How Does A Portable Air Conditioner Work (step by step)

Last Updated on January 11, 2023 by TechChecking

The frequently asked question about a portable AC unit is “How does a portable air conditioner work”? and truthfully, we going to answer this question straightforward, easy, and step by step so that you can understand it perfectly.

We strongly hope, by the end of the explanation of this guide, you must have a clear understanding of how does a portable air conditioner work to cool a room in your home.

So, beating about the bush, let’s now dig deeper that how a portable AC unit works.

First, we will know what a portable air conditioner is and then how it works. That’s why you should know some common FAQs about portable air conditioners.

What Is A Portable Air Conditioner?

A portable air conditioner is such a portable air cooling unit that is simply a self-contained portable system that is ideal and perfect for a single room. They are compact devices. It can be kept in any place you feel convenient. Needless to say, the personal air conditioner fan is super easy to install and quick set up. Anyway, most models have caster wheels for easy transport. Anyone can move it from room to room with a single push and without a great effort.

However, a portable AC unit is relatively lightweight. Takes up a very little area in your room. It is not very bigger and is generally between 28 and 34 inches wide. Important to be noted that most portable AC in the market doesn’t need any special socket as Air Conditioners do. They don’t need it because they use a standard 115 to 120-volt power.

However, there are also 14,000 BTU units. It is suggested that before purchasing your portable AC unit, make sure that your portable AC fits your electrical outlets. Now we will learn how these portable air conditioners work with diagrams.

How Does A Portable Air Conditioner Work (step by step)

A portable air conditioner fan works in some steps. Once we know the steps, the total view will be clear. However, a portable air conditioner works simply by pulling the hot air from the room into the unit and then the motor of the portable AC cools the air throughout the room. And most importantly, this personal air conditioner fan takes the warm air and excess moisture in order to push that through a hose and out the window.

We just need to remember, there are three main components in any portable conditioner:

  • Refrigerant
  • Compressor
  • Fan

Here, the Refrigerant works to cool the air; the Compressor is to compresses the refrigerant; Fan moves the air.

Every bedroom air cooler run based on the refrigeration cycle. Just have a quick sketch of how the refrigeration cycle works:

how does a portable air conditioner work

You see the diagram, right? So, this sketch lets us easily understand how the refrigeration cycle works. However, this is also the most basic sense of how a portable air cooler for a room works.

The Refrigeration Cycle; How it works? Step by step Explanation –

Step 1: the frequent moving fan of the portable air conditioner sucks the hot and humid air within the room.

Step 2: inside the unit, the hot air is cooled down with the help of the condenser coils. This process also helps to extract the moisture (air moisture condenses on the coils) from the humid air. And, this only can occur by condensing the water vapor onto the coils.

Step 3: now the same cool air is vented back into the room.

Step 4: the AC gathers moisture from the air, and either the unit can ship the moistness outside or you need to purge the container manually.

Step 5: the compressor at that point moves the refrigerant to the ‘condenser coils’. This cycle delivers the warmth through the window or sliding door from the exhaust vent.

Step 6: this cycle goes on and on.


  1. Please be noted that when the condenser coils get dirty, naturally the refrigerant cannot absorb enough heat from the indoor environment.
  2. And thus, dirty coils make the compressor work harder than usual to do its job, and this may eventually cause the compressor to overheat and stop working.

Suggestions: in order to get the best and most effective results from the air cooler fan, one must need to clean the condenser coils after a certain period of time so that it doesn’t stop working.

What Are the Types of Portable Air Conditioners?

To cool a room, a portable air conditioner plays an important role. However, there are different kinds of coolers out in the market. A portable cooler can be effective depending on the different capacities and sizes.

There are 2 types of portable air conditioners found in the market –

  1. Single Hose Units
  2. Dual Hose Units

Now let’s learn its in-depth discussion.

Single Hose Versus Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioners

We hope you learned a few moments back how does a portable air conditioner work to cool down a room. And in there, one of the steps was to release the hot air from the components to the outdoors.

Now you must know any portable air conditioner unit will require either one exhaust hose or two to release the hot air.

