Portable Air Conditioner Vs Air Cooler (differences compared)

As soon as the weather starts to warm up we all start looking for ways to cool down. This inevitably leads to an online search for some sort of device to make our homes feel more comfortable.

Even if you can put up with that stifling heat during the day, sleeping at night can be a far bigger problem. 

Once you get online you’ll start to notice a huge discrepancy in the prices of certain air coolers. The differences in price can be quite substantial, and there’s a good reason for that.

It’s because some are portable air conditioners while others are air coolers. If you’re confused between the two, you’ve found the right place.

Because in this article we’ll look at the differences between air coolers and portable air conditioners and point out the advantages and disadvantages of each device.

What’s The Difference Between A Portable Air Conditioner And An Air Cooler?

So let’s look at the air cooler and the portable air conditioner in more detail and get some idea on how they work and then look at the benefits of each device and compare them with the drawbacks associated with each as well.

What Is A Portable Air Conditioner?

A portable air conditioner is a self contained unit that is basically two radiators in a box and works in a very similar way to a refrigerator. Even down to the fact that a portable air conditioner relies on a refrigerant to cool the air that passes through the system.

Bestseller No. 1
Air Conditioning Unit Portable Air Conditioner 9000 BTU 4-in-1 Dehumidifier, Cooling Fan with 2 Speeds, Digital Display & Remote Control, Window Kit, 24 Hour Timer for Room Up to 269sq.ft
  • ☃️【9000BTU Cooling Up to 269ft】Tired of sweltering summer days? Why not dive into refreshing cool air wherever you go with our compact cooling marvel. Our air conditioner is crafted with a cutting-edge air compressor, making itself an exquisite and compact cooling tool. Stay cool and cozy with our 9000 BTU air conditioner, a preferred companion cooling the rooms up to 269ft instantly. Start your unforgettable cooling journey in bedroom, living room, office or garage from now on.
  • 4️⃣【4-in-1 Multiple Functions】KGOGO air conditioner is designed specially to improve indoor air and offer year-round comfort. Beat the heat with our versatile air conditioner boasting four modes tailored for your comfort. From chilling in air conditioner mode to enjoying gentle breezes or strong cool winds in fan mode, and maintaining optimal humidity at 40%-60% RH with the dehumidifier mode ( This mode only works when the temperature is above 15℃ or the humidity is below 85% . ), and enjoying a deep ultra-quiet childlike sleep with light off and lower noise under our sleep mode, our air conditioner has you covered.
SaleBestseller No. 2
Air Conditioning Unit, Portable Air Conditioner with 3-in-1 Cooling & Fan & Dehumidifier Function, Air Conditioners with Digital Display & Remote Control, 24H Timer for Room up to 215 ft
  • 【✅𝑷𝑶𝑾𝑬𝑹𝑭𝑼𝑳 7000 𝑩𝑻𝑼 𝑪𝑶𝑶𝑳𝑰𝑵𝑮】This air conditioning unit utilizes an advanced air compressor, delivering powerful cooling with 7000 BTU capacity, suitable for rooms up to 215 square feet. Whether it's your home, bedroom, basement, office, living room, or kitchen, it ensures powerful and efficient cooling. In the scorching summer, it can quickly cool down the temperature to 16°C within 10 minutes, keeping you cool and comfortable. It is an essential tool to beat the heat!
  • 【✅𝑹𝑬𝑨𝑳-𝑻𝑰𝑴𝑬 𝑫𝑰𝑺𝑷𝑳𝑨𝒀 & 𝑹𝑬𝑴𝑶𝑻𝑬 𝑪𝑶𝑵𝑻𝑹𝑶𝑳】Equipped with a multifunctional control panel featuring an LED digital display and comprehensive remote control, this air conditioner portable offers real-time temperature monitoring and remote operation, enhancing the convenience of your lifestyle. With the remote control, you can effortlessly set timers, adjust temperature settings, and switch between modes for an unparalleled cooling experience.

How Does A Portable Air Conditioner Work?

Inside a portable aircon unit there are two radiators which are connected by copper piping in a continuous looping circuit. The copper pipe is filled with the refrigerant which travels between the two radiators.

The cold refrigerant absorbs heat from the room which heats the refrigerant slightly. It then passes through the compressor which heats it up more through pressurisation. 

Then it travels to the condenser where the heat is removed via the exhaust hose. This cools the refrigerant down and it then passes through the expansion valve which returns it to a gaseous state and the process starts again.

For a more detailed explanation of how a portable air conditioner works click here.

What Are The Pros Of A Portable Air Conditioner?

