Keeping Cool in this HEAT | Portable Air Conditioners (2023)

As I write this post in mid-January, Australia is sweltering through one of the worst heat waves on record. Fans and portable air conditioners are flying off the shelves at Bunnings and Mitre10, and everyone’s staying cool in their air conditioned homes and businesses, or heading to the water to get some reprieve.

For those of us that are in caravans, the pace is on for making the most of every heat reducing tactic we can think of.

In this post we’ll look at some of those common sense tips for keeping your caravan as cool as possible, as well as looking at some portable air conditioning options for those of us that don’t have air con already installed in the caravan.

First up, what can we do to keep the caravan as cool as possible?

Heads up: there’s nothing new in this list, they’re all pretty common sense stuff. But when you’re planning your trip from the comfort of your warm home, sitting in front of the fireplace in the middle of winter… you might not think of some of these things.

Give it a day or two in the the high 30’s and you’ll quickly do all you can to keep your caravan cool.

Here we go:

I know we don’t always get a choice about where we park, but if you do, try and make the most of any available shade. The afternoon sun is the hottest so if you are able to get shade at that time of the day, you’re on to a winner!

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Where we are currently camped, we only get shade in the morning and at about 1pm it becomes too hot. But we totally enjoy our shady spot for those morning hours.

Of course an awning allows you a shaded spot beside your caravan, but it also helps to keep the sun off that side of the caravan, preventing the wall from heating up in the sunlight. You’ll see many caravans and motorhomes with the shade cloth on the other side of the caravan too. Often it’s shielding the whole wall from the sun, but sometimes it’s just to protect the fridge from being warmed up by the sunlight.

You’ll discover very quickly that the sun belting through the window will heat up a caravan in record time. So making sure that you have good window coverings is your first step. Curtains or shades that are solar or thermal backed will help in both summer and winter.

If you’re keeping your windows closed (like when you’re using the air conditioner), you could use reflectix (foil windscreen covers) to cover your windows as these do a great job of reflecting the sun’s rays so that they don’t heat up your caravan.

I’ve had one caravan park caretaker suggest that we hose down the outside of the caravan. While it does a good job to cool down the caravan a bit, it does seem totally wasteful and especially distressing when half the country is in severe drought. (?!)

If you’re not using an air conditioner, you’ll get value out of keeping the air moving in your caravan. Not just recirculating the hot air with a fan, but allow the hot air to escape through windows or vents. If you have a pop-top caravan, then opening up the vents in the caravans pop-top is good, or turning on the roof top fan to extract the hot air out.

Cooking in the caravan certainly helps to heat it up, especially if you’re using a gas cooker. You can immediately feel how much heat the open flame throws out, so going electric will help reduce the heat generated, but sometimes it’s just easier to cook outside on the BBQ. Or even better, forgo cooking altogether! We’ve been having salads, antipasto platters, crackers with different toppings, or even cereal! Oh, and takeaways. :-O

Fans help. A LOT. We got our trusty desktop fan from Bunnings (of course) and we’ve found a few little tips that might be obvious, but here they are anyway:

  • These things get so dusty! Give it a clean and you’d be surprised how much better they work.
  • Get a spray bottle and fill with cold water, spray yourself every now and then and that will enhance the fan experience!
  • At night, point the fan above where you’re sleeping (not directly on to you), this will keep the air moving around and that is often enough to get a comfortable sleep.

If you’re free camping / off-grid then you’ll want to consider 12V fans (unless you plan on running your generator all night?). Here’s some options:

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Keeping Cool in this HEAT | Portable Air Conditioners (1)

Coleman Rechargeable Table Fan – 8 Inch

Don’t sweat it with the Coleman Rechargeable Table Fan – 8 Inch! This rechargeable fan is perfect for those sticky hot days and nights. The unit has both high and low settings depending on your needs, and also includes LED lights that operate together or independently from the fan. The Coleman Rechargeable Table Fan – 8 inch can be operated directly from 240V or 12V adaptors (included)!

Keeping Cool in this HEAT | Portable Air Conditioners (2)Outdoor Connection Breezeway 12v Camping Fan

The Outdoor Connection Breezeway 12v Camping Fan is a powerful unit to use on your next trip. This portable unit is perfect for camping, carvanning or other outdoor adventures where 12V power is available to you! This high volume airflow unit provides a comfortable cool breeze on any of the three speeds and produces low noise! The 3m powercord allows you to set up where you need. The fan has a low power cut out and a low power supply warning!

