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Do Portable Air Conditioners Work? (Prices/Reviews/Ratings)

Mark Bennett  |  June 20, 2013  |  3 Min. Read

Air Conditioners

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About 17 years ago the folks from Delonghi approached us with a business proposition. Sell the first portable air conditioner named, believe it or not, the Pinguino. These were priced at $999, and sold remarkably well. Some of the early units were air conditioners and humidifiers in one, some models even had a heat function. This sounds like a good idea, right? Unfortunately they were also returned at an alarming rate of over 95% due to reliability and overall customer dissatisfaction. Let’s take a look at some of the possible reasons why, and also compare current portable models from Frigidaire and Friedrich.

Portable air conditioners are designed for use in buildings with smaller windows, historic buildings where window units are not allowed, and in buildings where ductwork cannot be installed for a typical central air system. The ACs have both an intake and exhaust hose mounting to a window. The intake will obviously supply fresh air to the unit, and the exhaust will expel any heat generated by the unit. One nice feature is that these units can be moved from room to room as necessary. The downside is that these units need to be installed in the window correctly. Some people will assume that you can just move the unit from one room to the other and they will magically provide cooling.

If you do not seal the opening properly any warm air expelled by the exhaust will be drawn back into the room, greatly reducing the effective cooling. Since air conditioners will also remove humidity from the air, some of these models will have a bucket that collects any moisture and will need to be emptied occasionally. Others will have a self-evaporating system to remove the moisture. Over time there may be issues with mold. The units will also need to be descaled to get rid of any mineral buildup inside.

Portables will range anywhere from 5k to 14k BTUs. Even though they may be rated at the same output as some window models, they will not have the same fan as a regular window unit. They are also not as efficient, with none being Energy Star rated. Of the units still available we found Friedrich and Frigidaire to be the most reliable.

Frigidaire will be the value brand, as with all of their other appliances they are well designed and reliable, and look good without breaking the bank. Their offerings in the portable market have become basically one model now, the FRA09EPT1. This unit is a 9,000 BTU air conditioner, heater, and dehumidifier all in one.

frigidaire portable air conditioner FRA09EPT1

Frigidaire FRA09EPT1


friedrich portable air conditioner P12B

Friedrich P12B

Friedrich only manufacturers air conditioners, and produce some of the best window units around. Their 12k BTU model is really the only one we stock or sell, and that is the P12B for $559.

This is an air conditioner only, 11,600 btu’s with an evaporative condensation system (no bucket to empty) with a timer and remote. I would say that the Friedrich is the better of the two. It is more powerful, and focuses on cooling only, which is the real need. It will be quieter and slightly more efficient.

We recommend using these units only as a last resort. I know this may be an attractive option for many people, especially in the city, but it must be installed properly. Any portable will provide some relief as we enter the summer months. Just remember, the portable will never match the performance of a decent window model.

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Additional Resources

Download the Yale Air Conditioner Buyers Guide with specs, tips and a square foot/BTU chart to help you choose the right air conditioner. Well over 30,000 people have read a Yale Guide.


A few review sites have placed this at the bottom of their articles. So here is our take: Our mission is to find reliable products for you to buy. Other review sites may say this as well.

However, we don’t love every product. Quite frankly, it costs us way too much money in repair costs to support less reliable brands.

In fact, we sell fewer brands than most appliance stores. Here is why:

We feel it is our responsibility to repair your appliances after you buy them.

We now have 30 service technicians, each averaging 8-10 calls a day Monday through Friday, plus another 110 on Saturday. That's over 30,000 service calls logged in one year.

The labor rates of fixing an appliance do not come close to the true cost in any product’s warranty period.

That is why no major retailer has a service department. It costs too much labor, money and time.

Our Blog is a bit different than most others you will read. We cannot write glowing reviews of unreliable products.

Hopefully, the bloggers and organizations who write such glowing product reviews for every brand consider servicing these products first. Only then they will understand the consequences of their marketing.

Mark Bennett

Mark Bennett has over 10 years of experience at Yale Appliance + Lighting. Mark began working in the delivery and warehouse departments before transitioning to appliance sales.

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A Note About Pricing

Pricing on this blog is for reference only and may include time sensitive rebates. We make every attempt to provide accurate pricing at time of publishing. Please call the stores for most accurate price.

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