Ventless Portable Air Conditioners

People who suffer a lot in very hot weather can read this and learn about ventless portable air conditioners as an alternate economical solution for keeping cool in dry heat.

However, while this type of cooler is suitable for indoors or out and can be used by environmentally and energy conscious people, it may not be a viable solution for Florida residents. Why is this?

For everyone who has a need for a cheaper, portable and altogether more sensible answer to their cooling needs, ventless air conditioners are a great answer when the climate is dry and hot. Yet when the humidity is high, they lose their effectiveness and the summer cliamte in the state of Florida is decidedly humid!

Yet still we see a plethora of advertisements for just this type of cooler, despite it's major disadvantage in hot, humid weather.

Often when we think of ways in which we can stay cool in summer. Of course, the initial solution is to get a big air conditioning unit or whole-house central HVAC system. But not everyone can afford to purchase that type of cooler. More importantly, it costs a lot to run a large cooling installation because of the high cost of electricity and the high power usage of these systems.

This article takes a look at a much cheaper and all round more sensible solution that will also suit people with specific needs looking for a lightweight and highly portable cooler that does not need to be vented to the outside. First, let's look at the more traditional AC appliances that need a vent to the outside, just so we know what we're aiming to avoid.

Vented Air Cooling Units

Most of us think of the free standing portable air conditioning units with their big, corrugated exhaust vents trailing behind them. These vents need to be connected to a suitable opening in an outside wall. In many cases, a suitable opening is not available and the hot air exhaust pipe has to be left trailing out a partially open window or door with a venting kit.

keeping coolThis is fine if you have the ability and the patience to connect the pipe so that the heat produced as a by-product of the cooling process can be vented to the outside. But not everyone will find that so easy, especially those with physical limitations who might not be capable of manipulating the exhaust vent and placing it correctly.

Another downside is the venting kit that comes with the AC unit often doesn't fit properly, allowing hot air from outside to get in. Not only that, but these DIY window vent kits represent a potential security problem as the window they're fitted to can't be fully closed or locked.

If you didn't already know, that exhaust vent MUST lead to outside the house. If it were left inside the room, the net effect of the cooling process would be to heat up the room! That's because there would be more hot air produced than cold.

What Are Vent Free Air Conditioners Exactly?

On the other hand, there are cooling units often mistakenly referred to as air conditioners that don't need venting to the outside. These cooling devices are often referred to as a "portable air conditioner no vent" or "ventless air conditioners." They're actually not true ACs, but are more correctly known as evaporative air coolers, or to use their common name, "swamp coolers."

The difference is that with swamp coolers, there is no actual refrigeration process going on inside the unit (as in the refrigeration process that true aircon units use). Instead, these units utilize the simple evaporation of water to cool the air that is passed through a wet porous membrane.

The air is driven through the membrane by a simple fan that sends a cold breeze into the room.

Note: Swamp coolers are NOT air conditioners! They should not be expected to produce as much cooling as AC. And if your climate is humid (above 60% humidity as it is in FL), they will not produce much cool air.

Do NOT buy a swamp cooler expecting it to work like an AC in high humidity!

In this case, I recommend you opt for a portable AC unit.

However, if your climate is hot and dry (low humidity) or you want to use one of these units in conjunction with central AC or a dehumidifier, you're in luck, because these coolers work well enough in those conditions. Just remember to keep a window open to allow ventillation.

Best Vent Free Evaporative Coolers

More options are of course available and just by way of comparison, below are some top rated free standing evaporative cooling units that are suitable for those living in the right climate and who want to stay cool while saving a lot of money on running costs.

How do Swamp Coolers Work?

They work in a similar way to how a breeze cools your skin when you perspire. The perpiration is evaporated by the breeze and your skin is chilled, which is why we perspire when we're hot.

Swamp coolers take this principle and use it by creating a powerful breeze (the fan) that is passed through the wet membrane (imitating the perspiration on the skin), evaporating the moisture that absorbs the heat and chilling the air which is blasted out of the unit.

The cold air cools down the heat in the room. In ideal conditions, this can result in as much as a 25-30 degree drop in the temperature in a room!