Keeping Cool in this HEAT | Portable Air Conditioners (3)Companion Aerobreeze 30cm Lithium Rechargeable Fan

The Companion Aerobreeze provides a brilliant long-lasting performance to ensure you stay cool in the heat. With a 2-speed fan with oscillating function, and a lithium-ion battery you’ll be set on your outdoor adventure. The Companion Aerobreeze has flexible cooling options to suit your requirements and has a handy built-in 30 lumen LED light so you can read or use it as a night light!

There are two types of cooling systems that often fall under the umbrella of portable air conditioners. Just so you know what you’re getting into, here are the differences (in ‘Michelle-speak’, so hopefully it’s simple yet understandable):

Evaporative Cooler

An evaporative cooler just uses water and a fan to cool the air. Water soaks cooling pads in the machine and then the fan sucks the warm air in the room over the cooling pads. The water evaporates and it’s that process of evaporation that cools the air.

Since evaporation is involved, this process adds moisture to the air, so is only really effective in places with a dry climate (at least less than 50% humidity).

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And in extremely dry climates, evaporative cooling of air has the added benefit of conditioning the air with more moisture for the comfort of occupants.

One benefit of the evaporative cooling system for a caravan, is that it doesn’t require a vent hose to the outside.

Keeping Cool in this HEAT | Portable Air Conditioners (4)Companion Rechargeable Evaporative Cooler System

Portable Air Conditioner

An air conditioner works a bit differently in that it removes hot air from your caravan and replaces it with drier, cooler air. It does this by using a chemical refrigerant that absorbs the heat from the indoor air, and pumps that heat out through the vent to the outside. As part of the process of removing the heat from the air, the air conditioner also removes moisture from the air.

As you would know, with a portable air conditioner you need to keep all the windows and doors shut so that more hot and humid air doesn’t enter the room.

The size of the portable air conditioner you should buy, is dependant on the size of your caravan, and how well insulated it is.

Keeping Cool in this HEAT | Portable Air Conditioners (5)Arlec 7000BTU Portable Air Conditioner with Timer and Remote

We bought this Arlec model from Bunnings, and use it to cool our 14ft 1979 pop-top caravan. Our caravan is old and there are gaps everywhere where the canvas pop-top has come away from the caravan, so it’s far from well insulated.

This portable air conditioner copes until the weather app tells us it’s about 34 degrees and we’re sitting in full sun. If we’re still in the shade at that temp (or it’s overcast) we can go a couple of degrees more before it becomes too hot.

And when that happens, we…

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Okay, so sometimes we just haven’t been able to keep the caravan cool. Once it hits about 34 degrees AND we’re in full sunlight, our portable air conditioner can’t keep up. The only way to stay cool is to be sitting in front of it.

So we head out.

As we’re doing online work we go straight to library to work until they close. Now, in the height of summer, we can generally go back to the caravan from 7-7.30pm because the sun is getting low enough that the air con can keep up. Other options include going to the food court at the mall or the club.

On a non-work day, we’ve been heading straight to the beach for some lovely sea breezes and salty air.

We’re managing to stay cool, but as I said earlier, we have to escape our campsite during the hottest hours of the day.

Do you have any other hints or tricks for keeping our caravan cool, to share with us?

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Keeping Cool in this HEAT | Portable Air Conditioners (6)


Do I need to vent a portable air conditioner in heat mode? ›

Yes, your portable air conditioner will need to be vented even when in heat mode. Your PAC will work the same way as if producing cool air, just oppositely. It will blow hot air into the room from the front and the cold air will be ran through the exhaust hose out the back.

How do I cool my house with a portable air conditioner? ›

7 Tips to Maximise Portable Air Conditioner Cooling
  1. Keep the exhaust hose as straight as it can be.
  2. Close doors and windows.
  3. Turn on the air conditioner before you need it.
  4. Switch off unnecessary heat sources.
  5. Make sure the portable air con unit is performing optimally.
  6. Pick the right spot.

Do portable air conditioners heat as well as cool? ›

Portable AC units with a heater can BOTH cool in the summer and warm in the winter. We talk about a combination of heating and air conditioning units. In fact, the best portable air conditioner and heater combos can provide an almost symmetric cooling and heating output.

How can I cool my house in extreme heat? ›

10 tips to keep you and your house cool this summer
  1. Close your blinds. Keep your blinds closed, especially on north and west-facing windows, to significantly cool your home. ...
  2. Block the heat. ...
  3. Just 1oCmore. ...
  4. Adjust ceiling fans. ...
  5. Close doors and seal gaps. ...
  6. Hang out in the evening. ...
  7. Chill out, not chill on. ...
  8. Hack a fan.

