There's something that seems extravagant about using an air conditioner outside. After all, how many of us can remember being kids running out to play while our parents called out to shut the door because they didn't want to have to pay to air condition the whole outdoors?
Somehow we knew NO ONE could afford to do that. Do WE want to pay to cool the whole outdoors? Or even a part of it?
Actually there are some situations where it makes perfect sense to use one outdoors.
If you read through our pages on using a portable air conditioner outside, you'll learn that certain settings make an ideal setup for just that.
It's the only outdoor cooling solution that will safely cool you and your electronic equipment. No other method will chill the air as well and keep humidity low, making conditions ideal for man and machine in even the muggiest of environments.
If you need to make guests or customers as comfortable as possible and impress them at the same time, a portable air conditioner can handle that reliably.
Plus dry air feels cooler than humid air, inhibits mold growth and eases allergy symptoms. Even a gardener's shed and a child's playhouse can get unbearable in hot weather, but a portable ac can make that shed comfortable and that playhouse fun again.
And it's the most recommended solution to prevent heat stroke and other heat related illnesses. So it's not always just a matter of comfort. Sometimes it's a matter of health.
As for cost, let's explore that next.
Owning a portable air conditioner would be better than renting if you're cooling a small area, if you can handle installation on your own or if you'll only need a one-time professional installation of any sized unit.
Rental companies generally don't rent units smaller than 1-ton. But the smallest portable air conditioners are much more cost effective to purchase than to rent. A one-hose unit with 7,000 to 12,000 BTUs of cooling capacity can be purchased for under $300 USD. Units around this size are relatively easy to transport and set up yourself. Pricing is based largely on cooling capacity, but more durability, more features and better warranties will naturally increase the price as well.
If you have a large area to cool, especially if installation is complicated, and only need it cooled for a limited time, you might consider renting. Rental companies can design, install and remove equipment for events lasting from one hour to one year, or longer. Some of them are on call 24-hours a day in case you have any problems with your rental. Some rental companies have trained specialists to help design a custom cooling solution tailored to your special needs.
If you're interested in renting, prices start around $200 USD for a 1-ton unit for a weekend. Allow another $200 to cover delivery, basic set-up and pick-up for this sized unit. Sizes for rentals range all the way up to 400-tons, or you can rent custom-engineered solutions for the most complicated circumstances. Many units can be rented indefinitely.
The cost to operate your unit may be a deciding factor in your choice of a portable air conditioner. You can get this estimate by figuring the unit's electricity use.
Electricity use is determined by the amount of watts ("wattage") your portable air conditioner uses. When you buy electricity you are charged by the kilowatt-hour (kWh). Using 1,000 watts for 1 hour equals one kilowatt-hour.
You can use this formula to estimate any electrical appliance's energy use:
Wattage × Hours Used Per Day ÷ 1000 ≡ Daily Kilowatt-hour (kWh) consumption
Here's an example:
One portable air conditioner I saw uses 1,400 watts of electricity. If I wanted to use it for four hours a day I would be using 5,600 watts (1,400 × 4 ≡ 5,600), which is the same as 5.6 Kilowatt-hours (5,600 watts divided by 1,000 ≡ 5.6 kilowatts). I then need to learn how much my local electric company charges me for each Kilowatt-hour. My electricity costs $.10 USD per kilowatt-hour. So this portable air conditioner will cost me $.56 USD in electricity each 4-hour day I use it, or 14¢ per hour.
To recap, you would need to use the wattage for the unit you are considering, estimate how many hours a day you will use it and multiply those numbers together. Divide by 1,000 to get kilowatt-hours, then multiply the number you get by how much your electric company charges per kilowatt-hour.
Typical maintenace on a portable air conditioner is usually little more than changing filters occasionally and draining the tank or pan if it's not done automatically by the unit. Check the cord, plug, and hoses regularly for signs of wear. Ice may build up on the coils from time to time. If so, simply leave the unit off until it is completely defrosted.
If there will be long periods of time when you won't be using it (such as through the winter), you may need to drain it of any fluids. Put a cover over it or bring it inside to store it through the cool season. If the unit is UL rated for WET locations, it is fine to leave it out for the year, but covering it may prolong its life.
Your owner's manual will give you complete instructions on how to care for your particular unit.
As for rentals, no maintenance is required for the short-term rentals, and maintenance contracts are available for long term rentals.
Generally, the longer the warranty the better quality the portable air conditioner. A typical warranty might cover different areas of the unit differently. For example the whole thing may be covered for a certain length of time against defects in materials and / or workmanship. But then the compressor motor may be covered for a different length of time.
These warranties require that you install, maintain and operate your air conditioner according to its manual / instructions. Be careful to take care of the unit according to the manual in case you need to make use of its warranty.
A portable air conditioner's warranty won't cover damages from "abuse", "improper" installation, maintenance or operation. Some companies exclude "defects due to acts of God or natural disaster". Many companies won't honor the warranty if you try to fix it yourself, or if someone other than "authorized trained personnel" attempt to fix it.
Damages or losses are usually limited to the purchase price of the defective components and may not cover the cost of labor or shipping.
If a defect develops, contact your portable air conditioner's manufacturer. They can advise you if repair or replacement is covered. They will likely want you to take it in to a repair facility or send in the parts you think are defective. On one hand, if you take apart the unit to separate the part in question you may void the warranty on another part of the unit. On the other hand, shipping a unit that weighs over a hundred pounds can be expensive and troublesome, especially if you are not sure the repair will be covered by the warranty.
Warranties and repairs may require taking the unit in to a service center. This is easier and more cost-effective to do with the smaller units. If your unit is permanently installed, you'll need to have a technician repair it on site.
Consider buying your portable air conditioner from a supplier that has approved repair facilities near you. It can be much easier to take the unit in than to ship it, or they may have technicians they can send out to examine and / or repair your unit on site. You may need repairs after the warranty is expired anyway, and it would be good to know there is someone reliable nearby to fix it.
You will likely need to show or send a receipt to make a warranty claim. Don't rely on your supplier for a record of the sale -- keep your receipt in a safe place.
Don't hesitate to contact the supplier and get all of your questions answered before you make the purchase or sign the rental agreement. The more informed your decision, the happier you'll be with it.