Did you know that portable air conditioners were initially used to dry ink?

Now think that we have become the ink, well not literally. The days are hot and we need something that can cool us down instantly. It should be on a budget and should be easy to carry. 

You can just keep the portable air conditioner in one corner of the room which would look very aesthetic and minimal. It won’t eat up much of space and just forget about it. 

Let the portable air conditioner do its work now. Feel your room getting cozier. Be it your bedroom or your garage, portable air conditioners can do magic for the comfort.

In this article, today we will be finding out if portable air conditioners consume a lot of electricity or not and if it is really that budget friendly if it consumes. 

We will also explore how to calculate energy consumption and have a detailed comparison between different cooling units for you to decide better. 

So without further ado, let’s get straight into it. 

Know About Energy Consumption In A Glance

There is more to just plugging in the portable air conditioner and then it consumes energy, there is a step-by-step process on when and how much it consumes energy. We have made a list of steps for you to understand better.

  1. It all starts when you plug in the portable air to the electric outlet. It usually needs a 120-volt power supply for the ones we use at home or the ones used in commercial places. At this point, the portable air conditioner sucks in the electricity from the electric unit to juice up its internals to function.
  1. After plugging in, you turn on the portable air conditioner. This is when the air circulation takes place. The fan inside draws warm air from the room into the appliance through the front air intake grille. This warm air has heat and humidity that need to be removed to cool the room.
  1. The cooling process of the portable air conditioner uses a refrigeration cycle just like a central air conditioner. Inside, there is a refrigerant, a chemical compound that helps the transfer of heat. 
  1. The warm air which is being sucked in is then evaporated into a gas state. 
  1. Then the gaseous refrigerant enters the compressor, which is the main energy-consuming component of the portable air conditioner.

What Consumes Energy In A Portable AC: Know The Parts

  1. Compressor

A lot of things inside the portable air conditioner consume energy as discussed a few earlier in the article. So, the primary energy-consuming unit is the compressor which pressurizes the refrigerant and raises its temperature. As the warm air from the room passes over the evaporator coil, the refrigerant absorbs heat and evaporates into a gas, so this process consumes plenty of energy. 

  1. Fans

Let’s not forget about the fan inside that draws the warm air and gives in cold air back to the room. This one costumes electricity. The exhaust system that expels hot air and moisture to the outside also utilizes energy. 

  1. Condenser Coil

The pressurized hot refrigerant gas flows through the condenser coil. It is at the back or side of the portable air conditioner. This coil consumes a good amount of both energy and electricity. 

  1. Air Exhaust

The cold and dehumidified air from the refrigeration process is blown back into the room through the front discharge grille. This air consumes a lot of energy.

  1. The Add-Ons

The thermostat, control panel, and digital display, also consume power. It’s inevitable because without these you cannot function your portable air conditioner. 

Calculate Energy Consumption In Easy Steps

  1. Find the Portable Air Conditioner’s Power Rating

Find out the power rating of the portable air conditioner, it will be written in watts (W) or kilowatts (kW). You can find these power ratings in the user manual. These power ratings represent the amount of electrical power the air conditioner uses when running at its maximum capacity.

  1. How Much You Are Using It 

Keep track of how long you are using your portable air conditioner in a whole day. Then calculate your average daily operating time. 

  1. Convert Watts to Kilowatts

If the power rating is given in watts, divide the value by 1000 to convert it to kilowatts since 1 kilowatt (kW) is equal to 1000 watts.

  1. Calculate Daily Energy Consumption

Multiply the power rating (in kilowatts) by the daily operating time (in hours) to get the daily energy consumption in kilowatt-hours (kWh).

  1. Calculate Total Energy Consumption

Now, if you want to find the total energy consumption for the whole month then, multiply the daily energy consumption (kWh) by the number of days in that month (28, 29, 30, or 31)

Still Confused? We Have Something For You!

We understand that these calculations might be a little bit confusing but those were just the formulas, here is an example to make your life easy: 

If a portable AC has a power rating of 1.2 kW and is used for 6 hours daily. The daily energy consumption would be 7.2 kWh (1.2 kW x 6 hours)

Over a 30-day month, the total energy consumption for the portable AC would be 216 kWh (7.2 kWh x 30 days).

Power Rating in HoursFor 6 HoursFor 30 days 
1.2 kW(1.2 kW x 6)(1.2 kW x 6 x 30)

Hope this makes you understand how to do the calculations. It’s not rocket science, is it? Just put in a little bit of effort and voila!

General Misconceptions of Portable Air Conditioner Power Consumption 

  • Portable ACs are not as energy-efficient as a window or central air conditioner.
  • Some people believe portable ACs can cool an entire home, but they are designed for cooling a part of the room.
  • There is a misconception that portable ACs do not require any ventilation. In reality, they need proper venting to remove hot air outside to function properly.
  • Some people expect portable ACs to function without generating any noise, but these things produce sound because of the fan and compressor inside. 
  • It is a common misconception that all portable ACs have the same cooling capacity. Each comes in various BTU ratings, and selecting the appropriate size for your room is very important.
  • Some users also believe that portable ACs can replace dehumidifiers entirely, but while they do remove some moisture, they are primarily designed for cooling only.
  • ACs are a cost-effective solution for large spaces. No! A central or split system is the way to go. 

