How Does a Portable Air Conditioner Work? A Quick Guide

The list of reasons you might want to buy a portable air conditioner is endless. You live in an apartment without central air. You’re travelling in an RV with weak AC. You’re camping in an area that’s hot even at night and want at least a little respite from the heat.

Portable air conditioners are miraculous little devices. Something the size of a mini fridge can cool down an entire tent/RV/room/apartment? Learning how portable ACs work and the different features available will help you choose the perfect one for you.

Whether the space you’re trying to cool is small, big, has many windows, very few, you live in a smoggy area or a clean one, there is a portable AC out there that is perfect for you. 

How Do Portable Air Conditioners Work?

Portable ACs work in much the same way as any other AC, whether a fully installed central AC system in a large building or a small window unit installed to cool a single apartment. 

A portable AC has the same inner workings as those machines, only lodged in an upright, mobile body. Most of these units are on wheels and come with a detachable hose so you can easily transport them. 

Most portable ACs have a dehumidifier feature built in for humid areas. If this is the case, the unit will feature a drip tray accessible from the bottom or a spigot that can be undone and drained when the “water full” light goes on. They also have a control panel and sometimes a remote controller.

Portable ACs can either be a single hose or double hose. The hose is how the unit expels hot air from the room. There are advantages and disadvantages to both models.

These kinds of ACs work by pulling in a room’s hot air. It expels some of the hot air via the release valve and hose. 

The rest goes through the unit’s conditioning mechanism until it cools to the user’s desired temperature and blows the cold air back into the room. Hot air is pulled in by the fan, ice-cold coils within the unit cool down the air and extract water in the process, and the cooled air gets discharged back into the room. Refrigerant is what absorbs the heat from the air by literally compressing the heat out of it. 

When it comes to removing heat and replacing it with cool air, it’s as easy as that. 

The EcoFlow Wave

The EcoFlow Wave Portable Air Conditioner takes the traditional air conditioner and makes it more powerful and efficient. The result is a long-lasting AC unit that keeps you cool all day and all night. 

The WAVE is a single hose unit that can run continuously for 3-12 hours, depending on which EcoFlow battery you use.

With the addition of EcoFlow solar panels, you can use solar energy for air conditioning that is less environmentally damaging than a traditional AC. Or you can charge the AC battery from a standard wall outlet.

Most portable ACs require mounting, drilling, sawing, hammer and nailing, and other gruelling physical labour. In contrast, the EcoFlow Wave is a dream to set up. This compact, powerful AC can cool down a medium-sized room within minutes. 

Take it in an RV, or a camper, bring it into a tent and direct the exhaust outside—you can “install” the EcoFlow Wave wherever cold air is needed.

The Wave has a 4,000 BTU cooling capacity, which means it can cool down an 86ft² (8m²) space within 8 minutes. That’s right — the Wave can cool an average-sized bedroom in under ten minutes! 

That’s serious cooling power. 

And if you can’t wait for the whole room to cool down, or if you need a direct blast of cold air, you can attach the hose to the front and aim it at yourself.

The EcoFlow Wave is unique because it can run on a charge without being plugged in. Most portable ACs require continuous charge from a wall outlet to run. You can imagine what an impact that has on your electricity bill. 

The Wave can be plugged into a wall outlet and reach full charge in two hours. It can be plugged into a car outlet and reach full charge within five hours. 

It can also run off the EcoFlow DELTA Max or DELTA Pro Solar Generators and store enough power to run for 6-12 hours! 

Swap in EcoFlow’s sustainable solar charging panels, and you have an entirely green way to cool down. Considering that air conditioning contributes to global warming and blackouts are becoming increasingly common, solar-powered air conditioners are the future. 

The EcoFlow WAVE is one solution that will allow us to enjoy cool environments sustainably.

Portable Air Conditioner Features

Most ACs come with the same set of features. These features let users adjust the temperature to create their ideal conditions:

  • Timer: You can set the AC to turn off within set hours if you’re going to sleep or leave the house. 
  • Auto Shut-Off: Once the AC reaches the desired temperature, the unit will shut off automatically. You can run the AC continuously without worrying about blowing out the fuse.
  • Dehumidifier: This is a must if you live in a humid area.
  • Oscillation: Not all portable air conditioners can oscillate, but those that do can spread the cool air more quickly and evenly by distributing it around the room.
  • Auto Temperature Sensing: Cools the room to a set temperature and automatically maintains it.
  • Fan: This option is if you want airflow but don’t want to alter the temperature.
  • Smart Control: With the EcoFlow WAVE, you can pair it with the EcoFlow app and customize your air conditioning controls from your phone. Whether you want to set run times or maximum cooling bursts, you can do it all, even when you’re not home!

Maintaining Your Portable Air Conditioner

Like all appliances, your portable air conditioner needs cleaning and maintenance. Routine maintenance will prolong its lifespan.

The main thing you have to be concerned with is the water deposited inside as a result of condensing hot air into cool air. Be sure to clean the drip tray thoroughly and drain it every time you bring the AC out for the season or put it away. 

If you use your portable AC year-round, you’ll know when to empty the drip tray based on a sensor that lights up when the tray is full.

You also need to be mindful of the air filters, which clean the air pulled in by the unit. Clean these at least every two weeks to remove dust, hair, and other particles. If you live in a smoggy area or somewhere natural disasters like wildfires are common, you may want to clean them more often.

Keeping It Cool

Summer is hot, but you don’t have to be. Whether you’re motoring around in a camper, lounging in a tent in a national park, or chilling at home watching movies, keep it cool with a portable air conditioner. They’re easy to set up, easy to put back away when colder seasons roll around, and a breeze to clean. There’s no downside! And when you invest in the EcoFlow WAVE portable air conditioner, you can enjoy the cool air and lower energy bills. Keep it cool the smart way.

EcoFlow is a portable power and renewable energy solutions company. Since its founding in 2017, EcoFlow has provided peace-of-mind power to customers in over 85 markets through its DELTA and RIVER product lines of portable power stations and eco-friendly accessories.


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