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Are Portable Air Conditioners Energy-Efficient?

Portable air conditioners cool down air that is already in the room. This process consumes energy in four main tasks: fan air into the unit, cool it down, fan the air back into the room, and expel warm air.

Portable air conditioners are energy-efficient when it serves the right size of space as specified by its BTU (British Thermal Unit), and it works in a room that is not too warm. Portable air conditioners cool warm air, unlike window air conditioner units that fan air into the system from outside, reducing the cooling process’s energy.

This article looks at the differences in portable air conditioners, the reasons for higher energy bills when using portable ones, and how to make them units efficient.

Do Portable Air Conditioners Use More Electricity?

Let’s see the main reasons for higher energy consumption in portable ACs.

Portable Air Conditioners Cool Warm Air

A window air conditioner draws in air from outside entirely. On the contrary, both the one-hose and the two-hose portable air conditioners take in warmer air, which requires more energy to cool. Nonetheless, energy consumption varies further when considering the differences in the two ranges.

A two-hose portable air conditioner has two air inlets and one exit. It draws in warm air from the room, cools it, and releases it back into the room as cool air. It expels the unwanted warm air through the second hose.

This hose also draws in air from outside to cool off its compressors while a single-hose uses the same warm air from the room to cool off. Additionally, a two-hose unit does not depend on one air source like a single-hose that only draws air from the room, making a two-hose air conditioner more energy-efficient. 

Are Portable Air Conditioners Energy-Efficient?

On the same note, a dual-hose portable unit does not consume more energy arising from negative pressure. In contrast, a single-hose unit may lead to negative pressure because it takes in air and fans the unwanted air out of the room without replacing it.

Consequently, it may draw warmer air from the other rooms or take in elements and particles in unfiltered air flowing into a room through open windows or cracks in the walls. Thus, the efficiency of the single-hose portable air conditioner is prone to both mechanical and design inefficiencies.

The Weather Conditions Control Energy Consumption

On a hot day, if the curtains are drawn, and direct sunlight seeps into the room, the air is warmer. Hence, a portable AC will need more energy to cool off your space when it’s hotter outside.

The Size of the Room With an Air Conditioner Determines the Energy Consumption

The BTU level will help you know the most appropriate unit for your space. If the unit has more BTUs, it cools off a larger room. The Idea cooling capacity for a residential air conditioner is between 6,000 and 20,000 BTU (1.76 to 5.8 kW). You can upgrade your AC to a cooling capacity of between 12,000 and 50,000 BTUs (3.5 to 14.65 kW) for commercial spaces. 

For instance, an AC with BTUs ranging from 7,000 to 10,000 can cool off smaller spaces like a small nursery or a bedroom. For example, this voice-activated Rollibot Rollicool model covers 275 sq. ft., which is about the space in an RV or a cabin.

An AC with between 11,000 and 14,000 BTUs can cool a larger bedroom of about 700 sq. ft. This 14,000BTU Airo Comfort model cools an area of about 450 to 600 sq. ft. I recommend this AC for its three-in-one function. It has a fan, a cooling function, and it also has a dehumidifier. If you live in a humid region, a dehumidifier is important because it takes out water vapor in the air to prevent mold from growing in your house. [Upgrade] Airo Comfort Portable Air Conditioner 14,000 BTU – 8,000 SACC Quiet Air Conditioning Machine Cools for 450 to 600 Square Feet Room LED Display Auto and Dehumidifier Mode with Remote Control

Did a Portable Air Conditioner Raise My Electric Bill?

When evaluating your electricity bill, take into account all the appliances in your home. This simple formula will help you understand the consumption of your portable air conditioner.

You might be making an assumption, yet your AC is not responsible for your home’s high energy consumption. For example, a 2015 survey by the Energy Information Administration found that air conditioning accounted for only 12% of energy consumption in residential quarters in the US.

Notably, some households spent more on air conditioning than others because of their climatic region.About 94% of households in the southeastern states, such as Texas and Florida, had air conditioning units, while only half of the households in states like Washington and Oregon depended on ACs.

Thus, your expenditure on energy may change during various weather conditions. In that survey, households in the hot and humid states consumed more energy through central ACs than individual ACs. 60% of all households that year were depending on central AC units.

Commercial buildings had a similar consumption pattern, according to a survey in 2012. It found that more commercial buildings in the United States consumed energy for space heating while lighting, refrigeration, and ventilation had an equal percentage of just 10% each.

How to Reduce Energy Consumption in Your Home

The EIA projects an increase in energy consumption by ACs between 2020 and 2050. It suggests this spike will result from reasons like the migration of more people to the warmer states and climatic change. Population growth will also lead to larger floor space and more single-family households.

For that reason, the way out of large energy bills is by improving the efficiency of your air conditioner:

  1. Ensure the duct and the unit have no leakage.
  2. Turn off unnecessary lights to reduce heat production in the room.
  3. During summer, when the sun sneaks into the room, install a fan, or draw the curtains to stop direct rays from seeping into the room.
  4. Monitor energy consumption in your home. This is one of the approaches that UNICEF undertook in its Beijing Office. Most of the energy consumption in this office resulted from standby mode on various electrical appliances, such as printers and monitors. Energy monitoring tracks consumption over a while to determine the loopholes.
  5. If you have a central AC unit, and you suspect the portable AC is responsible for the hike in your household energy consumption, use this tool to see the average amount you are spending on your central unit per kWh per day.

There have been significant changes in the industry, such as the recent standards set by the Department of Energy (DOE). According to this policy, portable ACs will have lower operating costs and bring benefits to the environment, reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrous oxides, among others.


Overall, the basic functions of a portable AC consume energy because of the processes involved and the features available to run these processes.

An AC with two inlets, such as in a dual-hose design, reduces the inefficiencies of negative pressure and cools off the system to function properly. On the contrary, a single-hose portable air conditioner circulates the same warm air it has cooled repeatedly, thereby using power without any benefits to you.

However, you can reduce energy consumption in your home by choosing an air conditioner unit with a BTU appropriate for your room space. You can also use lace curtains to allow easier air circulation in the room.


  • Jake Alexander

    Jake is a freelance writer from Pennsylvania who enjoys writing about science and sports. When he's not writing for Temperature Master, he can be found watching the NFL or playing basketball with his friends.

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