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Portable Air Conditioner Energy and Electricity Facts
What kind of plug do I need for my portable AC unit?
Most portable AC units can be plugged into a 115-volt / 15 amp household circuit. Avoid circuits that are also being used by other major appliances. Larger units which draw more amps may need their own dedicated
20 amp circuit. Large models may require a special plug. Check for this
requirement if you’re buying a unit larger than 14,000 BTU.
What's a BTU and why is it important?
A BTU is a British thermal unit and it's important because it's the unit of energy used to describe the power of heating and cooling systems. You use BTUs to compare the power of different portable AC units.
For the purpose of buying an portable AC unit, you need to understand the BTU (power) of the unit and the size of the room you want to cool.
You should note that BTUs for portable AC units don’t compare exactly to those of window units. Portable units are less effective than window units. So, you need about 20% more BTUs to cool a room with a portable AC unit, than you do with a window unit. In other words, it takes a 12,000 BTU portable air conditioner to equal the amount of cooling power that a 10,000 BTU window unit generates.
What is the EER rating and why is it important?
EER stands for energy efficiency ratio. This is how you know the unit if the unit you’re buying is an energy-saver or an energy guzzler. The EER rates the cooling capacity of a unit. It is the ratio of the number of BTUs the unit produces to the power input in watts. The EER formula is simple: Just divide BTUs by watts. For example, a unit producing 10,000 BTUs that uses 1,000 watts has an EER of 10 (10,000 / 1,000). Another unit that produces 10,000 BTUs that uses 850 watts has an EER of 11.76 (10,000 / 850).
National appliance standards require room air conditioners built after January 1, 1990, to have an minimum energy efficiency ratio (EER) of 8.0. The higher the EER rating of an air conditioner, the more energy efficient it is.
In our evaluation of every single portable air conditioner model, we found an EER range from 5.3 to 15.1 with an average EER of 10.1. We're not sure how some models have an EER of less than 8.0 except that their manufacturer's specifications for power consumption may be incorrect.
If you only know the EER, you can also calculate how many watts a unit uses by flipping the formula as follows: BTU's divided by EER = watts. For example, a unit producing 12,000 BTU's with an EER of 12.6 uses 953 watts. (12,000 / 12.6 = 953).
Does the EER rating really help me save money?
Yes. If you have an old AC unit that has an EER of 5, and you replace it with an unit that has an EER of 10, you can cut your energy cost in half.
What's the Energy Star® rating and why is it important?
AC units that are labeled with an Energy Star® are even more energy-efficient than those with an EER of 8.0. To receive an Energy Star®, a unit must use at least 10% less energy than those rated at 8.0. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends you buy a unit with an EER of 10 or above.
About how much does it cost to operate a portable air conditioner?
The average power consumption of portable AC units is about 1100 watts. At a national residential average of 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, that comes out to an energy use of 1.1 kW/h, or about 11 cents per hour, assuming it is running for the entire hour.
What else should I consider when determining the size of the unit I need besides the BTUs?
Consider other factors that may make the room you’re trying to cool unusually warm. For instance, if you have a major appliance, computers, a skylight, direct sunlight, or poor insulation, you may want to buy a unit that is one or two sizes bigger. Or, if you’re on the second or third floor, in a mobile home or are trying to cool a garage, you may also want a bigger unit.