Portable air conditioners review 2008

They’re still ugly and noisy, but they’re getting better at keeping you cool.
 
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  • Updated:11 Jul 2008
 

04.What to look for

Installation

  • Window kit This usually consists of a 10 cm-wide piece of plastic (the Tecoair’s is aluminium) with a sliding extension inside and an elongated hole for the air conditioner’s exhaust hose. The piece is about 1 m long (the table gives the exact maximum length) to fit horizontally or vertically into a window opening.
  • Duct cap This allows more permanent installation through a wall. The Kelvinator, Tecoair and both Delonghi units have one.

Drainage

  • Drain hose This can lead to the outside via the venting kit or into a container to catch the extracted water. Only two models tested have no drain hose: the Tecoair doesn’t need one because it uses the condensed water in the cooling process and the Delonghi Pinguino PAC C100 only has a bottom drain to empty the tank.
  • Water tank A removable water tank (as on the Kelvinator and Delonghi Pinguino Eco) makes drainage easier. None of the air conditioners in the test had an indication of the size of the water tank.

Operation

All the air conditioners tested have:

  • A remote control — particularly well- or poorly-designed ones are mentioned in the profiles.
  • Operating modes — cool (none has reverse cycle heating), dehumidify (dry) or fan only (the Tecoair has four fan speeds, the others have three). The Tecoair, both Convair units and the Delonghi Pinguino Eco also have an automatic mode.
  • On/off timers — the Delonghi Pinguino Eco also has a sleep timer (with automatic temperature adjustment) and the Tecoair has a sleep mode, but no information is provided about this.
  • Louvres to direct the airflow. On the Delonghi Pinguino they’re fixed; on all other models tested they’re adjustable for vertical and/or horizontal airflow.
  • Oscillating louvres enable the cool air to be directed more widely, rather than just one direction.

Before you buy

For efficient cooling, a portable air conditioner needs to be vented outside, so make sure:

  • You have the space for the unit near a window (or sliding door).
  • There’s a power point close by — an extension cord means more clutter.
  • The venting kit is long enough. None of the models we tested was long enough for a sliding door opening, and if it can’t cover the entire opening, hot outside air will consistently enter the room and reduce the cooling effect.
  • You can live with the look. The ads rarely show you the unit fully installed, with the big, white exhaust hose leading into the window kit.
  • You understand their concept of ‘portability’. While you can install these units without modification to the building, you wouldn’t want to lug one from room to room the way you do with a fan — they’re heavy, not always easy to manoeuvre and require installation via a window kit.
 

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