Understanding Room Air Conditioning Units

(This carefully researched, thoughtful advice is from a real person. Posts may contain affiliate links.)

Most room air conditioning units work in a similar way, so the key to getting a good unit is choosing one that comes from a reputable maker, comes with a good warranty and has a look that blends easily with its intended home.

Even more important, however, is understanding how the units work and making sure that a portable room air conditioner is really the best choice for your purpose.

When a window air conditioner can be used, it’s often a better choice than an in-room air conditioner because the noise and heat generated by the unit are outside, away from you. When a window unit is prohibited — like in some apartment complexes or in neighborhoods with strict homeowner associations — a room air conditioner can be the perfect way to stay cool. One of these units is also a great idea when there’s no appropriately sized window in which to place an air conditioner.

Before buying a room air conditioner, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. These tips will save you money, messes and hassles:

Portable room air conditioners can be noisy. You may find the noise annoying, especially since units with built-in evaporators often make uneven whooshing sounds that can be distracting. Window air conditioners have their noisiest parts hanging out the window, but with in-room air conditioners, there’s nowhere for the sound to hide. If you can’t stand the noise, you’ll need to consider some other solution for cooling your home or office, but some units are quieter than others.

Most room air conditioners require venting. You must have access to the outside from the room where you use a portable air conditioner because you must vent hot air to the outside through a large hose. This hose gets very warm, so it’s best to keep it as short as possible and as far away from people who want to stay cool as possible. While some units don’t require venting, those models also don’t work very well. Companies often don’t show the hose on the package, but don’t be surprised if your unit requires venting.

You shouldn’t use room air conditioning systems in the same building as evaporative coolers. Most room air conditioners make a room feel cooler by removing humidity from the air, but evaporative coolers — sometimes called swamp coolers or water coolers — work by adding droplets of water to the air in a room. That means if you use both kinds of units in one place, they’re working against each other.

When humidity is high, room air conditioners can get overwhelmed. That is, they may not be able to remove as much humidity from the air as is necessary to keep you cool. Even if a unit still puts out cold air, the bucket may require frequent emptying or the evaporator may not function as well as it should. You may need to attach an external drain hose to help get rid of some of the condensed humidity.

You don’t have to settle for an ugly room air conditioner. Older units look very industrial and can detract from the decorating in a room, but newer units look better than ever with sleek surfaces that don’t show scuffs or fingerprints and air vents designed to look good while putting out lots of air.

Buying a room air conditioner online could eliminate transportation issues. The worst part about buying an in-room air conditioner is trying to get it home. Fortunately, it’s possible to order units online, and often the price is better than at your local home improvement, discount or warehouse store. Even better, some sites — like Amazon — offer free shipping on most units. You might want to consider the Honeywell portable air conditioner first.

Concluding Thoughts

In one end of my home, I have a window unit keeping me cool while I sleep. In the other end of the house, a Honeywell room air conditioner keeps the temperature in my office pleasant.

I’m very pleased with both.

Putting a room air conditioner to work in a situation where a window unit can’t be used is a great alternative to doing without cool air. And if you understand the way these units work and accept their limitations, you can live happily — and comfortably — with a portable air conditioner for years.

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