Comparing Portable AC Consumption With Different Options

Cooling OptionAverage Power ConsumptionSuitability
Portable AC800W-1500WA particular area
Window AC500W-1500WA single room
Central Split AC3000W-6000WEntire house
Evaporative Cooler75W-400WSmaller places
Ceiling Fan15W-75WSupplemental cooling for rooms

If you are thinking of purchasing a cooling unit then you might want to think of some steps before you make the final decision.

  • If your room size is small then a portable air conditioner or a window air conditioner would work.
  • If it’s a remarkably dry area, then the evaporative cooler is the way to go because it also consumes very less energy. 
  • Buy the right unit according to your climate, evaporative coolers work best in dry regions, where humidity levels are low, as they rely on the evaporation of water to cool the air whereas portable, window and central air conditioners work the best in any climate. 
  • Ceiling fans are a good option for saving electricity but it is not as effective as air conditioners. You would still feel hot, and might even drenched in sweat. 

Tips For Saving Energy in the Portable AC

  • Pick a cooling unit with the right cooling capacity according to your room size because if you purchase an oversized unit then it will not cool the place and will consume plenty of energy. 
  • Make sure you close all the windows because if warm air enters then you won’t be cooled down because all the cold air will escape. 
  • Keep the portable AC near the window or vent to let hot air go out reducing the workload on the unit.
  • Use the ceiling with the portable AC to help circulate cool air throughout the room, then you can run the portable AC in low power consumption mode. 
  • Only use the portable ac when you are in the room, you can use the timer feature of the unit to schedule your air cooling times. 
  • Take advantage of the sleep mode feature, which gradually adjusts the cooling settings as you sleep, saving energy during the night.
  • Keep curtains or blinds closed during the hottest part of the day to block sunlight, it will reduce the need for using the ac more. 
  • The lesser you set the temperature the more power it consumes, so make sure you are setting the temperature at a higher comfortable temperature. 
  • When the portable AC is not needed, unplug it to prevent standby power consumption.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Portable Air Conditioners Energy-efficient?

Portable air conditioners vary in energy efficiency based on their size and features. While they might not be as efficient as central air conditioning systems, modern portable ACs often come with energy-saving modes, programmable timers, and adjustable fan speeds to optimize efficiency. 

So, select the right size for your room.

Can A Portable AC Cool An Entire House?

Portable air conditioners are made for spot cooling, which makes them ideal for single rooms or smaller spaces. They are not typically suited to cool an entire house, as their cooling capacity is limited compared to larger central AC systems. 

For whole-house cooling, consider a central AC or a split system with multiple indoor units.

Do Portable ACs Require Venting?

Yes, portable air conditioners require proper venting to function efficiently. They release hot air and moisture generated during the cooling process through an exhaust hose or vent. Venting can be done through a window, sliding door, or wall opening to make sure the heat is properly exited. 

Can I Use a Portable AC without venting?

It is not recommended to use a portable AC without proper venting. Without venting, the hot air and humidity released by the AC will remain in the room, which will fail the whole purpose of the portable air conditioning and will even overheat. 

How Loud are Portable Air Conditioners?

Portable air conditioners make noise when it’s on because of the compressor and fan. Noise levels vary between models, but many portable ACs come with noise reduction features to minimize sound levels. If you want something quiet then check the decibel (dB) rating in the product specifications.

Can I use a portable AC in a humid environment?

Portable air conditioners can handle some level of humidity, but their dehumidification capacity is limited compared to dedicated dehumidifiers. If you live in an exceptionally humid area, consider using a separate dehumidifier to maintain indoor comfort or just buy a window ac. 


And to conclude our article today, the energy consumption of portable air conditioners depends on various factors, which include their size, cooling capacity, usage patterns, and energy-saving features. While they may not be as energy-efficient as some other cooling options like central air conditioning systems, they have other conveniences such as flexibility and mobility.

To optimize energy usage with a portable AC, it’s very important to choose the right size for your space, maintain proper ventilation for the heat to go out, and use programmable timers and eco-friendly modes. Using a ceiling fan can also help you a lot in cooling the room so that you can use the portable AC in low power mode. 

When used wisely and with consideration for energy-saving practices, portable air conditioners can give you the best cooling while consuming very little energy. And lastly, keeping a balance between comfort and energy efficiency will not only save on your utility bills but you can also live in a more sustainable and eco-conscious environment.

Terry Ts

By Terry Ts

Focusing China's mobile phone and electric vehicle market, senior automotive media reporter.