Now that we’re in the middle of the intense Philippine summer season, more people are buying a new air conditioner to cool down their homes. While having one split type unit in a room can satisfy most people’s needs, allure of “portability” that a portable air conditioner offers. In theory, you can wheel in the portable aircon in any room that needs cooling vs. a split type aircon that stays in its place permanently. Well, in theory at least.
In our previous article, we’ve explained our rationale on whether the portable aircon is effective or not, and this time, we’ll compare its characteristics vs. a split type air conditioner. Portable types are noisier and less efficient compared to their split type counterparts. Also, they are not really as portable as they are described to be.
In this article, we will flesh out our rationale on the portable aircon vs. split type aircon debate to help you decide which model is better for your home.
The difference between portable aircon vs. split type air conditioner
Air conditioners work by taking the heat off the air, transferring this heat outside, and then blowing the same air (now devoid of heat) in to the room. It does this by continuously evaporating and condensing a refrigerant gas. For this, it employs the evaporator, blower fan, condenser, and the compressor.
The first two parts (evaporator and blower fan) are responsible for making the cold air and distributing it to your room. Hence, these parts are located inside your room.
Meanwhile, the other half (condenser and compressor) are responsible for pumping and cooling the refrigerant gas used in the cooling process. These parts generally produce heat and noise hence they are usually located outdoors. Here in lies the difference between a split type and a portable aircon
A split type AC has its indoor and outdoor parts separate, only being connected by a copper tube. A portable aircon both of these parts indoors, only connected to the outside world via an exhaust pipe. The implications of this difference in design are as follows:
Between the two, the split type has a more complex installation procedure. It is not recommended to install it on your own. In fact, most air conditioner brands in the Philippines offer a free installation promotion for the first few meters of installation. Also, your warranty will be voided anyway if you’ll have your split type aircon installed by someone other than a HVAC installer certified by the brand.
Meanwhile, you can install a portable air conditioner by yourself. To install the outdoor exhaust, you’ll have to place the exhaust port provided by the factory on your window frame. Most models also do not require you to drill holes through your window frame. Instead, the exhaust port comes with a strong adhesive to make it stick to the window frame.
However, you’ll need to have the correct kind of window frame for you to install a portable air conditioner. The compatible ones are the vertical-sliding and the horizontal-sliding types, while awning windows and casement windows are incompatible for a portable aircon.
Winner: Portable Aircon. It’s easy to install provided that you have the correct window frame for it.
Portable air conditioners are generally more affordable compared to a split type aircon.
I will lay out a crude study I did based on the SRPs of Abenson’s current listings (as of April 2021) of 1.0 HP split type and portable type models. Here are my findings:
The average suggested retail price of 1.0HP split type air conditioners is ₱37,402.38 compared to the ₱20,148.00 average price for the same capacity of window type aircon. That is a difference of ₱17,254.48 for the same capacity.
Winner: Portable aircon. it is significantly more affordable compared to its split type counterpart.
Since the compressor (the part that does most of the actual work) of the split type air conditioner is set up outside of your room, it is a lot more quiet compared to a portable AC.
The compressor of a portable aircon is located inside your room, and thus you will hear its droning and humming while it operates.
How loud is it really? Consider this: a portable aircon’s noise levels are at 40-60 decibels. For a split type, the noise levels average at around 32 decibels.
Winner: Split Type AC. Its configuration allows it to operate more quietly than a portable type aircon.
Split type air conditioners are typically more energy efficient compared to portable type ACs.
Portable air conditioners have the parts that are supposed to be outdoors inside your room. These parts (compressor and condenser) produce a lot of heat during operation. The heat from the compressor and condenser will be a heat source that the portable air conditioner’s thermostat will have to deal with; this will result in your compressor having to cycle longer, and thus you will consume more electricity.
To better illustrate this, we will compare one portable aircon model vs. one split type non-inverter aircon and a split type inverter model as well. All three came from Carrier and are of the 1.0HP category. Here is the tale of the tape:
As you can see, the portable air conditioner has a higher wattage than its split type counterpart – this has a big effect on a model’s EER figur. The EER (energy efficiency ratio) tells you how efficiently an aircon uses its power to cool the air. A high EER number means that that particular model is more energy efficient, and therefore has a lower operating cost. And with an EER of 7.3 compared to the split types’ 11.0+ EER, it shows just how much inefficient a portable AC is compared to a split type.
To compute the operating cost, we used this formula:
(Power Consumption/1000) x Hours of use x Power Rate = Daily Electricity Cost
We are also going to assume that the power rate is at ₱9.744/kWh, and that you will use the air conditioners for 8 hours per day. Here’s the full computation:
That is a difference of 37% for the same capacity! You will be paying a lot more if you choose a portable air conditioner over a split type model.
Winner: Split Type Aircon. They are more energy efficient compared to a portable aircon.
In the Philippine market, the only available capacities for portable air conditioners are for 1.0HP and 1.5HP. If you have a larger room that needs cooling, you have to look into either a window type or a split type air conditioner.
There are also no inverter models of portable air conditioners yet in the Philippine market. Meanwhile, there are abundant choices for inverter models on either a window or a split type.
One more thing: it seems that there are no other price point choices for a portable air conditioner. There doesn’t seem to be a premium model at the moment, so if you are looking for an air conditioner the does more than just cooling your room, you should look somewhere else.
Winner: Split Type Aircon. There is just a lot more models to choose from compared to a portable aircon.
Other issues with portable air conditioners
Here are other issues that you might encounter with a portable aircon that are encounter in split type air conditioners:
The water droplets formed in the condenser will still need to have a place to go to. For window air conditioners, the water drips outside; for portable air conditioners, the water collects in a tank that you will have to drain manually from time to time.
Okay, here is the thing: portable air conditioner are not truly portable. In a way, yes. You can’t just wheel it into any kind of room. They need a vertical or horizontal opening window for its exhaust tube to be installed on. If your room does not have this kind of window, you can’t use your portable aircon in there.
Then what if you do have a similar window in your other room? Can you relocate your portable AC then? Not quite.
Remember the exhaust port? It’s already stuck on your window frame because of the strong adhesive. If somehow you remove the port, then good luck trying to stick it again to the new location or trying to put it back in its original place.
While it’s not the best all around air conditioner for everyone, there are some situations when purchasing a portable air conditioner will make a lot of sense. Here are a few of them:
- You are a renter or are constantly moving houses
- Weird HOA rules in your town
- You have the right windows in your house
If you don’t meet any of the criteria above, you are better off with a window type or a split type air conditioner.
Choose a portable model only if you are (1) renting, and (2) if your building has rule against installing air conditioners
Miguel Mores worked for 5 years as a member of the product management team for a home appliance company in the Philippines. He started 101appliance to answer the most common customer questions that he has encountered during his time in the industry. He now works in the digital marketing field and manages a small online bookstore on the side.