Portable air conditioners - your expertise needed!

With the weather warming up, we’re planning to create a quick how-to guide for installing portable air conditioners.

So, if you’ve ever owned or used a portable air conditioner, we’d love to know:

  • Your tips for installation - how handy do you need to be to install one yourself? And what kind of tools do you need?

  • Hints for deciding where to position a portable air conditioner

  • Anything else you think we should know

Thanks in advance for your help!


The most important thing about portable air conditioners is that they do not work, unless you are sitting in front of them!
Whilst they can cool a small area, the rest of the house is likely to be heated up by the hot air drawn in (assuming you are running it on a hot day)
The hose that sends the hot air that is removing heat from the condenser to somewhere outside the house must be getting the air from somewhere, and since houses are not perfectly sealed it must be drawing in hot air from outside.
So yes a small area near the front of the unit can be cooled, but it is at the expense of generally warming the house up.
I figured out the above a few years ago when we were given one, but quickly decided it was a complete waste of time and energy. My advice is don’t waste your money on them!


Husband bought one for his son renting a house. It was very heavy, the “outdoor” unit couldn’t be removed making the contraption very awkward to shift, even with the ledge to clip it to. The two wheels broke early on after dragging it over uneven floors. The tube between indoor & outdoor wasn’t long enough. A window or door had to be partially open for the tube. He set it up in the bedroom with the hose through the door into the next room with a window open, in the vain hope that the hot air would cross the room and go through it and no cold/hot air would go through the door gap into the bedroom. Also had to move it to go in / out of the bedroom. The “outdoor” unit expelled water, but didn’t have a hose - rigged up some tubing into a dish, which overflowed on humid nights. Finally got a squat wide tub and sat the Unit on a low stand to better drain it, the hose then had to be stepped over.

Minimal assembly. Unless you were to fix the unit outside. Awkward to position as the hose is short. It was noisy and expensive to run. They didn’t clean the filters, the unit got pushed against the wall restricting the inlet. It got passed around the family, but no one liked it. We used it for a while, but installed a split system - lower power, quieter, does a larger area. Gathering dust now.


We recently looked at purchasing one of these units as an option for hot summer nights for our bedroom.

We only know one person who has a portable air con, an ex Brisbane neighbour. Apparently she is quite happy with it for cooling after work and at night. The main issue with the town house she lived in is stored heat from the long summer days. Perhaps there is a benefit with the unit which is installed on the east side also forcing an air change sucking cooler night air into the room. So it might be OK for some where the summer night time temperatures drop quickly to below 25C, but for the humid tropical north they may not be so useful.

We are now looking at a split system, or improving the ventilation of our bedroom. One of the sales staff at The Good Guys volunteered that the portable units are noisy and expensive to run compared to a split system in the same room.

First things first. Energy efficiency.Oz building stock, pre 2005?, is awful , zero stars mostly. Get an energy efficiency audit.In victoria govt scheme.https://www.victorianenergysaver.vic.gov.au/save-energy-and-money/get-a-home-energy-assessment . Portables are for short term and near field as pointed out by others. 2 tubes better if available. Get a primed wood panel from bunnings and cut vent hole to suit. Wrap vent in bubble wrap. Can make a second vent around inlet with a cardboard box cutout. Got sick of it and have a high end one where you add water not dribbles out a drain. Time again would get a wall unit and build a mounting in a window. Splits best but add installation.

I bought one two years ago based on the Choice then recommended brand - can’t remember which one it was. I bought the largest unit. On a hot day it cooled the room by just 2o and was very noisy. Only good at cooling your feet. Installation was fine but it had to be near a window to exhaust the heat. My biggest issue is that you don’t know just how a unit will perform in a given space. After this it convinced my husband to install a reverse cycle AC in the room which works of course.