The Ultimate Guide to Portable Air Conditioners: Everything You Need to Know

Summer is awesome.

But It’s annoying feeling hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable. The rising temperatures can lead to rising frustrations, especially on hot summer afternoons when you don’t have access to air conditioning.

Portable air conditioners provide a way to keep you cool wherever you are — but you need the right portable AC.

Some — like EcoFlow WAVE 2 — can even keep you warm!

Is a portable air conditioner right for you?

Here’s everything you need to know.

How Do Portable Air Conditioners Work?

Portable air conditioners are similar to standard air conditioners, although they use slightly different methods to keep you cool. 

In this article, we’ll look at the different types of portable air conditioners, how they work, and the benefits of each.

Some portable ACs use a standard window venting kit for expelling exhaust. Many come equipped with water reservoirs that help dehumidify your room. If your model includes one, you’ll need to empty the water storage tank regularly. 

Versatile portable air conditioners include a drainage hose as an option or can evaporate much of the moisture generated by air conditioning and direct exhaust through an air duct, reducing how often the container needs emptying.

Or you can have the best of both worlds.

What Are the Different Types of Portable Air Conditioners? 

When searching for your ideal portable air conditioner, you will encounter single-hose, dual-hose, and self-evaporating systems. 

What does that mean, and what’s right for you?

Let’s narrow down your search by briefly exploring each type, and help you choose the perfect portable air conditioner model for you.

Single-Hose Systems

As suggested by the name, single-hose systems use one hose. A single hose portable draws in stagnant air from within a room cools it with a compressor, and recirculates it with a fan. 

Single-hose units are more affordable and use less electricity than dual-hose designs. But they don’t draw in fresh air and typically aren’t as efficient (or quick) at cooling a room.

Dual-Hose Systems

Dual-hose systems draw fresh air in through one hose, cool (or heat it), and circulate it throughout the space using a fan. Stale air and excess humidity is exhausted using a second hose. 

Dual-hose portable AC units are typically quicker and more efficient than single-house models.

Self-Evaporating Systems

Don’t want the hassle of emptying your portable air conditioner’s water tank?

A self-evaporating system can dissipate most or all of the water retained during the cooling process. As a result, you don’t need to drain it — or if you do, it will be less often. 

Why Should You Consider a Portable AC Unit?

There are many benefits to owning a portable air conditioner. Portability enables you to bring the cool just about anywhere — even on camping trips or RV adventures. 

Additionally, portable ACs can cool a single room where you spend a lot of time without requiring the electricity it would take to cool your entire house with a central HVAC system. 

If you spend most of your day in your office, there’s no need to keep the entire house cold. It’s a waste of electricity (and your money). By choosing to cool (or heat) only the room you’re occupying, you can save a lot of time on electricity bills.

What To Consider When Buying a Portable Air Conditioner

There are several essential factors to consider when searching for the best portable AC for you. 

Find the right balance between price and features by prioritizing the qualities that are most crucial to you.

Cooling Power

A portable AC’s ability to effectively cool your space is a vital consideration. An air conditioner’s cooling (and heating) potential is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units). 

Generally, the higher the BTUs in the specs, the bigger a room your air conditioner will be able to cool (or heat). 

For example, the EcoFlow WAVE 2 Portable Air Conditioner has 5100 BTUs of cooling power and 61000 BTUs of heating.


Is portability a crucial factor for you? Do you want to take your portable air conditioner on your next summertime camping trip? Or are you planning to keep your unit stationary in a garage or tiny home? 

Portability is a significant consideration if you plan on moving your AC around a lot. Take a close look at the weight and dimensions and make sure it fits your needs.

For example, the EcoFlow WAVE 2 Portable Air Conditioner is approximately 32 lbs (14.5 kg). 

You can take the cool just about anywhere.

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency determines how much electricity your portable AC will use. If you plan on running it off-grid, it will also help you decide if you need a portable power station or solar generator. Smart Devices like the EcoFlow WAVE 2 feature smartphone app monitoring and control. You can program it to shut down automatically once your space reaches the specified temperature.

When the room starts to warm up (or cool down), EcoFlow WAVE 2 turns back on (if you want it to).

(Source: Hearing Health Foundation)


Will you use your portable air conditioner in a space where ambient noise is a concern? Whether it’s a quiet office environment or a bedroom where loud noises could disturb your sleep, check the AC’s dBs.

EcoFlow WAVE 2 Portable AC runs at just 44dB in Sleep Mode, quieter than the average room.

Single-Hose vs. Dual-Hose

Is a single-hose or dual-hose system right for you? While single-hose ACs are more affordable, a dual-hose system is more effective at cooling (or heating) your space. 

Heating Capabilities

Speaking of heat, most portable air conditioners just cool. EcoFlow WAVE 2 turns up the heat by providing 6100 BTU of heating power for a mobile HVAC solution that will keep you comfortable year-round.

Charging/Power Options

Will your portable AC unit always be plugged into the wall? Or do you need off-grid functionality? Or do you want to harness clean, renewable energy to keep things cool?

EcoFlow WAVE 2 can do all of the above. Make sure to check out charging options before making your purchase decision.

Running a portable AC on solar allows you to enjoy all the benefits of sustainable power, including the ability to recharge your unit practically everywhere, achieve energy independence, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 


How long do you need to run your portable air conditioner between charges? 

Just need to get through a couple of hours at a time?

 Or do you need a device that will reliably keep you cool (or warm) all night long? 

Expandable options like EcoFlow WAVE 2 Portable AC can run up to 8 hours in Eco Mode right out of the box.

Not long enough?

Add a EcoFlow DELTA 2 Portable Power Station w/220W solar panel or extend run times even longer with a EcoFlow DELTA Pro w/400W solar panel.

Portable Air Conditioner Cleaning & Maintenance

Your product manual is the best place to check your portable AC’s cleaning or maintenance needs. 

Typically, you must empty the water tank, attach a hose to drain it elsewhere, or use an external pump to outlet water to a drain.

Sound like a lot of work? 

Consider purchasing a self-evaporating unit that doesn’t require you to routinely empty a tank.

You’ll also need to keep your filters clean. as directed

If ice builds up on the compressor coils, you may need to unplug the AC to let it defrost.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Portable Air Conditioners Energy-Efficient?

Not really. EcoFlow WAVE 2 is much more energy efficient than other portable air conditioners. But portable ACs are less efficient than traditional central or wall-mounted HVAC systems when it comes to electricity consumption. If you only need a small room cooled, a portable AC is a better option than running central AC in your entire home.

Is it Safe to Sleep With a Portable AC On?

Yes, it’s safe to sleep with a portable AC on. Keeping your bedroom can lead to better sleep, as heat can interfere with the quality of your sleep. According to the Sleep Foundation, people achieve the best rest with an ambient temperature of 65°F (18.3°). EcoFlow WAVE 2 can keep your space at this temperature for 8 hours between charges using sleep mode.

Are Portable AC Units Worth Buying?

Yes. If maintaining a consistent temperature in your space — whether hotter or colder — is essential, a portable AC like the EcoFlow WAVE 2 is a wise investment. Put sleeping in a sweltering — or frosty — tent or RV in the rearview mirror when you purchase an EcoFlow WAVE 2 portable air conditioner. 

Final Thoughts

A portable air conditioner is an awesome investment if you want to stay cool (or warm) around the clock off the grid. 

The EcoFlow WAVE 2 portable AC gives you the best of both worlds with both heating and cooling capacity. 

It even runs on solar!

Check out EcoFlow’s smart devices today.

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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