Do portable air conditioners use a lot of electricity? ›

How Much Electricity Does A Portable Air Conditioner Use? Mid-sized portable air conditioners use an average of 2900 watts per hour. Particularly large units can exceed the electricity usage of even central air conditioners, expending about 4100 watts per hour.

Do you have to put ice in a portable air conditioner? ›

You don't have to fill in a standard portable AC. However, if you have an evaporative portable room air conditioner or otherwise known as a swamp cooler, you'll have to refill the reservoir with ice and water.

Is it cheaper to leave portable AC on all day? ›

First things first, yes, it is more efficient to leave your air conditioning on. This doesn't mean what many people assume, though. You shouldn't be leaving your air conditioner on full blast 24/7 by any means. There's a right way and a wrong way to do this, which we'll explore shortly.

Why isn't my portable air conditioner cooling my house? ›

The most common cause of a portable AC not cooling a room is lack of adequate airflow. If the air filter is dirty or clogged, there may not be enough air flowing over the evaporator coils and the coils can become too cold and frost over. This restricts airflow and a portable AC won't cool the room.

How long does a portable AC take to cool a room? ›

In our AC tests, we measure how long it takes a portable air conditioner to lower the temperature in the test chamber from 90° F to 85° F. It takes at least 20 minutes—and often much longer. By comparison, the best window air conditioners can cool the room by 10° F in about 15 minutes or less.

What is the disadvantage of portable AC? ›

The Cons: Limitations of Portable AC

Portable air conditioners often take more BTUs — and therefore use more electricity — to cool the same square foot space as a window unit. This is likely because they generate waste heat indoors instead of outside, creating more overall heat for the unit to deal with.

How many degrees can a portable AC cool? ›

That depends on the heat load in the room and the size of the portable air conditioner. The air conditioner will provide a 15 – 20 degree temperature drop. So if your room is 80 degrees Fahrenheit, then the air coming out of the air conditioner will be 60 – 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Is it worth buying a portable air conditioner? ›

Portable Air Conditioners Are a Great Choice

For those looking for a quality system that is easy to install, low maintenance, and can help them cut costs on their energy bills, portable air conditioners are a fantastic option. After purchase, all you have to do is place it, vent it, and get comfortable.

What is the fastest way to cool down a hot room? ›

  1. Reverse Your Ceiling Fan.
  2. Cover the Windows During the Day.
  3. Dehumidify the Air.
  4. Open the Windows at Night.
  5. Promote a Cross Breeze.
  6. Skip Using the Hot Appliances.
  7. Sleep Cooler.
  8. Close Unused Rooms.
30 May 2022

Does putting ice in front of a fan work? ›

According to the GHI, placing a bucket of ice in front of a fan as a homemade AC unit is just as effective. 'As the air passes over the ice it will be chilled and will circulate refreshingly cold air around the room,' they explain.

How do elderly keep cool in hot weather? ›

Good old-fashioned practices like running air conditioning and fans, closing curtains and blinds and staying out of the sun during the heat of the day, can really help older adults stay safe and cool. So can cool showers or baths, running cool water over parts of the body or keeping cool, wet cloths handy.

Which cools better window or portable air conditioner? ›

There is no separate vent to worry about, and more noise is directed outside compared to a portable air conditioner. In addition, window air conditioners are often more efficient than portable air conditioners allowing them to cool a larger space at a lower cost.

How many hours should portable AC run per day? ›

8-14 hours total run time for central air. 12-18 hours run time for a window unit. 16-24 hours run time for a portable air conditioner.

Is it cheaper to run a portable air conditioner or central air? ›

You'll find that both window and ductless AC units all have higher CEER and EER ratings, making them the cheaper choice for daily operation. The simple truth — Portable AC units will use more energy to hit your ideal cooling temperature.

How often do you have to empty water from a portable air conditioner? ›

In high humidity areas, homeowners will have to drain the portable AC every few hours (2 to 8 hours, in general). In other areas, you have to drain the unit once per day or every few days.

Do you have to dump water from a portable air conditioner? ›

Depending on the humidity in your space, you will need to drain your portable air conditioner as often as every 8 hours. However, you usually won't need to drain your portable air conditioner this often. If you live in a dry area, then you will rarely need to drain your portable air conditioner.

Do you have to drain water from portable AC? ›

In general, portable air conditioners should be drained after every 8 hours. The frequency varies depending upon the model you own. Few air conditioners work efficiently without draining for a month.

