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Consumer Reports: Portable Air Conditioners No Better Than Fans

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – If you're considering buying an air conditioner, but you don't want a lot of fuss with a window installation, you might be tempted to go with one of those portable floor units.

But beware, Consumer Reports tested a bunch of them and found they're not much better than your average fan.

With temperatures rising outside, a seemingly easy fix is a portable air conditioner. They're designed to draw in warm air, cool it, then exhaust it outside through a hose that connects to your window.

Consumer Reports tested eight of them, brands like Honeywell, Haier and Frigidaire. Prices range from $250 to more than $500.

Consumer Reports used a special chamber to test their cooling power. The temperature outside was kept at 90 degrees and the humidity at 70 percent. Inside, each air conditioner was set to 75 degrees.

Strings of thermocouples recorded temperatures throughout the room. The results were disappointing.

"None of these units, not even the biggest ones, could get our test chamber below 80 degrees, even after an hour and 40 minutes," Bob Markovich, Consumer Reports, said.

That was true even of the most expensive unit tested – a $550 Honeywell, which promises to cool up to 550 feet. It struggled to cool the test chamber, which was half that size.

"Window air conditioners are much more effective, and they tend to cost less," Markovich said.

Consumer Reports found at least one window unit to recommend for each sized room. For larger rooms and medium sized rooms, two LG brand air conditioners won, costing $350 and $240 respectively. For smaller rooms, Consumer Reports' best buy is a $210 GE.

The reason these portable air conditioners don't work is because while they use conditioned air from inside the house to cool the condenser and force the hot air out through that vent, it creates negative pressure, which actually draws more hot air into the room you're trying to cool.

Also, because the entire unit is inside the house, they're often much louder as well.

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