Now that we have an idea how a portable air conditioner works, let’s have a look at the advantages of owning one. The main advantages of a portable air conditioner include;

  • Ease Of Installation
    Compared to a central A/C, a portable air conditioner is easy to install. All you need to do is place the exhaust hose to an outside  window and plug the unit into a plug socket.
  • Ease Of Movement
    Portable air conditioners are relatively easy to move from room to room, their only requirement is access outdoors for the exhaust hose and a plug socket. 
  • Cheaper To Run Than A Central A/C
    As a portable air conditioner can be moved from room to room, they only cool the space that you need to be cooled.
  • Dehumidifies The Air
    A portable air conditioner removes humidity from the air as well as heat.
  • Actively Cools The temperature Of The Room
    A Portable air conditioner actually removes heat from the room and so actively cools the room down.
  • Can Be Preset To Cool To A Precise Temperature
    Unlike an air cooler, a portable air conditioner unit can have a preset temperature selected. This means that once the desired temperature has been achieved, the unit will cut out.
  • Cools A Far Larger Area
    Compared to an air cooler, a portable air conditioner can cool a much larger area. Coolers don’t tend to be effective in rooms larger than 30m2, sometimes less depending on the model.

What Are The Cons Of A Portable Air Conditioner?

As with anything in life, it’s not all good news, portable air conditioners do have a few drawbacks which include;

  • More Expensive To Buy
    Portable air conditioners will cost far more to buy than air coolers. This is due to the internal components present in an air conditioner compared to the minimalistic design of an air cooler.
  • Less Environmentally Friendly
    There are a few reasons why portable A/Cs are less environmentally friendly than air coolers which include; portable air conditioners use more energy, they also contain a refrigerant and even though modern refrigerants are more environmentally friendly than those of years ago, they are more damaging than those appliances that don’t use them.
  • Limited Areas For Installation
    A portable A/C unit needs to be sited close to a window and a plug socket.
  • Noisy
    There’s no getting away from the fact that portable air conditioners are noisy. Some models are quieter than others, but none are silent.
  • Cost More To Operate
    Due to all of the internal components, a portable aircon unit will cost more to run than an air cooler.

What Is An Air Cooler?

From the outward appearance, an air cooler looks pretty similar to a portable air conditioner. However, that’s where the similarity ends, air coolers basically consist of a large water reservoir and a fan. 

Which means there are far fewer components than a portable aircon unit plus an air cooler uses much less power.

SaleBestseller No. 1
Portable Air Cooler, AONELAS 4 in 1 Portable Air Conditioner, 1000ML Large Capacity Evaporative Cooler with LED Screen, 2 Spray Modes and 7 Colors Lights, Mini Personal Air Conditioner for Room Office
  • 【4 in 1 Portable Air Conditioner】Not only can be used as a fan, but also an air humidifier, can reduce the air temperature and increase humidity, environmental protection and low energy consumption, the air cooler in the summer to bring you cool and at the same time can save you part of the electricity bill, is a must-have summer products.
  • 【1000ML Large Capacity】The water tank of the mini air fan with a capacity of 1000ml and can be used for 9-10 hours in spray mode to bring you long-lasting coolness, add ice and water mixture to cool the air faster, the water filling should not exceed the maximum water level to avoid water overflow.
Bestseller No. 2
Portable Air Conditioner, Personal Cooler Fan, 3 in 1 Evaporative With Large Capacity Water Tank, Quiet Mini Conditioner Desk Cooling Fan for Home, Bedroom, Travel, and Office
  • 【𝐅𝐚𝐬𝐭 𝐂𝐨𝐨𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐠】Want to be colder? Add ice to portable air conditioners’ tank, then experience polar air within 5 seconds!
  • 【𝐐𝐮𝐢𝐞𝐭 & 7‐𝐂𝐨𝐥𝐨𝐫 𝐋𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐬】On hot summer nights, a 7-color light air cooler can create a romantic feeling. Enjoy a cool night's sleep. Super quiet!
Bestseller No. 3
Portable Air Conditioner, Air Cooler with 90° Oscillation, All-in-1 Mini Air Conditioner, Air Cooling Fan with Timer 1-8H, 5 Wind Speeds, 2 Spray Modes, for Home, Office, Bedroom
  • ⛄【Feel The Cool Summer】⛄The portable air conditioner can blow the inhaled hot air into cold air through the evaporation of water in the water tank, which can cool the surrounding air in the shortest time. Tip: Add ice cubes and water to achieve better cooling effect.
  • ⛄【Large Water Tank Capacity, Long-lasting Coolness】⛄The portable air cooler has a water tank capacity of up to 600ML and can work for 6-8 hours when filled with water, making you feel cool and comfortable. The top water tank design increases the convenience of adding water; the bottom tray design avoids water leakage.

How Does An Air Cooler Work?

