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Portable Air Conditioner vs. Window Unit: Pros and Cons

Aircon Comparison

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What's in the article?

Having an air conditioner in your home can provide cooling comfort during those hot summer days, and portable air conditioners or window units are often inexpensive, can efficiently cool small to moderate rooms, and require minimal work to install - perfect for condominium units and apartments that don't allow extensive installation!

In this article, we'll look at the difference between a portable air conditioner versus a window air conditioner to help you decide on the right type of AC unit for your home. Both require a window space to install, but they differ in terms of cooling power, energy efficiency, and budget range.

What is a Window Air Conditioner?

A window AC unit is one of the simplest forms of cooling systems. They are singular, box-type units that fit into most standard windows, and offer a wide range of cooling capacities that can cool small to moderately-sized spaces. They are also relatively inexpensive compared to the more complex mini split and central air conditioning systems.

How Window Air Conditioners Work

Unlike most aircon types, window units condense the indoor and outdoor units in one box-shaped housing. As the indoor section blows cool air into the room, the outdoor exhaust vent expels warm air outside. Window air conditioners pump refrigerant throughout the unit just like any other cooling system, but in a compact, single-system unit.

Pros of a Window Air Conditioner


A window AC unit can cost anywhere between $100 – $800 on average, which is a fraction of the price of complex aircons like mini split systems. With its price range, and capacity to cool moderately-sized rooms, a window air conditioner is suitable for all kinds of spaces.

Energy Efficiency

Modern window AC units are made to be energy efficient, with inverter models that optimize electrical consumption as the unit reaches the set temperature. These models were made to minimize energy consumption without compromising on the cooling efficiency of the unit, so you can run the air conditioner longer without worrying about high energy bills!

Cooling Power

The cooling coils of a window unit can have a capacity between 5,000 BTU to 24,000+ BTU rating, or more, depending on the model. At maximum capacity, window air conditioners can cool rooms of up to 1,500 sq. ft.

Cons of Window Air Conditioners

Space Requirements

The main space requirement of window AC units is window space - and a window space near an electric socket. Most window ACs are built for standard, vertical sliding windows. Homes with horizontal sliding windows, and casement windows may need to make necessary adjustments during installation to fit the AC unit in.


Because window ACs look simple, their maintenance is often overlooked. When this happens, homeowners will need to have the different parts replaced, which may incur high repair costs. Fortunately, most aircon service companies offer cleaning and maintenance services for window air conditioners.

What is a Portable Air Conditioner?

In terms of cooling power, portable air conditioners are among the bottom tier in cooling systems, however, the units are easy to install, inexpensive, and can provide cooling comfort to small spaces without complicated operation. The main highlight of portable units is its size, hence, portable. These units are perfect for studio apartments, small rooms, and office spaces!

How Portable Air Conditioners Work

Like the window unit, portable air conditioners house the indoor and outdoor sections in one unit. However, portable AC units use an exhaust hose to expel hot air from the room, which will need to be routed through an open window.

Pros of a Portable Air Conditioner


A portable unit is relatively affordable, with a price range of around $200 – $800 for a good-quality unit. However, accessibility may be an issue as there are limited brands and models that offer portable air conditioning units.

Energy Consumption

Portable AC units use an average of 1.176 kWh of electricity per hour, which is much less than the 15 and 20 kWh of energy consumed by more complex units. This makes a portable AC unit energy efficient as it cools down small spaces.

Space Requirements

While portable air conditioners make use of floor space, they don't take up much area, and can be installed near a sliding window or door. A portable unit was made to be compact, and they can fit comfortably in any small space.

Cons of Portable Air Conditioners

Cooling Power

A significant disadvantage to the portable AC unit is its cooling power. Compared to window air conditioners, portable units have limited cooling capacities of around 5,000 BTU to 14,000 BTU - around half the maximum capacity of a window AC unit. Multiple units can provide more cooling power to one room, but large rooms may benefit from window units instead.


Portable ACs are low maintenance units, and can be easily cleaned at home by dislodging dust from the washable filters. Repairs might be challenging to source as not all service companies accept repairs for portable units and air coolers.

Portable Air Conditioners vs. Window Air Conditioners: What's the Difference?

Factors Portable Air Conditioner Window Air Conditioner
Budget Budget friendly. 4 out of 5 rating Budget friendly, and worthwhile. 4.5 out of 5 rating
Energy Consumption Low energy consumption - at least 10x less energy-guzzling than central ACs and mini split systems. 4.5 out of 5 rating Modern units are energy efficient, and inverter models optimize energy consumption. 4.5 out of rating
Space Requirements Minimal floor space requirement. 4 out of 5 rating Minimal space requirement, but needs window space with an electrical outlet. 3.5 out of 5 rating
Cooling Power Low cooling power. 2 out of 5 rating Wide range in cooling capacity; can cool up to 1,500 sq. ft. of room space. 4.5 out of 5 rating
Maintenance Low maintenance, but difficult to find service companies to repair the unit. 3.5 out of 5 rating Unmaintained units will need costly repairs, but most service companies can work on the unit. 3.5 out of 5 rating

The Verdict

So, what's the difference between a portable air conditioner vs a window unit? The difference lies mainly in their cooling power, and space requirements. Portable air conditioners require very little space, and are versatile to fit in most small spaces. However, in terms of cooling capacity, window air conditioners come out on top.

Window air conditioners would give you the best bang for your buck if your space and budget allows for it. They are inexpensive, and provide adequate cooling power at optimized energy consumption. They also come in various brands and models, and are durable with the right maintenance.

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Staff Writer

This article is written by our passionate staff writers who seek to share our knowledge from our business

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