Single-Hose Portable AC Unit

Single-hose portable air conditioners are the most common in the market. Generally, they are also cheaper than double-hose AC units.

A single-hose portable ac unit will always have a single-hose that is usually installed through a window or even through a wall. It has only one purpose which is to serve as an exhaust vent for the hot air.

In essence, the single-hose portable air conditioner gathers hot air from the room and releases it out outdoors via a single hose.

Apart from this, it may produce a negative pressure inside the room that allows hot air to flood through any outside gaps. However, in small places, these single-hose AC units are more effective.

Double-Hose Portable AC Unit

Double-Hose Portable AC Units, on the other hand, are less common, comparatively difficult to install, and more expensive as well. But it is obvious that they can achieve a higher energy-efficiency rating (EER rating) and replace indoor air with fresh outdoor air.

The way a double-hose works:

  • The first hose brings the fresh air in from the outside
  • And the second hose vents the hot indoor air out (the single-hose portable AC units only have this one)

By having one hose to bring the air inside, you don’t encounter lower pressure the single-hose portable AC units may cause. It implies that the air is better adapted inside the room where the double-hose hose unit is found.

On top of that, you must get additional benefits when you are using a dual-hose portable AC unit.

  • Higher energy efficiency – as the unit doesn’t need to work against low pressure, the EER rating of dual-hose portable AC units can be above 10.
  • Quicker cooling – it is obvious that the dual-hose can make the room cool faster than a single hose

So, it can be concluded that a dual-hose portable air conditioner is way better than a single-hose AC unit. A dual-hose is able to bring fresh air from outside to inside while a single hose can’t. To know more, check here.

Do You Need to Drain Water from a Portable Air Conditioner?

Well, there are some models that they don’t require draining the water where others need to.

You must remember if you read the whole article that one of the most important jobs of a portable air conditioner is to take moisture out of the air so that it becomes less humid. However, portable air conditioners follow many different ways of dealing with condensation and moisture.

There are 3 common ways –

  1. Fully Self-Evaporative Model
  2. Gravity Drain with or Without a Condensate Pump
  3. Collection Bucket (or Tank)

Fully Self-Evaporative Model – this one is the most convenient and easy system. The Self-evaporative portable air conditioners mainly work to evaporate the moisture automatically out of the exhaust hose at the same time as the hot air.

This model is really a lifesaver. You need rarely empty any collected water from an internal bucket. And yes, this Fully Self-Evaporative Model is very popular with the users because it needs very little maintenance.

Now, if you are really thinking of some of the top brands that have a fully self-evaporative system, well then, they could be Avallon, DeLonghi, and Whynter. You can try one of them.

Gravity Drain with or Without a Condensate Pump – This model of portable air conditioner releases water through a drain hose that is connected to the unit. However, this hose comes with the machine when you purchase it.

The gravity pulls the water down and out of the portable AC unit. It also lets the water outside of the unit.

And you know what to do to make this method work, right? Well, just hook up the hose to the unit and then route the other side of the hose to a nearby drain on the floor. That’s it.

Now, what if you don’t have a floor drain, or if you want to move the collected moisture to another location, what will you do? Well, then you can attach a condensate pump to the drain hose.

In this case, how does a condensate pump work? Well, a condensate pump will draw the water into the device. Then the pump allows it to pull upwards in order to dispense the collected moisture into a sink or out a window.

Collection Bucket (or Tank) – the third and last option for draining water from a portable air conditioner is to use a bucket or a tank. Over time the moisture is removed from the air and then it is collected in this tank. You must have to empty it from time to time.

How would you change the bucket? Well, all you need to do is turn the portable air conditioner off, and then remove the collection bucket and empty out the water. After removing the water from the bucket, replace the bucket back on the unit for it to start working again.

Final Words

A personal air conditioner fan is incredibly useful for a single room. Easily portable, removable, and with less space required. You can put it according to your need. Apart from this, if you know how does a portable air conditioner works, you can take care of it as a professional. The procedure of working a portable air conditioner is not very difficult if you study it for a moment. Draining water and emptying it if necessary is also an important part. So, it’s better to learn how a portable AC unit works.

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