Inside an air cooler there is a fan and wet pads which are soaked in water. The fan draws in warm air and hurls it at the wet, water soaked pads which cools it down.

The air is then projected into the room. The air cooler works by cooling the air using evaporation in much the same way as your skin does when you sweat on a hot day.

You will need to keep replacing the water that the wet pads absorb and then gets blown from the unit.

Air coolers, also known as swamp fans, consume on average 75% less electricity than portable air conditioners.

What Are The Pros Of An Air Cooler?

The main advantages of an air cooler include;

  • Low Running Costs
    As there are far fewer working parts in an air cooler compared to a portable A/C it will use far less electricity and therefore cost less to run. The only working parts in an air cooler are the fan and the water pump. The average air cooler uses between 200 to 400 watts of power which makes them a far more economical way to cool a small room.
  • Less Maintenance
    Apart from washing the pads and refilling with water, an air cooler needs little maintenance.
  • Better Air Quality
    Unlike portable aircons which need to operate with all doors and windows closed, an air cooler can operate with a window open. This allows you to benefit from fresh air. Plus if you position your air cooler correctly you can enjoy fresh cool air on even the hottest of days.
  • Increase Moisture Levels
    If you live in a hot, dry climate, an air cooler will help to rehydrate the air.
  • More Environmentally Friendly
    As an air cooler uses less energy and contains no potentially harmful refrigerant gases, it is more environmentally friendly than a portable aircon unit.
  • Portable
    Air coolers can be placed anywhere in any room (although it’s not advisable to site an air cooler too close to an electrical appliance due to moisture content).

What Are The Cons Of An Air Cooler?

The disadvantages of an air cooler include;

  • Can Use A Lot Of Water
    If the temperature is very hot and the air cooler is running constantly, it will need to be refilled with water quite often.
  • Can’t Be Set To A Preselected Temperature
    Unlike a portable aircon unit, an air cooler cannot be set at a preselected temperature, it always relies on air temperature.
  • Can Only Cool A Small Area
    Air coolers are not suitable for cooling large areas. This can mean that an air cooler is not capable of cooling a large room to the desired level.
  • Can Be Noisy
    Like all fans, an air cooler can be noisy when running.

Which Is Better: A Portable Air Conditioner Or An Air Cooler?

As can be seen both of these appliances have their pros and cons. Deciding which one is best for you is dependent on many factors; the climate in your area, the air quality, your budget and how much space you have in your home.

If you don’t want to pay too much extra on your electricity bill and environmental issues are a huge priority for you, then an air cooler will probably suit you best.

However, if you want to cool the actual room and dehumidify the air, then a portable air conditioner will almost certainly be your best bet.

Air Cooler Vs Portable Air Conditioner Price Comparison

So far, we’ve covered how each appliance works and the main pros & cons. Let’s have a quick look at the price of each appliance. This is where the biggest difference will be seen.

Air Cooler Price

Air coolers are the less expensive of the two, with a desktop air cooler costing anywhere from £30 and a stand alone unit costing anywhere between £100 to £250.

Portable Air Conditioner Price

When it comes to the price of a decent portable air conditioner, you can expect to pay anywhere from £250 to £300 and if you go for a top of the range model, it will set you back anywhere between £900 to £1000.

Should I Buy A Portable Air Conditioner Or An Air Cooler?

As we said earlier, if you live in an area where it’s hot most of the time and you can afford it, a portable air conditioner will probably suit you best.

However, if you live in an area where heat waves are few and far between, and you don’t want to spend too much money, then an air cooler will probably be a better buy.

SEE ALSO: Best Portable Air Conditioners (top UK aircon units reviewed)

PLUS SEE: How Much Does It Cost To Run A Portable Air Conditioner? (UK prices)

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better air cooler or portable air conditioner?

Whether an air cooler or a portable air conditioner is better really depends on a number of factors. Like; do you live in an area where it is hot and humid most of the time? If so, a portable air conditioner will probably suit you best. However an air cooler is cheaper to buy, cheaper to run and more eco friendly.

Is a portable AC and an air cooler the same?

A portable air conditioner looks very similar to an air cooler but that’s really where the similarity ends. Portable air conditioners actually condition the air by removing hot air and replacing it with cool air using a refrigerant and two radiators. An air cooler uses a fan and a wet pad to provide a very localised cool airflow.

Can an air cooler cool a room?

In some circumstances an air cooler can cool a room. It very much depends on the size of the room because air coolers have limited cooling abilities.

Do air coolers use a lot of electricity?

Air coolers use far less electricity than a portable air conditioner. Basically the only parts that require power in an air cooler are the fan and the water pump so air coolers use around 200 to 400 watts of power.

Do air coolers make the room damp?

Air coolers do make the room damp because they work by blowing damp air around the room.

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