Portable cooling units, such as evaporative coolers and portable air conditioners, are a great alternative to purchasing a centralized air conditioning system. Due their compact shape and mobility, these units are especially smart choices for those who live in an apartment or small rental property. Unlike window units, portable cooling units can be moved from room to room as they do not require permanent installation.

For consumers concerned with only cooling specific rooms rather than an entire house, portable cooling units are often a very cost-effective and energy-efficient option. However, not all portable cooling units are created equal. Evaporative coolers and portable air conditioners work very differently, and consumers should understand how each of these units works to effectively cool a room before choosing the best option for their needs.

About Evaporative Coolers

If the temperature ever gets too hot for you, you’ll need an air conditioner to cool your home. High humidity can also make the air feel hotter, so it’s important to find the right kind of air conditioner to cool your home. There are different kinds of air conditioners to cool homes in different climates. If you live in a hot and dry climate, then you may want to consider an evaporative air conditioner. Evaporative air conditioners are very energy efficient, so you’ll be pleasantly surprised when your electric bill arrives.

The Right Air Conditioner For the Right Climate

Evaporative air conditioners not only cool, but also humidify homes. This is why they won’t do you much good if you live in a climate that’s already very humid. An evaporative air conditioner is also known as a swamp cooler, but don’t confuse it with a portable air conditioner. Many people use the terms “swamp cooler” and “portable air conditioner” interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. They are two different kinds of air conditioners that are suited for two completely different environments.

Swamp coolers are meant for areas that are dry because they work by soaking pads in cool water. A fan then blows the hot air through the wet pad. The water that evaporates from the pads creates air that is up to 20 degrees cooler than the hot air that went into the air conditioner. Portable air conditioners hold both hot and cold air inside them, blowing the hot air out one side and condensing and collecting water from the air to cool it. A good rule of thumb for choosing between a portable air conditioner and an evaporative air conditioner is to go evaporative if your average humidity level is below 20 percent.

Size Does Matter

Another important thing to consider when you’re purchasing an evaporative air conditioner is the size of the room you want to cool. The output of cool air from evaporative air conditioners is measured in CFMs, or cubic feet per minute. To determine what size of evaporative air conditioner you need for your space, figure out the number of cubic feet you want to cool. There are about 3.25 feet in one meter.

You can figure out the amount of cubic feet you have by taking the number of square feet of your home and multiplying it by the height of your ceiling in feet. Then, divide that number by two. The number you end up with will be the amount of CFMs you need to look for when you’re shopping for an evaporative air conditioner.

Installation Tips

When you’re ready to install your evaporative air conditioner, remember that you need a clear path for the cool air to get into the room. You also need a good exit path to ensure proper circulation. You’ll need an opening that is a little less than one square meter. The simplest way to do this is leave a window or door open. Otherwise, exhaust ducts will prevent the need for leaving windows and doors open.

Evaporative Coolers vs. Portable Air Conditioners

How They Work

Portable air conditioners are box-like units that work by drawing in warm air through special inlets. The warm air is then circulated through evaporator coils with refrigerant running through them, and then, the cooler air is blown out through the front of the unit and the warmer air is vented out through an exhaust hose. In this way, air is continually cycled through the unit by the portable air conditioner until the room reaches the desired temperature setting.

Also, the refrigerant works to not only cool the air but also dehumidify air in the room. In contrast, evaporative coolers operate somewhat more simply and do not use refrigerant technology to cool the air. Rather, warm air is drawn into the unit through water-cooled pads, cooled by a large fan up to 20 degrees and then blown out through the same water-cooled pads to the room.

Things To Consider

Since these units work so differently, consumers should consider the following factors before purchasing a portable air conditioner or evaporative cooler.

Cost: Before selecting a cooling unit, consumers should first review their personal budget for this purchase. Evaporative coolers, which do not use refrigerant technology, are significantly cheaper than portable air conditioners and would be a good option for those on a limited budget. However, evaporative coolers are much less effective at cooling a room than portable air conditioners, so consumers should consider other factors as well.

