Portable Air Conditioner Types
for Outdoors and How They Work

portable air conditioners cool out-buildings

Portable air conditioners work in the same way as refrigerators. They use a refrigerant to provide more cooling potential than most other outdoor cooling solutions.

Some people see the exhaust hoses on portable air conditioners and figure the setup must be complicated. But don't be intimidated by the looks of those hoses. They can look rather alien, but they are really very simple to use, and make perfect sense once you know the basics of air conditioning.



Freon may still be the most commonly known chemical refrigerant, but it is being replaced with much more environmentally-friendly refrigerants. It is such a memorable name that many consumers refer to refrigerants in general as "freon" instead of, say, "R-410A".

Liquid refrigerant goes through an "expansion valve" where it evaporates to become a cold, low-pressure gas. The cold gas runs through a set of coils to absorb heat while a fan blows cold air away from the coils and into to the room to cool the room. The cool gas refrigerant goes through a "compressor" to compress it into a hot, high-pressure gas. The hot gas runs through a set of coils to dissipate its heat and turn it back into a liquid while a fan blows the hot air from these coils away from the room to be cooled.

portable air conditioners cool elegant events

Warm air from the room is continually removed and replaced with cold air from the air conditioner.

If the air conditioner is positioned inside the room, that alien-looking exhaust hose directs the hot air away from the room being cooled. The exhaust hose is directed through a window, an opening between panels of a tent or booth, or an opening in the wall, ceiling, or floor. (If you don't like the look of the unit in your area you can simply place a decorative screen in front of it.)

Sometimes the portable air conditioner is positioned outside the area to be cooled and cooling nozzles lead into the area, keeping the unit out of site.

Not as complicated as it may look at first.


Basic Types of Portable Air Conditioners

Your options for the type of air conditioner you choose are rather simple. Cooled either by air or water. Using either one or two exhaust hoses.

Air Cooled
Most portable air conditioners are air cooled. These are the most common type and are available in the widest range of products and options. They use air vents / hoses to remove the heat from the cooled area. Their set-up is quicker than water-cooled types and they only need electricty to operate. They are larger than water-cooled models, though, and are not as energy-efficient.

Water Cooled
Water cooled air conditioners use water lines to remove the heat from a cooled area. They need a water supply as well as electrical supply, making their set-up more involved. But they are smaller than air cooled types and are more energy efficient. Their initial cost may be higher than air cooled air conditioners, but the savings in energy expenses can offset that over time.


Single Hose
Smaller units use only one vent hose. Warm air from the area to be cooled is drawn directly into the air conditioner. Some of that air is used to operate the unit and the rest is sent through the hose away from the area.

Double Hose
Larger, more powerful units use a double hose system because they handle more air flow than the single hose of smaller units can handle. One hose directs warm air away from the area being cooled, the other hose pulls in extra air to operate the unit. You'll need to have an openings in your area for each of these two hoses.

Double hose portable air conditioners are recommended over single hose units for outdoor cooling. They are much better at expelling the hot air, making them more efficient. Stellar efficiency is hard to get from a portable air conditioner outdoors, but a dual hose unit can help you achieve it better than a single hose unit.



Interested in learning even more?

Visit our other pages on using portable air conditioners outdoors:


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