How much does a portable AC cost a month? ›

How Much Does it Cost to Run a 5,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner? A 5,000 BTU portable air conditioner costs an average of $0.07 per hour to run. If the portable AC is used for 8 hours per day, then it costs $0.56 per day. Running the portable air conditioner for one month will cost around $16.80.

How long does a portable AC last? ›

Here's how long some of the most common types of AC last:

Portable AC — 5-10 years. Residential single whole-home AC unit — 15 years. Central air-source heat pumps — 15 years (and up to 20–25 years if well-maintained and in a well-insulated home)

Can I use a portable AC in a room with no window? ›

Yes. For window AC insulation, most portable ACs require a window to vent out warm air, there are other options to consider when your room is windowless. You can vent out the warm exhaust air through the wall, the ceiling, the door, or the dryer vents, depending on your most convenient option.

What happens if you don't vent a portable air conditioner out the window? ›

A portable air conditioner has to keep all of the hot-side components inside the chassis sitting beside you in your room. The air that carries heat away from the condenser coil has to go out the vent hose if you want to cool off your room. If you don't use the exhaust hose, the heat will stay in the room with you.

Can you run a portable air conditioner without venting it outside? ›

These AC units are like self-contained heat pumps: They collect heat from a room and send it somewhere else through an exhaust vent. But portable ACs don't need to vent out a window, so long as you can find another way to send the heat outside.

Where is the best place to put a portable air conditioner? ›

It's always best to avoid running extension leads to your air conditioning unit if possible. Portable units (not window units) work best if they are as close to the centre of the room as possible.

How many square feet can a portable AC cool? ›

As stated, cooling capacity can be affected by many things, but in general, an 8,000 BTU unit will cool a room up to 350 square feet, one with 10,000 BTUs will cover up to 450 square feet, and an air conditioning (AC) unit with 14,000 BTUs will accommodate 700 square feet.

How much does it cost to run a portable AC all night? ›

The most common cost to run a portable AC is $0.19 per hour. Overall, portable air conditioners cost between $0.11 and $0.22 per hour. These costs assume a kWh rate of 15 cents (the US average) and are based on the power consumption of 56 of the most popular units on the market.

Is portable air conditioner as good as window? ›

Some experts say that a portable model isn't as effective as a window AC unit in cooling large spaces, and in cooling as well, and using as little energy. Estimates for the average room size hover around the 300-400 square-foot range.

What size room will a 8000 BTU air conditioner cool? ›

8,000 BTUs will cover 200 sq. ft. (1,600 cubic feet) 10,000 BTUs will cover 300 sq.

Why your AC won't cool your home more than 20 degrees? ›

When the system starts cooling space, it removes the heat but also dehumidifies the air. But when the system has to cool your home by over 20 degrees, its capacity to do both diminishes. As a result, your AC system has to work harder and uses more energy to do so.

What is the best AC temperature for sleeping? ›

Sleeping in a room with the air conditioner set to an appropriate temperature is important for quality sleep. The ideal AC temperature for sleeping is around 65°F (18.3°C). However, this may differ between individuals, who might find their ideal AC temperature lies between 60 and 67°F (15.6 and 19.4°C).

How much should I spend on a portable air conditioner? ›

Portable air conditioners aren't cheap. Small, personal models can cost around $50, but for a unit that will cool an entire room, you're likely to spend at least $200. The large and more powerful the unit, the more you'll pay. Many models available online range from $250-$499 for rooms between 200-650 square feet.

How cool should my house be if it's 100 outside? ›

How cool should my house be if it's 100° outside? The majority of air conditioning units are designed to only cool the air about 20 degrees from the outside temperature. If the temperatures outside are approaching triple digits, you should set your thermostat at about 78°.

How do you push hot air out of a room? ›

Try these tricks to push warm air out and let cool air in for nearly instant comfort.
  1. Switch to CFL or LED Bulbs. ...
  2. Hang Dry Clothes and Handwash Dishes. ...
  3. Limit Hot Meals. ...
  4. Invest in a Misting Fan. ...
  5. Shut Off Computers and Screens More Frequently. ...
  6. Switch to Insulated Curtains or Honeycomb Blinds. ...
  7. Create Natural Convection.
8 May 2018

Does putting a wet towel over a fan make it cooler? ›

Wring the cloth out so that it's damp, not dripping wet. Lay the cloth over the fan. As it blows the air out, it'll circulate through the cloth and the air will feel cooler.