Low Power Usage and High Portability

Since there is no refrigeration processing done with no compressor or heat exchange mechanism, the only power used by these devices is by the internal fan and timer mechanism (which uses only a tiny amount of electricity to operate). That makes them about as cheap to run as a standard fan.

But the best part about swamp coolers is that because there is no refrigeration process, there is also no hot exhaust to have to contend with. That means the units are lightweight and can be easily moved from room to room without needing to mess around with an ugly and cumbersome exhaust vent and trail it out a window!

Let's See One in Action!

Here is a promotional video from Honeywell, makers of the CL30XC and other models that explains how the unit works and what you can expect from owning one:



In a perfect world we'd all be able to enjoy the benefits of this type of climate controlling appliance, but it's not perfect and there disadvantages to them. So let's take a look at what they are:

The Disadvantage of Ventless Air Coolers

evaporative air coolerYou may be thinking to yourself that if these swamp coolers are so totally amazing, why isn't everyone using them and making true, power hungry and not-so-portable aircon units obsolete?

The answer is that evaporative cooling units are only effective in climates that have relatively dry heat. In areas of high humidity, their effectiveness is reduced. That's because the effect of cooling can only occur when the cool, moist air produced by the units can be pushed into the drier atmosphere occupying a room's space.

When the moisture level in the room's atmosphere approaches saturation, the cooling effect of the moist air blasted out of the unit is reduced until it reaches nil. That means if you live in a very humid climate (above average 60% humidity), a swamp cooler is not for you!

Dry Climate

However, if you live in a dry climate with an average less than 50% humidity, then a swamp cooler is a good choice of portable, cheap air cooling unit. Portable, evaporative cooling units are perfect for wheelchair users and those with physical mobility limitations who may not be able to move anything heavy.

They are relatively lightweight and on wheels, need no fiddly venting and are easily moved from one room to the next. As long as you can place them close to an electricity outlet on the wall (they need to be plugged in like any other electric appliance), you're good to go.

Truly Ductless Air Conditioning: Does it Exist?

For those wanting more information, here is a more detailed explanation of the differences between the two main types of air cooling appliances currently available for homeowners and businesses:

Let's get one thing out of the way first: All refrigerant-based ACs (which is all true AC) need to be vented to the outside.

In truth, there is actually no such thing as a ventless air conditioning device!

An evaporative (or swamp) cooler does not need venting and is often mistaken for AC or is commonly, albeit incorrectly referred to as a ventless portable air conditioner, or a no vent portable air conditioning unit. However, it's an entirely different kind of appliance that cools the air in a different way.

Normal air conditioning apparatus that uses refrigerant gas and a condenser to produce cold air cannot be used without some form of ducting or venting to carry away the hot exhaust air that is a natural by-product of the air chilling process. If you want a truly ductless or exhaust-free portable air cooler, a swamp cooler is your only realistic choices, do go ahead and click the link above to my page reviewing swamp coolers.

A Portable Air Conditioner Without Exhaust Hose?

Yet you still hear people talk about this or that portable air conditioner "without exhaust" unit being available to buy, with the idea uppermost that they are of the traditional, refrigerant AC variety. This is wrong and you should avoid being taken in by any promotion or advertising that tries to get you to believe what you're seeing is an AC when it's really an evaporative cooler.

A small, lightweight free standing air conditioning unit for indoor use will need venting to the outside no matter how small your room may be unless it clearly states on the box that it is an evaporative air cooler (swamp cooler). Even those appliances that are called vent free personal air conditioner models are really evaporative air coolers and they're generally labeled for indoor use, although a swamp cooler can also be used outdoors to great effect.

Boat, Trailer or RV Air Conditioner?

On the flip-side, you can get refrigerant-based aircon devices for vehicles. Air cooling solutions for your boat, trailer, RV or motorhome AC kits are available for installation where they are not already fitted.

The problem of venting is not really an issue with vehicles or boats as it can usually be fairly easy to site the unit to an exterior panel for easy venting of hot exhaust air. The main issue is power usage and this is something I will deal with in a separate article before this one gets too big!


More technical data and specification for those who have an interest in this side of these simple yet innovative coolers can be found here: energy.gov and here: wikipedia.

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