Choosing Window and Portable Air Conditioners for Your Vacaville Home

blog-icon-hvacEven if you’ve never used them yourself, you’ve probably seen them in movies and TV shows — miniature AC units stuffed into the window of an apartment or workshed. Usually depicted as unreliable and breaking down, often a source of consternation, these methods of air conditioning get a bad rap. But they’re not just for low-rent apartments or Grandpa’s garage; these units can be a very appropriate method for cooling spaces you don’t use very often, that are set up apart from your central AC, or that you’ll only need to cool for a brief period of time.

What are Window and Portable Units?

Air conditioning can be a pretty tough thing to set up: ducts, vents, expensive bills. All of that complicated work is done for a reason: the most effective (and cost-effective) way to cool a home is to use a central air-conditioning unit and send the air through the home via sealed ducts.

But sometimes you don’t need all that, and window and portable air conditioners take much of the complication out of the process. These are standalone units that vent out a window and cool off a space without being connected the larger HVAC system. They’re a less-effective way to cool a space than central AC, but they’re also much easier to install.

Portable AC units are a lot like a fan you might plug in to cool a room. The difference is, instead of just blowing air, a portable unit cools the air. Unlike window units, you can pick up portable units and move them around very easily, which has a whole host of benefits.

Which Spaces Work Best?

Any space not cooled by central air conditioning is a good choice for a portable AC unit. For smaller homes without an AC system, manufactured homes, mobile homes, or apartments in older buildings, these systems work very well. If you see yourself being there for a while or spending a lot of time there, a window unit makes sense. Keep in mind that you need to do some math here it’s cheaper to cool with central AC than it is to use a window unit, so you may want to consider setting up the space to run off the central air-conditioning if you’ll be spending that much time there. It’s simply a cost-benefit analysis, one we’d be happy to talk you through.

A portable unit would be good for temporary use — for example, we know a contractor who keeps one in his truck and uses it on non-air-conditioned jobs during the summer. You’ll find that portable AC units can be a great investment if you spend a lot of time without AC and tend to move. They can make on-the-job comfort a reality for tradesfolk and anyone else working in a non-cooled enclosed space. If you’re looking at a temporary AC outage (say, due to new equipment being installed), having a portable AC unit in your bedroom can make a huge difference at night.

Because of the low cost and ease of set-up, these units can be great for renters. Lots of old buildings are cool (and cheap) to live in, but we’ve put in a few window units in Midtown apartments because of the lack of central-AC. It’s important to check your lease and talk to the landlord, but there’s generally little risk of damaging property or losing a security deposit if you go with a window or portable AC unit. Usually, we recommend a window unit — they cool better and are set up for long-term use.

How NOT to Use Window and Portable AC Units

There are, of course, things you shouldn’t do. It’s not a great idea to use these units to supplement your AC if there’s a room in your house that doesn’t get the same cooling as the rest of the house, it may be tempting to use a portable/window unit. But that’s a bad idea! If the room should be getting AC but isn’t, it’s a sign of zoning issues or other problems that should be fixed the right way, not with a portable unit.

Similarly, you’ll find that non-enclosed spaces are bad candidates for these units. You wouldn’t leave the door open while you cool the house, and you similarly won’t benefit from using a portable unit outdoors. Your mileage may vary — tents, for example, may work well with a portable unit.

Installing Portable and Window Air Conditioners

Portable units are pretty easy, although you may want to consult an expert before you first try them out. They should just be a “plug-and-play” setup. Window units should be installed by an expert; you’ll find there are a few benefits by doing so, including noise control and cooling efficiency. While you can do these installs yourself, there are factors to consider that might not be ones you’ll know about  in a recent post, we talked about how a window AC unit could be the cause of your breaker tripping. Get a pro to help out — we at Bell Brothers are well-versed in portable and window AC units, whether you want an installation or just advice. Call us today to learn more about air conditioning options for your home.