What features should I look for when selecting a spot cooler or portable air conditioner?


What features should I look for when selecting a spot cooler or portable air conditioner?

Construction – Not all portables air conditioners and spot coolers are built the same.   Sheet metal cabinets are better than plastic cabinets.  All residential units are housed in plastic cabinets and some of the inferior quality commercial units have plastic cabinets.  Superior commercial grade units are made of sheet metal and will last about a decade with continuous use. 

Warranties – The major (and most expensive) components of a portable air conditioner unit or spot cooler are the compressor and the fans.  It is important these are covered.  Other components tend to be relatively inexpensive to repair or replace.

Cooling Capacity – 12,000 equals one ton by official weights and standards.  When comparing units, sometimes a sell may claim their unit is, say, one ton capacity.  Make sure to ask what the BTU capacity is for the particular unit you are considering.   A seller may call a 10,000 BTU their “one ton unit” and another may call a 14,000 BTU spot cooler a one ton unit.   That’s a 40% difference in actual cooling capacity in two spot coolers that are both called “one ton”.

Controls – For reliability and simplicity of use, simple mechanical controls are a better option.  Some manufacturers provide a digital thermostat (typically a battery operated residential wall thermostat) mounted to the unit to set the temperature.  While helpful in rare cases, cold air actually falls on the thermostat from the front of the unit and gives an incorrect reading, shutting off the a/c unit when the rest of the room needs cooling.  Some portable units offer wall-mounting the digital thermostat which detects the temperature at the place on the wall where the thermostat is mounted.  In most cases, simpler is better for controlling your portable air conditioner.  A dial-type temperature controller is less complicated, more reliable and does not require new batteries.  If the temperature rises, the dial-type thermostat will call for the unit to engage, activating the air conditioner and will usually last several trouble-free years.

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