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Room with air conditioner

Staying Cool with a Portable Air Conditioner

Recently, the U.S. Department of Energy instituted new testing procedures for portable air conditioners. Here's what you need to know when you're buying a new portable AC unit.

Portable Air Conditioners

How to Cool a Room Efficiently

Make sure you buy an air conditioner that is the right size for your room. If your unit is too small, it won't get the room cool enough, while one that is too large will not remove enough humidity, leaving the air feeling damp. To find the right size, determine the square footage of the room you want to cool by multiplying the room length by its width. For instance, if your room is 20 feet long and 17 feet wide, it is 340 square feet.

Determining How Many BTUs You Need

Each air conditioner has a BTU (British Thermal Unit) rating, indicating the amount of heat it can remove from a room. A higher number means more cooling power — so it's appropriate for a larger room. In the example above, your 340 sq. ft. room has a recommended BTU capacity of 8,000. If your portable air conditioner will be in a room that gets a lot of sunlight, in a kitchen, or in a room with high ceilings, you should look for a unit with a slightly higher BTU rating than the standard BTU recommendation for that room. Find the right BTU capacity for your space.

How BTU Ratings Have Changed

Federal regulations require manufacturers to calculate cooling capacity based on a specific test procedure, which was changed in 2017. Models manufactured before 2017 were tested under a different procedure, and cooling capacity is measured differently than in prior years' models. Newer portable air conditioner models will usually display a lower cooling capacity than models produced in 2016 or earlier. It's important to note that the BTUs may be lower, but the actual cooling capacity of each air conditioner model has not changed.