Air Conditioners

Trying to keep cool: Pros and cons of portable and window air units | Rare Techy


As the cool and rainy weather stretches into June, it’s hard to believe that almost a year ago British Columbia was hit with a record heat wave that killed hundreds of people.

As the temperature rises every year due to climate change, many people are buying air conditioners (AC) units for their homes.

“I’ve never bought as many wind turbines as I did [now]”said Ed Wilkerson, owner of Magnet Home Hardware in Vancouver.

According to a BC Hydro study released in 2020, the use of air conditioning has tripled since 2001 to include 34 per cent of homes in B.C.

There are permanent solutions such as installing an air conditioner in your home or adding a heat pump, a device that pushes hot air through your home.

But if you’re a renter or apartment dweller looking for more flexible options, there are two main solutions: a portable AC unit and one for the window.

Portable unit

Susie Rieder with BC Hydro says portable AC units — devices that can be moved from room to room to cool them — are the most popular form of air conditioning in the province.

Because the portable units can be easily moved, he says they are more convenient for the user.

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Portable AC unit at Best Buy in Vancouver. BC Hydro says these types of units are the most popular in the province. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

But Rieder says they cost more to buy and run, with an average price of $400 to $800. He says that for a 12-hour day of transportation, it costs $45 a month.

“A lot of people, especially in the Lower Mainland, are using multiple carriers, and the cost of electricity is higher,” he said.

According to Wilkerson, another problem is that portable machines take up more floor space, and some newer units have trays to collect water. He recommends checking regularly, especially after a wet day, so that water does not flood and damage the floor or the part below.

Window Unit

According to Rieder, window AC units — devices that sit inside your window frame that blow hot air out and cool air in — may not be as convenient as a portable unit, but the price is low.

He says buying a window unit with an Energy Star rating, which indicates the product meets federal guidelines for energy efficiency, should save consumers money. On average, it costs about $20 a month to run a window unit for 12 hours a day, he said.

Air conditioning units at Canadian Tire in Vancouver. BC Hydro says these types of AC units are less expensive than portable units. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

They cost less to buy, from $300 to $700.

There are other things to consider

Rieder says that before purchasing an AC unit, BC Hydro recommends that your home be properly conditioned to keep cool air inside.

He says customers should also consider the size of the space they’re trying to cool. Units that are too large may waste energy and cost more, while units that are too small will not cool the space.

BC Hydro has a formula on its website to help potential customers calculate how much electricity to heat a room.

Wilkerson recommends that homeowners get involved with their floors, as many of them don’t accept window AC units.

He says that some window units may not fit into the window frame, so it’s best to take your measurements when buying this type of vent.

And customers may want to buy wood panels, Plexiglass or other materials to fill the gaps in the space to keep the window unit from falling out.


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