Can A Portable AC Cool A Whole House?

Can A Portable AC Cool A Whole House?
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Can A Portable AC Cool A Whole House?

A portable AC can be an excellent choice for cooling a room on a budget or making your home more livable if your central AC is broken. However, something we get asked by some customers is if they can use a portable air conditioner to cool their whole home.

Realistically, the answer is no.

However, there are ways to optimize a portable AC to cool more space. In this post, we’ll explain why a portable AC won’t be able to cool an entire house and how to get more out of your portable AC.

Portable Air Conditioners Have Limited Capacity

The crux of why a portable AC can’t cool an entire house is that it has limited capacity. Some models might be just as energy-efficient as a central AC, but they won’t have as much capacity or cooling power.

The common range of capacities for portable ACs is between 8,000 and 14,000 British Thermal Units (BTUs). As a starting point, 20 BTUs could cool a square foot of indoor space. This then gets further changed by the number and size of windows or doors in a room, the ability for airflow in and out of the room, the climate in which you live, the number of people that use that room, and several other factors.

Of course, this isn’t the only reason a portable AC can’t cool an entire home. We also have to consider the difference in how airflow works with a portable AC and a central or ducted AC.

The Nature of Airflow

Airflow works kind of like water pressure. There needs to be an unobstructed path from where it starts to where it’s supposed to end. Running it through a narrow passage will cause air to blow more forcefully. You can achieve both fairly easily with a central AC that blows cold air through a series of ducts.

However, a portable AC cannot achieve either of these goals for an entire home. A portable air conditioner is not designed to be ducted. That means that the air it blows cannot maintain force, and it won’t be able to provide any cooling consistently to any rooms other than the one it is set up in.

Any additional room you want your portable AC to cool will require an open path for air to flow into. A rule of thumb to keep in mind is that you need to see the AC from whatever room you want it to cool.

How Many Portable Air Conditioners Do You Need?

If you wanted to cool your entire house with air conditioners, you would need one for every room to have the same effect as a central AC. This method of home cooling isn’t cost-efficient and can become much more expensive than getting a central air conditioner.

What Do You Need to Cool a Whole House?

The most effective way to cool an entire house would be to use an air conditioner or heat pump as part of a ducted HVAC system. However, each home is different; some may require more than a central AC for truly effective cooling.

If you just have one addition that isn’t ducted or a room that gets exceptionally hot, then those rooms are the perfect use-case scenario for a portable AC. That way, the portable AC complements the central AC, and they can make each other’s jobs easier while keeping your home cool.

Homes with many rooms or very large rooms may need some help to cover that extra square footage. Homes with two or more floors also run into the problem of heat rising. For these homes, an HVAC system with zoning would be exceptionally beneficial to keep the temperature low. Another option is a mini-split system to use with the central system. That way, the upper floors or extra rooms will receive the right amount of cool air.

What Can a Portable Air Conditioner Do?

Portable air conditioners are great for complementing central ACs or for cooling single rooms.

If you only have one room upstairs that needs to be cooled or have a room with an addition to your home that doesn’t receive air from your AC, then a portable AC can help cool those rooms.

If you’re living on a budget or your central AC is on the fritz, you can also use a portable AC to cool the room with the most foot traffic. Electronic usage, movement, and even just human bodies all produce heat. By cooling the area where everyone is most active, you can prevent that heat from raising the temperature in the rest of the house.

Combine a portable AC with some fans to break up heat pockets and encourage air circulation throughout your home. That will help balance out the temperature. While it won’t cool your home as much as a central AC, it will help keep your home livable.

Who Is Advantage Heating and Air Conditioning?

We are your local HVAC experts out of Salem, Oregon. We hope this blog has helped to provide you with a better understanding of how a portable AC works. For questions about any other HVAC systems, check out our other blogs. To learn more about who we are and how we can help you, visit our website and follow us on social media—we’re here when you need us!