefficient Central AC: Overheated or inefficiently cooled areas in your home or office (i.e. server and computer rooms, kitchens, attics, and bedrooms) sometimes require supplemental cooling that a portable air conditioner can supply. The added benefit of mobility allows you to use a portable A/C unit to meet more than one cooling need without having to purchase multiple units.

Cutting Costs: Cooling only the area you are occupying with a portable air conditioner allows you the freedom to decrease the use of other less energy efficient cooling systems and devices, without sacrificing personal comfort. Not only will this cut down how much energy you use, you’ll save lots of money in the process.

Limiting Circumstances: HOA rules that prohibit the use of window A/C units as well as other restrictions may limit your cooling options. Unlike a window unit, no parts of a portable air conditioner protrude from your residence, giving you the freedom to cool your space while also complying with housing rules and regulations.

Dual Hose vs. Single Hose

Single-Hosed Portable Air Conditioners vent hot air out through a single exhaust hose that connects to the back of the unit.

Dual-Hosed Portable Air Conditioners have two hoses connected to the back of the unit: one works to vent out warm air while the other works to draw in additional air to be cooled.

Pros/Cons: Dual-hosed units have a more powerful and quicker cooling capacity than do single-hosed units, while single-hosed units are a bit easier to install.

Learn More: Dual Hose vs. Single Hose: Pros & Cons

Filtration Options

There are many filters available for portable A/C units, but below is a quick overview of the most popular types of filters.

  1. Washable Pre Filters come standard with most portable air conditioners and are able to be washed and reused. You rarely, if ever, will have to replace a portable air conditioner pre filter.
  2. Carbon Filters are included in the purchase of some portable air conditioners, but not all. A carbon filter works with a pre filter to eliminate smoke and odors from the air. Carbon filters are not reusable, but they are replaceable.
  3. Antimicrobial Air Filters use their unique microstructure and electrostatic charge to capture and retain lint, dust, smoke, pollen, and mold spores. These filters do not come standard with any portable air conditioners, but a variety of them are available for purchase.
  4. Silver Ion Filters are special filters that work as air cleaners. They rid the air of bacteria and control the growth of microbes such as fungi, viruses and spores, keeping you and your family healthy. A silver ion filter comes standard with the EdgeStar 12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner & Cleaner and is replaceable.

For more Portable Air Conditioner Basics, please call our product experts at 1.800.297.6076.


Kara Zorn

About Author

Kara Zorn is a wife and working mom who loves life hacks that help her schedule allow for as much quality family time as possible. She enjoys cooking with locally sourced food and produce and recently took up brewing Kombucha.


  1. jane mincher says

    I have a portable ac unit, model #plm14000e. I do not know how to empty the water reservoir when it becomes full. I cannot find a door, opening or removable tray. Help!

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