Window vs Portable AC: The Ultimate Comparison Battle

Window vs Portable AC

The choice problem between Window and Portable Air conditioners is something 90 percent of buyers face while on a hunt for a new AC.

Generally, anyone looking for an AC is only looking for a device to turn the temperature down and provide some well-needed relief during unbearable summers.

However, once you’re on the market, you come across so many models, types, and features that you never knew you needed- it’s hard to make a decision. 

The conflict is no different when it comes to facing the distinction between Window and Portable ACs- which is more powerful? what would suit your home/office/vehicle better?

What is easier to set up these are all questions you should be asking while exploring your options.

To help you answer them, this article is an accumulation of facts and figures around window and portable ACs to help you understand them and help you (hopefully) take one home. 

How does a Window Air Conditioner work?

A window Air Conditioner is designed to be installed in a window or a window-like space (some homeowners tend to build a house with an opening for a window).

They facilitate the consumption and expulsion of air through the window to keep the room cool. Most Window ACs are designed for single-hung or double-hung windows.

However, with modern home interiors changing and evolving, there are also units modeled to fit into casement and sliding windows. Half of the window AC unit sits outside of the window, supported by window brackets.

The back of the window AC is said to resemble a radiator. Window ACs come in varying sizes and cooling capacities. The higher you go up the BTU scale, the bigger your AC. 

The functioning of the Window AC is quite simple. In the most basic terms, the principle of a window AC’s working is: hot air goes in, and cool air comes out. However, really, there are two processes involved to achieve the state of a lower temperature: Dehumidifying, and cooling. 

First, all the hot air in the room is absorbed by the Window Air conditioner. An air filter in the way cleanses the air and catches any dust or debris before cooling begins. Once the air has been purified, it travels to the ‘evaporator’. 

The evaporator is a very cold component that is used to separate moisture from the air, thereby getting rid of the heat. The moisture then, as droplets, falls from the coils in the pan, which, then sends the moisture droplets out of the window through a drain pipe. 

Meanwhile, the air above the evaporator is considerably cooler now that the heat has been sucked out. It, then, is blown back into the room at a much lower temperature, thereby cooling the living space. The cool air is sent into the room at different speeds and modes and temperatures as controlled by the user. 

A window AC is generally built to cool the single room in which it is placed. However, with an open floor plan and a high cooling capacity, it may be able to extend its cooling to the rest of your home. 

How does a Portable Air Conditioner Work?

A portable Air Conditioner is also based on the same principle of exhausting hot air and blowing cold air to cool the room- except that unlike a Window AC, a portable air conditioner can be moved from room to room, and often doesn’t require a whole window space. 

A lot of people nowadays believe that a portable Air Conditioner is better than a Window AC- but this also has to do with changing lifestyles and living habits.

People constantly move around, or often don’t have the time or energy to see through a Window AC installation till the end, or they can’t afford the costs of a window AC. It is in such scenarios that a portable AC really shines as an alternative. 

Because they don’t need to be fixed in a single place, portable ACs often come in varying shapes and sizes, and colors. Most of them come with wheels and attached handle grips so that they can be transported easily from place to place. 

Instead of a radiator-like vent on the backside, a portable AC uses an exhaust hose to get rid of hot air. This exhaust hose only takes up a small corner of the window, and can usually be set up with a window kit. 

As aforementioned, the workings of a portable AC are not entirely different. It’s only the exhaustion process that changes from a window AC to a portable model.

The warm air in the room is first absorbed into the unit, after which it passes through an air filter that purifies the air. Succeeding this, the hot air meets the evaporator, where the heat is separated from the air.

Some units have a drain pipe that gathers and dispenses the hot air, while some units use evaporating technology where there’s no need for you to physically drain it out.

At a single glance, the portable Air Conditioners seem simple and uncomplicated in their design and structure. Similarly, they are also simple and basic in their usage- which might be more of a drawback than you realize.

Since these ACs aren’t built like Window ACs, they’re incapable of high cooling efficiencies as they can’t collect and expel large amounts of warm air. Moreover, the exhaust hose system can cause problems in terms of pressure inside the unit. 

Single Hose and Double Hose Portable ACs

Portable Air Conditioners are of two kinds- Single and Double Hose. A single-hose air conditioner is pretty much the model I’ve described above- one exhaust hose to expel all the hot air accumulating inside the unit.

The Double Hose, however, uses two hoses in the hopes of maximizing efficiency and eliminating the problem of negative pressure. 

The air from the room enters the AC and is cooled over the evaporator, the condensed, hot moisture increases the temperature of the condenser and coils (which can lead to overheating).

In order to rectify this problem, a second hose connects to the back of the AC, that sends in outside air to cool down the compressor and the coils. Finally, the exhaust hose sends the heated air back outside, while the cooled air is blown back into the room.

The Difference Between Window and Portable Air Conditioners

Thus, both the Window and Portable AC models have their own advantages and disadvantages. They meet different needs and utilize different cooling mechanisms for the same end result: to blow cool air.

While understanding the workings of these models, you must have already identified certain differences between them, but it’s important to review these differences so that you understand exactly what type of AC would meet your expectations better. 

  • Firstly, where the Window ACs are fixed to a window and immobile, Portable ACs can be moved around on wheels. The latter requires only a small portion of the window for the exhaust pipe. This also means that a window AC, once fixed can only be of service to that single room. Meanwhile, a portable AC can be wheeled into different rooms, although its cooling capacity may be enough to only cool the single room within which it is placed. 
  • Due to their fixed nature, the window AC obstructs the view and the pleasure you might get from your windows. 
  • Secondly, a window AC requires a longer installation process. For a portable AC, all you need to do is insert a hose into the window with the window kit, and plug it in to start. 
  • A window AC usually has a higher cooling efficiency than a portable AC as it can draw in higher amounts of hot air. A portable AC has a lower cooling efficiency in comparison because it can only absorb and expel little hot air. 
  • A portable air conditioner comes in two different types- a single hose and a double hose, but window Air conditioners follow a single standard design.

How to choose between Window and Portable Air Conditioner?

To make your final decision between these two AC models, a guiding factor would be to cast a look around and see what seems more appropriate for your environment. 


One of the main things to consider should be your climate zone. If you live in an arid or semi-arid area, a portable AC would do well. However, these models are not built for extreme, harsh climates, and might be useless in super hot summers. In that case, a window AC is more suitable. 

Cooling Capacity

Consider what is the level of cooling capacity you require from your AC. Generally, portable ACs have low cooling power compared to Window ACs, even though double hose systems rectify this problem to an extent.

If you live in reasonable weather without too much humidity, and in a relatively small space, going for a portable AC seems like the sensible option. 


Window AC units generally have a higher purchasing cost, but lesser future costs because almost all of them come with high EER ratings. But if you’re looking for something cheap and affordable and a quick fix to your summer sweat- I’d suggest a portable AC.


In the end, it really comes down to your needs. A window AC is also a smart option in terms of longevity, but if that’s not something your living conditions (traveling jobs, lower-income, etc) facilitate at the moment, it might just do more harm than good. There might be a bunch of differences between them, but both of these units aim to do the same thing: to give you comfort and happiness through their cooling touch.

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