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How long will a portable air conditioner last?

We all want to take good care of our appliances, especially when they keep us cool during the summer. Here’s our complete guide to making your portable air conditioner last as long as possible. 

How long will a portable air conditioner last?

A portable air conditioner will last 5 – 10 years. The typical lifespan of a portable air conditioner is 10 years, lower than other types of air conditioning systems.

Most air conditioning systems will last 15 – 20 years. Alternatives like split AC or in-wall AC systems are more durable than portable air conditioners because they are not moved as frequently and so the risk of damage is lower.

The following five factors influence how long your portable air conditioner will last:

  • How often you move it: The more you move your portable air conditioner, the more opportunities there are for it to pick up bumps and scratches. This damage can accumulate over time, reducing your unit’s performance and increasing the risk of a total breakdown. 
  • Make and model: Different portable air conditioners are just built differently. Some will last longer than others. Look for manufacturers that offer longer warranties on their products as this is generally a good indication of faith in their manufacturing processes and the quality of their products.
  • Proper care and maintenance: Keeping up with proper care and maintenance on your portable air conditioner is essential to keeping the unit going year after year. Make sure you identify any problems early and empty the condensate tray regularly. 
  • Frequency of use: The more you use your portable air conditioner, the more wear and tear its parts will pick up. How long you use a portable air conditioner each time actually has no real bearing on  

<h3> Air conditioner lifespan by type

Here’s a comparison of how long different types of air conditioners last. You’ll notice that portable air conditioners really underperform here:

  • Window AC – 10 years
  • Portable AC – 5 – 10 years
  • Ductless mini-split AC – 20 years
  • Central air-source heat pumps – 15 years
  • Whole-home AC unit – 15 years

While this may deter you from portable AC units, it’s important to understand this information in context. Portable air conditioners cost a tenth of what other AC systems cost to buy and install. 

So even if you get half the life span with a portable AC unit, you’ll still end up paying 1/5th the cost for a portable AC system compared to the alternatives.

Common issues with portable air conditioners

Any appliance is going to have regular problems that you need to keep an eye out for as a responsible apartment owner. Here are some of the most common portable air conditioner problems:

  • Airflow restriction: Portable air conditioners need to get rid of hot air via the exhaust tube. Kinking or blockage can reduce airflow and cripple your portable AC’s performance.
  • Power issues: You need to ensure that your power supply matches the voltage and other specifications of your unit. Insufficient power can result in inefficient performance and even safety hazards.
  • Condensate tank leakage: Portable air conditioners store condensations in a condensate tank located at the base of the portable air conditioner. If the tank overflows, then moisture will build in the rest of the system and can encourage mold to grow.
  • Dirty filters and coils: As core components get dusty, portable air conditioners will drop in energy efficiency and performance. 

Airflow restriction

Portable air conditioners need a steady stream of air out of the unit in order to get rid of excess heat effectively. A kink or blockage in the exhaust tube will cause pressure to build up in the air conditioner, an increase in temperature, and most units will shut down in response.

It should be easy to identify an airflow restriction problem. Any unusual bending in the exhaust tube or loud fan noises indicate that you may have a blockage. 

Power issues

You can run into problems with your portable air conditioner if your power source doesn’t match the portable air conditioner’s specifications. Portable air conditioners have voltage requirements in order to function properly.

If you plug your portable air conditioner in and it appears to be running slowly, then you may have plugged it into a power source with not enough voltage. 

Condensate tank leakage

Portable air conditioners have water tanks that collect condensation. The cold components of an air conditioning unit will cause water condensation as they cool down your home. The resulting water droplets fall into the condensate tank, which will fill over time.

One common and easy-to-fix portable air conditioner issue is an overflowing condensate trap. Overflowing condensate tanks will leak moisture into the base of the portable AC and can cause mold to develop. A lot of units will automatically shut off if they sense a tank leak.

You can fix this problem by simply emptying the condensate tank every few days. How often you need to do this will depend on local humidity. 

Dirty filters and coils

Portable air conditioners have core components that will accumulate dust and grime over time. Filters and condenser/evaporator coils can lose efficiency as they get dirtier. 

Fix this problem by regularly wiping down the filters and coils in your portable air conditioner. Most units have a maintenance panel that can be easily removed to access these components. Be sure to turn the unit off before you try cleaning these components, as they can be very hot. 

How to extend the life of your portable air conditioner

We all want our appliances to perform well and last longer. Here are some steps you can take to extend the life of your portable air conditioner:

  • Limit relocations: Every time you move your portable air conditioner from one location to another, you increase the risk of damage. Random bumps and scrapes can damage components and these problems can eventually contribute to the complete failure of your portable air conditioner.
  • Clean your unit: Dust will build up in your portable AC’s filters and coils over time. Excessive dirt can limit the efficiency of these components and will mean it burns more electricity to produce the same amount of cooling. 
  • Empty the condensate tank: Water from condensation will fill your portable air conditioner’s condensate tank over time. Empty it regularly to avoid the build-up of damaging moisture and mold in your portable AC unit.
  • Limit use: The more you use your portable air conditioner, the more you will wear down the unit’s parts. What matters here is the number of times you turn it off and on and not necessarily how many hours a day you use the AC unit for. Most system damage occurs during the start-up process, so limit the total number of uses to extend your portable air conditioner’s life.