Cooling Needs: Next, purchasers consider their cooling needs by asking how much they would prefer to lower the temperature in the room. Since coolers utilize water and evaporative cooling to lower the temperature of its airstream (by as much as 20 degrees) they are much less effective at cooling a room than portable air conditioners. Consumers with significant cooling needs should probably consider a portable air conditioner as their best option.

Humidity Level: Whether consumers live in humid or dry environment is a very important consideration before purchasing an air conditioning unit. Portable air conditioners’ refrigerant technology also works to lower humidity levels in a room so they are good options for those who live in a humid environment (humidity level above 20 percent). Also, since evaporative coolers actually add moisture to the air in a room, they are usually only good options for those who live in a very dry environment.

While they are vastly different; evaporative coolers and portable air conditioners are both good, versatile options for cooling specific rooms in a cost-effective and energy-efficient manner. With just a little research, consumers are sure to find the best option to suit their specific cooling needs.

The Lowdown on Window Air Conditioners

Window air conditioners are a type of fixed air conditioning system. As they offer distinct advantages over portable air conditioning systems, they fit quite well within many home setups. It is important to understand a few facts regarding window air conditioners, how they compare to portable air conditioners, and how to purchase a window air conditioner.

The Facts

Window air conditioners are designed to sit in just one room. Ranging in BTU from around 5,000 BTU to around 20,000 BTU, they sit inside a window with the hot side on the outside and the cool side facing inwards. Many units can run on 120 Volts of energy, with units below 15,000 BTU in this category. Energy efficiency ratings (EER) are given to denote their energy; 10.0 or greater is normally considered good.

A misconception regarding window air conditioners is in regards to cooling more than one room with one unit. Even with a high BTU level, it is not effective or efficient to try to cool more than one room with a single window air conditioning unit. It is much better to use several window units or a central air conditioning system.

Window vs. Portable Units

Window air conditioners are a popular choice for an air conditioning system. They offer distinct advantages to portable air conditioning systems, which are not as effective due to their smaller size and lower power output. Areas with high temperatures for longer periods of time should keep this in mind. Portable units offer advantages in the right situation. The most obvious is that it is portable, which is important for mobility in itself, in addition to those that are renting. Additionally, a portable unit won’t need to be installed by an electrician, which will save some money.

Buying a Window Unit

Examine the cooling capacity, energy efficiency, and installation requirements before you purchase a window unit. These are the three most important considerations in such a purchase.

Cooling Capacity
Choose an appropriate BTU level. A level too low won’t cool properly, while a level that is too high will cycle on and off too often, which will not allow humidity in the air to be removed.

Energy Efficiency
An EER of 10 on a model will use roughly 20% less energy than a model with a EER of 8. Look for high efficiency models accordingly.

Installation Requirements
The unit must be the right size for the intended window. You should also be aware of special needs, such as a metal shell or special electrical wiring (220 Volts).
In addition to these major components of the window unit, there are features which you should familiarize yourself with in this purchase. Here are some attributes to help you make a more thorough decision:

Thermostat Sensitivity – Accuracy in which the model can stay to a given temperature.
Noise Level – Newer models make less noise. Listen to the model before purchasing.
Air Flow – Most models let you switch from fresh air to recirculating.
Low Profile Models – Some models will minimize the area of sunshine they block by hanging below the window.
Timers – These models allow you to set the unit to a schedule.
Filters – Some models can remove allergens and odors.
Remote Controls – Some models include a remote control for convenience.
Dehumidifying Ability – Depending on the operating system the unit uses, units will be better able to reduce the amount of humidity in the air.

You can additionally get the best prices in the fall and winter months. Keep the aforementioned choices in mind if you choose to purchase a window air conditioning unit. Be sure you know all of the parts of the system before purchasing.

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