Does putting a bowl of water in front of a fan make it cooler? ›

Stick a bowl of ice water in front of your fan to help circulate the cooler air. This DIY hack works surprisingly well and takes less than 10 minutes to make.

How can I make my fan air colder? ›

You need a metal bowl, ice and coarse salt. Fill the bowl with ice and salt, and place it right in front of the fan, so that the air is directed towards the area that we want to cool. As the ice melts due to the effect of the salt, the fan will spread these water particles around the room, helping cool the air.

At what age are you considered elderly? ›

Ageing, an inevitable process, is commonly measured by chronological age and, as a convention, a person aged 65 years or more is often referred to as 'elderly'.

What is the normal temperature for a 70 year old woman? ›

The average normal temperature is 98.6°F (37°C).

How hot is too hot for seniors? ›

Staying Safe When It's Too Darn Hot. When the temperature climbs above 80°F, older adults need to be proactive and take precautions to avoid ailments due to excessive heat. Keep in mind the following tips when trying to stay cool. Stay away from direct sun exposure as much as possible.

Do you need to exhaust a portable heater? ›

A portable unit needs to be vented outdoors whether it is operating in heating or cooling mode. Instructions for installing the exhaust hose and window kit come with every unit. Even in heating mode a portable unit will still “condition” the air – that is, remove excess humidity.

How do portable air conditioners with heat work? ›

Portable air conditioners work by pulling hot air from an area and transferring it outside of the home. The AC unit has a motor that cools the air circulated through the room. The AC unit will also remove excess humidity from the air and push it out of the room through a hose outside the window.

Do they make a portable air conditioner that does not have to be vented? ›

Is there a portable air conditioner that doesn't need a window? Yes. The truly ventless cooling devices are called evaporative coolers or 'swamp coolers'.

Do portable heaters waste a lot of electricity? ›

Even though they are typically small in size, and often touted as 100% efficient, electric space heaters use a lot of electricity. Most space heaters use on average 1,500 Watts of electricity and cost about 15¢ an hour to operate.

Can I sleep with a portable heater on? ›

"Never keep your portable electric heater on when you are sleeping; it's not worth it," Notini says. Keep a three-foot perimeter around the unit clear. One Bethesda fire station has a sign outside it that says, "Space Heaters Need Space." Never store clothing on or around the unit, or put it too near curtains or beds.

Can I use a portable air conditioner in a room with no windows? ›

Yes. For window AC insulation, most portable ACs require a window to vent out warm air, there are other options to consider when your room is windowless. You can vent out the warm exhaust air through the wall, the ceiling, the door, or the dryer vents, depending on your most convenient option.

Are air conditioners with heat worth it? ›

Absolutely. The majority of modern air conditioners are equipped with a heating mode that allows them to provide heating as needed. This can be a highly efficient heating solution that saves you money in the long run while also ensuring unparalleled comfort.

What are the disadvantages of a portable air conditioner? ›

The cons of mobile air conditioning are:

Noise levels are quite high; Not energy efficient; Not a good choice for large rooms; Once the air conditioner cooling pipe is brought out the window, it is quite likely that you do not want to move it, so as not to spoil the installation.

Is Delonghi Pinguino also a heater? ›

De'Longhi Pinguino 4-in-1: Air Conditioner, Heater, Dehumidifier, and Fan 3.9 out of 5 stars.

How often do you have to drain Delonghi Pinguino? ›

Our portable air conditioners are designed to be drained at the end of the season. The units will use the water collected from the humidity in the room to cool the condenser (the hottest part of the appliance) allowing for maximum efficiency.

How do I use heat mode? ›

To enter the heat mode, point the infrared remote control at the indoor unit and press the power button, then press the HEAT mode button if not already set to heat mode. The signals received by the infrared receiver are relayed to the main board of the indoor unit to turn the system on and set it to heat mode.

Is it OK to spray water on your air conditioner while running? ›

The good news is that you absolutely can spray water on your air conditioner if it needs a cleaning, and nothing bad will happen. Spraying water on your AC's condenser also helps it run more efficiently.

Do portable air conditioners work as well as window units? ›

Window and portable air conditioners are both designed to cool a room, but their performance is not equal. A window AC cools a room the best and is more energy-efficient and affordable. A portable air AC is easier to install and is useful when your window is too small for a traditional unit.

Do portable AC units produce carbon monoxide? ›

The short answer is no, air conditioners are unable to produce carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide can only be emitted from fuel-burning devices. AC units run on electricity, so there's no possible way for them to produce carbon monoxide.


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