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2018 Portable Air Conditioner Buying Guide
(What Reviews on 100 Models Told Us)

In the hot summer months, we often need extra cooling, and a portable air conditioner is a great way to get this. At ProductReview.com.au, we see a spike in consumers researching portable air conditioners during the first hot days of the summer. With reviews on over 100 models, we've gained a lot of knowledge on how consumers buy and use portable air conditioners.

A portable air conditioner in a living room

Our goal with this buying guide is to help you "know better, choose better" as you shop for a portable air conditioner. Using the knowledge from our reviews, we'll help you understand what questions to ask, what features to look for and help you get the best portable air conditioner.

Contents

  1. Why would you buy a portable air conditioner?
  2. Which portable air conditioner is best for me?
  3. What features should I look for in a portable air conditioner?
  4. What are the best portable air conditioners in Australia?
  5. How to shop for a portable air conditioner?
  6. What are the best places to buy a portable air conditioner in Australia?

Why would you buy a portable air conditioner?

Portable air conditioners appeal to a variety of people and needs. Below are the typical reasons someone would invest in a portable air conditioner:

Cooling specific rooms. For use in places that might not have aircon or might be unusually hot due to direct sunlight or trapped heat.

For those scorching days. When someone needs extra cooling to handle the heat and augment their existing air conditioning.

Special use cases. Some people use a portable air conditioner when they have guests, are entertaining, or when they are working from home during the day. Some families will use a portable air conditioner during the weekend when they are home the entire day.

Which portable air conditioner is best for me?

Everyone's needs are different. It is important to ask yourself the right questions to determine which portable air conditioner is going to be best for you. Some fundamental questions to ask are:

Where am I going to use my portable aircon?

The mobile air conditioner you buy depends on where you will be using it, especially the size of the room. With a bigger room, you will need a more powerful aircon to cool the space. But a more powerful aircon means more noise and a more prominent unit (thus less portability). If you are using it in your office, then noise becomes a more significant feature to evaluate. If you need it in the living room or family room, then aesthetics and size are more important features. And if you use it across several rooms, you will need to balance features and prioritise which are essential for you.

A portable air conditioner in the corner of a living room

How important is the cooling performance compared to the noise it creates?

When it comes to portable air conditioners, the higher the performance, the louder the noise. Think about which is more critical for you and come to a balance where you are getting the cooling you need at a noise level you can tolerate. Also, plan where you are using it and how the noise level would affect that space. A good example is a bedroom, where noise would be a significant concern, whereas noise in the kids' romper room would not be such an issue.

How often will I need to move my portable aircon?

Portability becomes a critical factor if you need to move your portable aircon often. An example of this would be moving it from the living room to the bedroom in the evening. If you envision moving your air conditioner regularly, focus on the weight, quality of the wheels, and how easily it rolls.

How often will I use my portable aircon?

Focus on portability if you feel you will only sparingly use your portable air conditioner. If used only occasionally, compare how easy it is to move versus the performance and understand which is more critical for you.

How important is performance compared to aesthetics?

The better the performance, the bigger the portable air conditioner is going to be. Also understand how you might need to use an exhaust tube and how that will affect the look and feel of your room, as well as placement of the aircon. Think ahead about how you want your room to look once the portable air conditioner is set-up. It's important to balance the look of the room with your need for a cooler air.

What features should I look for in a portable air conditioner?

When you are shopping, you need to look at many features to determine which portable air conditioner is right for you. Your situation will drive which features are most important. We have also helped by going through the reviews of portable air conditioners on ProductReview.com.au to identify the top 6 features to evaluate.

Feature #1: The Noise vs Cooling Debate?

The great debate when it comes to portable air conditioners. If you want it to cool fast, you are going to have to put up with some noise. And if you want it to be quiet, you won't see the performance you were expecting. It's a balance, and you will need to decide which feature is more important to you.

Pro Tip: Think about where you are going to use your aircon and how noise could affect your satisfaction with it. For example, noise will be an important factor in your bedroom, but not so crucial for the kids' romper room. When reviews mentioned the noise level, many consumers referenced the salesperson saying "it's the quietest one in the market". Hold them to their word and have them show you in the store how loud it is. This will give you a reference for how the level of noise will impact how you use your aircon.

Feature #2: It Has An Exhaust Tube?

That beautiful exhaust tube always complements every product photo of a portable air conditioner. Except that it never seems to be in the picture. And it is often a surprise when it comes in the box and is part of the instruction manual.

Portable air conditioner tube

Many portable air conditioners use an exhaust tube to funnel the hot air they produce out of the space they are cooling. The tube can go through a window, a duct in a wall, or even through a door. Consumers often see the display picture of a portable air conditioner and don't factor in the exhaust tube. This tube can impact where they place their unit as well as the aesthetics of the room.

Pro Tip: The first step is to understand if your unit has an exhaust tube and the options around using it. If there is a tube, be aware that by not using it there will be an impact on the cooling performance. Second, think about the logistics of where you will put your unit so that you can vent the exhaust tube. In some cases these will not line up; the best place for the aircon could be the worst place for the exhaust tube. It is better knowing before buying instead of a surprise when you open up the box.

Feature #3: How Much Condensation?

Summer is humid, and air conditioners are cold (the nature of their job), so condensation is bound to happen. What surprised many consumers was the degree of condensation that was generated by their aircon. Some aircons had no way of dealing with the condensation, and they would leave wet spots on the floor.

Portable air conditioner condensation

Pro Tip: Condensation will happen, so go into your purchase with your eyes wide open that there will be water. Understand how your portable air conditioner handles condensation and think about where you will locate it to manage condensation better. If you are buying from a store, condensation questions are a great for the salesperson, even if to keep them on their toes.

