The coolest part of the house is always going to be its lowest point. Not a lot of homeowners are lucky enough in the Pacific Northwest to have a basement. However, if you’re one of those lucky few, that’s going to be the lowest point of your house, where you find cooling off the easiest.
However, considering how warm this summer has been, maybe you’ve been considering a portable air conditioner for your basement. A portable air conditioner is one that’s mobile and can be moved from room to room for “spot cooling.”
Unlike a window unit, a through-the-wall unit, or central air conditioning, you don’t need to permanently affix anything with a portable unit. Usually, they will have wheels so you can move them easily and are relatively lightweight. Though, while they may be mobile, some styles are still unwieldy or cumbersome. The benefits of having a portable air conditioner, though, are that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to refit your house for new vents, you don’t have to modify your windows or where you want to put the unit, and you don’t have to install anything that a landlord or a homeowner’s association might object to.
Why Have AC in the Basement?
It’s not a bad idea to set up a portable ac unit in your basement—it’ll be a nice, cool little retreat when you come in from the sweltering outside, especially in the middle of the afternoon when the day is warmest. If the bedrooms are too warm to sleep in during the hottest nights, you have a ready-made place to camp out as well. Your basement will also tend to stay cooler, using less energy because the cold air doesn’t have anywhere to go, meaning you won’t have to shell out more money for your energy costs.
Basements tend to have less airflow, or worse airflow, than the rest of the house. If you bring in a portable air conditioner to improve the airflow, your air quality may be better since those hard-to-reach spaces are getting fresh air now. The fact that you’re running the air conditioner can also help with humidity, another thing that basements are known for having a little too much of.
The thing is, you want to be careful about venting an AC unit out of a basement. Making sure you’re doing it safely and correctly can be the difference between staying cool in the summer heat and finding some surprises when you take it down.
How Does a Portable Air Conditioner Work?
A portable air conditioner pulls in warm air, cools it down, and then expels that cool air out the front of the machine while the remaining warm air and moisture are vented out the window. If you don’t vent your portable air conditioner properly, you could move it at the end of the summer and discover mold where it has thrived in the warm, damp atmosphere.
Some portable AC units have self-evaporative technology. This simply means that while the unit is processing the warm air, it automatically evaporates the collected moisture and expels it out, so you don’t have to worry about emptying out a reservoir of the water the unit pulled out of the warm air. However, the Pacific Northwest can be very humid at times, so you may have to manually empty the reservoir when it’s full. But considering this technology is always developing, and depending on which model you choose, the need to empty a reservoir or use a drain is becoming less common.
Consider Your Space
Before you choose a portable air conditioner, consider the area you wish to cool. An air conditioning unit requires a window to vent out of, so if you don’t have a good window to do that, you might be better off finding an alternative.
Also, a portable AC unit can be at least a little noisy. If you have family members who sleep in or near the basement area, make sure they aren’t bothered by noise. Personal preferences to sound can be difficult to gauge here, but since portable AC units contain both a compressor and a fan, they sound similar to a window air conditioning unit. Most people have encountered one of those at one time or another.
When you start looking for the portable air conditioning unit that’s right for you, you’ll find decibel ratings (dB level) on the product description pages. For comparison, 48 dB is about the same noise level as falling rain and 60 dB is about the same noise level as a normal conversation between two people. Most portable AC units tend to fall within this range.
Another thing you want to be sure of is whether your portable air conditioner is going to be effective in your basement. Make sure you know the approximate square footage of your basement so you can buy the correct machine for your space. Then, you’ll want to find out the BTUs so that you choose the right-powered machine. The higher the BTUs, the larger the area your portable unit can effectively cool.
Venting From the Basement May Have Challenges
A portable AC unit is not really designed to be vented out of a basement window. However, this can be done safely with a little bit of know-how.
You cannot vent a portable AC unit out of a basement using a dryer vent. This can break your portable air conditioner and is not recommended at all. The airflow from the air conditioner is also not as strong as that from a dryer, so the air won’t vent correctly that way anyway.
If you want to keep your view from your basement window, you can use Plexiglas when installing the vent hose. Measure a piece of Plexiglas for your window, and then you can have it cut to specifications at your local hardware or glass store. To be sure the measurements are correct for the vent hose, you can bring it to the hardware store at the same time.
Of course, if you don’t mind closing off the light and the view, you can use Styrofoam, which is lightweight, cheap, better insulated than Plexiglas, and easy to find. You can even cut it yourself.
We’d love to answer your questions about portable air conditioners—contact us at Entek today.