Skip to content
Home » In-wall AC vs Portable AC

In-wall AC vs Portable AC

If you’re living in an apartment and looking at cooling options, you’re probably trying to decide between an in-wall AC or a portable AC. We’ve put together a quick resource to help you decide which type of air conditioner is best for you.

<h2> Are in-wall AC better than portable AC?

In-wall AC units are better than portable AC for people who want to cool a larger space and who have the budget to afford the upfront costs. In-wall ACs are more powerful and take up less space than portable ACs. But they cost 10x as much to buy and install. 

An in-wall AC unit will almost always be more powerful than a portable AC unit. The power or strength of air conditioning systems is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units). A BTU is a unit of energy and is enough power to change the temperature of a kilo of water by one degree Fahrenheit.

Typical in-wall AC units will have a cooling capacity of 8,000 – 14,000 BTUs, which is enough for a large room to a small one-bedroom apartment. By contrast, most portable ACs only have 5,000 – 8,000 BTUs of cooling capacity. That’s just enough to cool one room.

But those measurements are only for typical units. You can find more powerful portable air conditioners that have 14,000 BTUs of cooling capacity just like you can find in-wall ACs with 24,000 BTUs. Those units will cost you more.

Another advantage of in-wall AC units is that they don’t take up any living space. By contrast, you’ll need to position a portable AC unit in your living space.

To make matters worse, you don’t have a ton of control over where you put your portable AC. You’ll need to connect the unit to a suitable window and to a power source, which often means locating the unit right in the middle of the action.

We’ve listed a bunch of advantages to in-wall AC units so might be thinking the matter is closed. But there are also disadvantages to choosing this kind of air conditioner. In-wall AC units are expensive and you have much less flexibility over how you use them compared to portable ACs.

<h2> Disadvantages of in-wall ACs compared to portable ACs

There are three disadvantages of choosing in-wall ACs compared to portable ACs – the cost and the lack of flexibility. 

In-wall ACs will cost $2000 – $4000 for the unit itself. By contrast, a portable AC will run you $400 – $700. That’s a pretty massive price difference so make sure you need the additional cooling capacity offered by an in-wall AC.

We’ve also not even talked about installation costs yet. You should expect to pay around $600 to have your in-wall AC professionally installed. That’s the price of the entire portable AC.

Installation costs are so high for in-wall AC units because they have to be wired into your apartment’s electrics and a refrigerant line needs to be run through the wall. In-wall ACs connect to an external unit and do so through the wall, so costs add up.

Portable ACs have no installation costs.

Another downside of choosing an in-wall AC over a portable AC is that you’ll need outdoor space for an external unit. Depending on your building, you may be able to install this external unit on the side of your building. Otherwise, you’ll need garden space.

The final major downside of in-wall AC units is that they’re fixed in place. You can’t move them from room to room because they’re literally wired through the wall.

<h2> Who should get an in-wall AC rather than a portable AC?

You should get an in-wall AC unit if you’re more concerned about performance than budget.

The perfect in-wall AC owner is someone who lives in a larger property that will need more cooling capacity. They should place a premium on sheer cooling capacity – they want to be cool no matter the cost. They might live in a very hot climate and need consistent cooling for several months at a time. 

This potential owner should have access to a garden or be able to mount an external unit on the outside wall of the building. 

A portable air conditioner is a better choice for those on a limited budget. If you only need air conditioning occasionally on particularly hot days, portable AC is the perfect solution for you.

You should also consider portable AC if you’re a renter. There’s no need to ask your landlord for permission to knock a hole in the wall with a portable air conditioner.