Feature #4: Is It Really Portable?

Our reviewers all had different definitions of what "portability" actually is. In reality, the correct definition is your definition as you will be the one moving the air conditioner. Many consumers thought that because the box or website says it is "portable" that it will be easy to move, but this is often not the case.

Pro Tip: When you are buying, check the weight of the air conditioner. This could be as easy as trying to pick it up in the store, or if you are buying online, try to find something of a similar weight to do a test. Also, be sure to check if it has wheels and how sturdy the wheels are for moving it around.

Feature #5: Forgot About the Air Vent?

One surprising area of unhappiness from the reviews was about the air vent. While buying, many consumers did not realise the air vent didn't oscillate, and others were unhappy about which way it moved. For units sitting on the floor, the unhappiness was usually the vent moving up and down as opposed to side-to-side.

Portable air conditioner vent

Pro Tip: Don't forget about looking into the air vent when you are buying and think about what you want the air vent to do. Normally this is not thought about, and we believe this is why we saw the high level of dissatisfaction. Put this on your list and check this often overlooked feature before you buy.

Feature #6: How High is the Electricity Bill?

Many consumers thought "a smaller aircon, a smaller bill", but this is not the case. Due to being portable and having a smaller form factor, being energy efficient is not a key feature. The first electricity bill after buying a portable aircon was often a big surprise.

Pro Tip: The best advice around electricity usage is to acknowledge it is going to go up and you will be paying more. Estimating how much of increase is difficult based on usage and where you live. However, have a figure in mind for each month of summer and add this to the price to better understand your total investment. If energy efficiency is one of your top features, spend some extra time researching the energy rating label.

The above features are the ones that we saw the most complaints from the reviews on ProductReview.com.au. So what were the areas where we did not see issues?

What's the Price of a Portable Air Conditioner?

Compared with other appliances, there were fewer complaints about price. This was driven by portable air conditioners being a very need-based purchase; you need to get cool, so you go out and buy one. Complaints about price only appeared when other problems with features were present, and the issue was more focused on "value for money" than the overall price.

How to Install & Set-Up a Portable Air Conditioner?

There were very few complaints about the installation and set-up of portable air conditioners. Many reviewers commented about how quick and easy the installation was and that they were up and running in no time.

What are the best portable air conditioners in Australia?

As of January 2018, out of 100 portable air conditioners with reviews, the top four rated by consumers on ProductReview.com.au were:

#1: Rinnai RPC35WA / RPC41WA

Overall

82% of reviews were positive (4 or 5 Stars) 18% of reviews were negative (3 Stars or less)

Positive comments from the reviews:

Well designed and good looking. Easy installation. Very portable and rolls easily.

Negative comments from the reviews:

Noise. Bulky exhaust tube.

#2: Olimpia Splendid Piu

Overall

64% of reviews were positive (4 or 5 Stars) 36% of reviews were negative (3 Stars or less)

Positive comments from the reviews:

Powerful cooling. Value for money. Portability for its size.

Negative comments from the reviews:

Noise. Condensation issues. Air vents not swinging or moving.

#3: Polocool PC-53AP/C / PC-58AP/C

Overall

61% of reviews were positive (4 or 5 Stars) 39% of reviews were negative (3 Stars or less)

Positive comments from the reviews:

Powerful cooling. Effective for larger areas. Value for money.

Negative comments from the reviews:

Condensation management issues. Issues with the fan.

#4: Omega Altise OAPC10

Overall

63% of reviews were positive (4 or 5 Stars) 37% of reviews were negative (3 Stars or less)

Positive comments from the reviews:

Easy installation. Low price. Flexibility in use.

Negative comments from the reviews:

Condensation management issues. Cooling performance.

In addition to the Top 4 rated outlined above, here are the rest of the Top 10 portable air conditioners on ProductReview.com.au.

#5: Dimplex DC10RC / DC12RCBW / DC15RCBW

#6: Kogan KAPORAIR12GA / KAPORAIR14GA

#7: Stirling (Aldi) Portable Air Conditioner

#8: DeLonghi PAC WE18INV

#9: Honeywell MM14CCS

#10: Polocool EX10

How to shop for a portable air conditioner?

More people than ever are buying their portable air conditioners online. But buying online is not always the best decision, and it is essential to know the benefits of online vs in-store.

When to Buy Online:

  • You have done your research, and you know which portable air conditioner that you want.
  • You know how noisy it is, how portable it is, as well other aspects like the cooling performance, exhaust tube, and condensation.
  • You do not need it immediately, and you can wait for a couple of days for it to arrive.

When to Buy In-store:

  • You need to view the unit to answer the questions that you have. These can include being sure about the portability and hearing it in action to understand the noise levels.
  • You are not sure about which unit is best for you and you want to see them to compare sizes, features, and the design/aesthetics of the units.
  • You still have questions that you want a salesperson to answer.
  • You need relief immediately, and you don't want to wait 3 to 5 days for your portable air conditioner to arrive.

What are the best places to buy a portable air conditioner in Australia?

Portable air conditioners are available in-store and online from most home & electronics stores. Leading stores that provide a range of portable air conditioners include:

If buying in-store, be sure to talk with the salesperson. Ask them specific questions about the models they carry as they often have tips and insight that can help.

And there you have it - everything you need to make a better buying decision on a portable air conditioner. For more in-depth research, go to our Portable Air Conditioners category to read all the ratings and reviews for over 100 models of portable air conditioners available in Australia.