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While less noise, portability and size are important factors in their favour, less cooling capacity and cost of purchase and operation are the reasons portable air conditioners (ACs) are an alternate rather than the first choice.

"I opted for a portable AC but an 11,000 BTU unit couldn't cool my 300-square feet bedroom on a hot day. They don't cool like window units," said Dubai resident Derek John.

Single and dual hoses
Portable ACs come in two types. The single hose units are more portable but less efficient. Dual-hose portables have two hoses — one brings air in from the outside to cool the condenser coils and the other exhausts the hot air from the room back to the outside. But there is a noticeable difference in cooling — a similar-size window unit will cool more quickly and efficiently.

Portable ACs are priced much higher than a window unit with similar power and use more energy than a similar-sized window unit. But there are some situations where they are the best option.

John Miller, an engineer living in Sharjah, chose to opt for one after he had experimented with a window unit. "I had originally purchased a window unit but it was too loud — our work, music, TV, conversations and sleeping were all affected. The vinyl window frames and placement of windows was awkward and it was difficult to find a permanent solution to this," he said.

The portable unit was more expensive and the cooling capacity not as much. But it is better suited for Miller's apartment. "It is far quieter, and the snap-in window connection was easy to install. Now I am looking for another, larger portable unit for the living room," he said.

Specific usage
A portable AC is perfect for rooms that are not often in use or to cool areas that won't take a window AC. It is also great for places where central air conditioning is not user-controlled. But it is not always possible to manoeuvre a dual-hose model across carpets or upstairs. "It is not portable in the sense of carting it from room to room or across floors in one day but ours works as a wonderful addition to central cooling in some areas," said John.