Portable Air Conditioner vs Window: The Pros & Cons of Both

When it comes to home cooling, it’s impossible to beat a well-made central air conditioner. If that’s not available to you or not something you need, however, there are other options. Two of the most popular alternatives are portable air conditioners and window a/c units. Both have their pros and cons.

Which is better? Well, that depends heavily on your personal preferences, needs, and, of course, your home. Today, we’re going to outline the key differences between these two appliances and explain what each one is best suited for.

Portable Air Conditioner vs Window AC

This isn’t really a battle of the beasts here, but many people have asked which system is best. As stated above, there are a lot of different variables that go into figuring that out. Below we discuss the pros and cons of each A/C type to help you come to a conclusion on which is better for what you need.

Portable Air Conditioner vs Window AC

Portable Air Conditioners

If you’re looking for a simple solution that requires little effort in terms of installation and have the money to spare, portable a/c systems are pretty great to have. Unlike window units these machines can be moved around fairly easily. Most models have casters on the bottom which make rolling the unit from one room to the next a snap.

Another upside is that these types of air conditioning systems are much easier on the eyes than the window-installed versions. They’re designed to be more stylish – sometimes complimenting other standard home appliances so well that visitors don’t even notice the machine is there. Your neighbors won’t have to see a large box poking out the side of your home  either, which is always a plus.

ProsPortable Air Conditioners

  • Come in Stylish Designs
  • Easy to Move Around


  • A Bit More Expensive than Window-Based Machines
  • Still Require the Use of a Window for Exhaust

Of course, there are a few downsides to portable units as well. First off, they aren’t as cheap as window air conditioners. In most cases models with similar BTUs will have a $50 to $100 price differential or more with the portable version being the pricier of the two.

Additionally, you’ll still need to have the portable a/c near a window for the exhaust system to work properly. This typically involves setting up a simple hose utilizing an included window kit, but it’s a con nevertheless.

It’s also worth noting that with a portable machine, just like a window model or a central air system, there is a filter you’ll need to swap out or clean from time to time. Some models include a washable filter which makes it a little easier. Depending on the unit, though, the filter can sometimes not be easily accessible on portable air conditioners.

Window AC Units

If you’re looking to save a lot of money then going the window air conditioner route is probably your best option. These machines might not look as slick as portable units, but they work just as well and generally cost significantly less.

These machines have been tested thoroughly and are proven to work well and cut energy costs with the right environmental conditions. Many of the manufacturers of these units have been around for decades, too, which means in most cases you’ll be getting a quality product that has been determined to be highly effective at both cooling and energy efficiency.

ProsWindow Air Conditioner

  • Very Affordable
  • Tried and True


  • Aren’t Very Attractive
  • Often Require Custom Window Fittings

The biggest drawbacks to using one of these machines are directly related to their appearance and, in some instances, poor craftsmanship when it comes to the installation kits that come with these AC units.

No one has ever looked at a house or apartment with a bulky, metal box protruding from it and said “Hey, that looks beautiful!”. Needless to say, window-based models are not designed to be an attractive addition to your home.

The side of the unit that faces inward into your room doesn’t necessarily have to be ugly. There are a few models that have a more modern appearance including a slightly more stylized grill and a digital display that shows the room temperature and current fan settings.

The other bothersome aspect of getting a window A/C is that the installation kit isn’t always perfect. The windows on homes vary quite a bit in terms of length, width, and depth. This makes it next to impossible for air conditioner manufacturers to develop a perfect installation fixture that accommodates all window types.

For this reason, you’ll often find that you’ll need to be a little creative and do some additional handy-work yourself to get these units to fit properly in your window. This may involve cutting out special slabs of wood to support the bulk of the machine, using weatherstripping tape to seal up air leaks, and so on.

Which is Best?

Determining which type of air conditioning unit is better for you can be very tricky. There are a lot of things that need to be considered such as:

  • Your Budget
  • Your Available Space
  • Your Current Living Setup
  • Your Personal Preferences

The biggest thing is figuring out how much money you actually want to spend on an A/C. As we mentioned earlier, the prices of these machines vary greatly depending on how many BTUs you require and which type of air conditioner you want.

Portable AC in Home

In just about every scenario possible you’ll be paying a good bit more for a portable model than a window unit. A 10,000 BTU portable A/C will run you anywhere from $250 to $400 or more. A window air conditioner with the same BTU rating can be purchased for around $200 to $300.

Second, you need to consider how much space you actually have. If you live in a relatively small apartment or the room you need the A/C in is cramped already – you’re probably not going to be happy having to have another piece of semi-large equipment taking up even more of your living space.

If that’s the scenario for you – you’ll definitely want to choose a window model. These units only take up a tiny amount of space in your actual room. The bulk of the machine is usually outside the window.

Third, you’ll want to think about your current needs. Will this machine be placed in a single room and stay there for a long time? Or do you need something that you can transport to a new room or new area altogether every once in a while?

Window AC Unit in Home

For the former a window air conditioner will work just fine as they are installed in the window and designed to remain there. For the latter, however, you may want to opt for a portable unit that can be easily transported back and forth.

Finally, your personal preferences in terms of style and wants will need to be considered as well. If you don’t want an eyesore attached to your place of residence for all to see, skip the window unit. Alternatively, if you want a machine that will look great in your place and go largely unnoticed by visitors, grab a portable model.

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