When the day is very hot, there is no good and cheap solution. A fan circulates the air, but does not reduce the ambient temperature. And air conditioners can even deceive when the air is dry, but they do not fully solve the problem. The best possible outlet is air conditioning. But is it worth buying one of these portable models, which can be installed anywhere?
Does portable air conditioning make too much noise? Does it really refresh the air? How is the installation and maintenance? I had the opportunity to test a portable air conditioner from LG in the last heat waves and answer everything in the next few minutes.
In video: is portable air conditioning worth it?
THE Tecnoblog is a technology-independent journalistic vehicle that helps people make their next purchase decision since 2005. Our product reviews are opinionated and have no advertising intent. For this reason, we always transparently highlight the positive and negative points of each product.
No company, manufacturer or store has paid the Tecnoblog to produce this content. Our reviews are not reviewed or approved by external agents. The Dual Inverter Voice Portable was provided by LG by donation. The product will be used in future content and will not be returned to the company.
If you can have a split air conditioner, it’s not worth it
I could force you to see this content until the end, but I will start by saying goodbye to a good part of the audience: if you can install a fixed air conditioner, like a split model, it is not worth buying a laptop.
As much as manufacturers have invested in technologies to improve portable air conditioners, there are inherent limitations to this type of product. A notebook will never be as quiet as a split, never cool the air as fast as a split, and will never be as energy efficient as a split.
It makes sense to buy a portable model if, for example, you live in a rented property and were unable to negotiate the installation of a fixed air conditioner with the owner, or if you live in a building that does not allow a split air conditioner because that would characterize façade alteration (that’s my situation).
Now, if you do not fit in these cases, it is better and cheaper to buy and install a split air conditioner.
My experience is with a model from LG, but…
My judgments focus on the LG Dual Inverter Voice Portable, which is the model I have been using for months, but I decided that talking about the category of portable air conditioners as a whole could be more useful. So, although I comment on some specifics of LG, a good part of the opinions is also valid for other equipment.
This LG model was launched in Brazil for R $ 4,599 and is one of the most expensive in the market. It has a capacity of 14,000 BTUs, Dual Inverter compressor, Wi-Fi connectivity and integration with Alexa and Google Assistant for voice commands. There are equipment for sale in Brazil with prices starting at R $ 1.5 thousand, which may not be as powerful and do not bring the extra features that make LG’s model more expensive, but whose operation is similar.
Quick and easy installation
The first advantage of the portable air conditioner is the ease of installation. In the case of the LG Dual Inverter Voice, it took me less than an hour between taking the equipment out of the box, taking a quick look at the manual, installing the product in the office window and pressing the power button. Most portable models are easy to install and do not require any specific work, such as drilling into the wall or adapting the power point.
Any real air conditioner has two parts: an evaporator and a condenser. Simply put, the evaporator is the part that everyone knows, because that is where the cold air comes from, while the condenser, which is usually outside, has a refrigerant to exchange heat and expel the hot air. On a laptop, these two parts are in the same unit.
The portable air conditioner still needs to expel the hot air and this is done through a hose facing outside the environment, usually connected to the window. In the LG model, the equipment comes with adaptive plates that can work on windows with horizontal or vertical opening, with sizes from 58.5 cm to 152.5 cm. Then, just measure the window, adjust the size of the plate and then fix it on the stop.
Portable air conditioning, but take it easy
Keep in mind that a “portable” air conditioner is not as “portable” as the name might suggest. As you need to install an air outlet on the window, it is theoretically possible, but not practical, to move the equipment from one room to another.
First, because you need to remove the mounting plate from one window and install it in another, which will inevitably have a different height or width. Another option is to buy a second plate and leave a hole in the room window when the air conditioner is not connected (and the plate prevents the window from closing completely).
Second because we are talking about heavy and bulky equipment. Despite having transport wheels, the LG Dual Inverter Voice Portable weighs 32 kg and most competitors are in the same range. In addition, you need to respect the distance between the air conditioner and the wall (at least 50 centimeters on all sides) and consider that the hose also takes up a lot of space. In practice, a laptop takes up more space than a fixed one.
Yes, it makes more noise than a normal air conditioner
As soon as I turned on the air conditioning, the noise was the first thing I noticed. There’s no way: as the condenser is inside the room, the noise of the compressor is also very close to you. LG says its model is one of the quietest on the market as it is the first notebook with Dual Inverter compressor, but the truth is that there is no way to work miracles.
In my case, with the temperature already stabilized and the fan at the lowest speed, the Dual Inverter Voice Portable emitted an average noise of 52 dB being about 2 meters from the equipment, which is equivalent to a conversation in a normal tone. In sleep mode, the noise was approximately 47 dB, slightly above the 44 dB that LG promises. Just for reference, there are split models that reach only 19 dB in the indoor unit, something so quiet that I can’t even measure it.
As the noise generated by the portable air conditioner is constant and more severe, an active canceling headset is already capable of eliminating noise while you are working, for example. But, to sleep, even in sleep mode, the noise is at a level that disturbs me. The solution on hot nights was to cool the room and turn off the equipment before going to sleep.
Freezes fast, within expectations
As for cooling, a portable air conditioner is almost as good as a conventional model for reducing the temperature, but it takes a little longer to achieve the same result and does not go to extremes.
In my tests, with a room of 9 square meters, initially at 28 ºC, the Dual Inverter Voice Portable took about 40 minutes to stabilize at 20 ºC in the entire environment. It seems like a long time and it really is, if you consider that the equipment is oversized for the site: 14,000 BTUs should easily handle 20 square meters. But as the air conditioner emits cold air as soon as it is turned on, the thermal sensation is great from the first few seconds.
Keep in mind that my reference is the São Paulo heat, which is not usually as strong as in some regions of the country, although there are days of surprise. On a very hot day for my parameters, with a temperature of 34 ºC and sun falling directly on the environment, the LG portable air conditioner worked at maximum and could not drop below 23 ºC.
Not that 23 ºC is bad, especially when the temperature outside is 11 degrees higher, but the problem is that the air conditioning works more until it reaches the desired temperature and, consequently, can consume more energy. Therefore, being aware of the limitations of the equipment is important to not receive a surprise in the electricity bill: it is useless to put the air conditioning at 16 ºC and expect that the expense will be the same.
Spends electricity but pays off
Speaking of energy, a portable air conditioner has consumption equivalent to that of a conventional model of the same capacity. In my tests, the LG ThinQ app showed a consumption of 52 kWh in a period of 30 days to stay on for 107 hours. This is the equivalent of 3h30min per day, if the equipment was used every day.
The cost of electricity varies widely according to the region of the country. In my case, consumption went from 190 kWh to about 250 kWh, which increased the value of Enel’s electricity bill from R $ 150 to R $ 200.
Fifty reais a month is not a small amount, but I think it is a fair amount to pay for greater thermal comfort. And, taking into account the pandemic, which made many people leave the office to work at home, this is an expense that more people must be willing to afford.
Maintenance without secrets
The maintenance of a laptop is almost the same as any conventional air conditioner. Two components need more care: the air filter and the water tank.
The dirty air filter decreases the air flow and the efficiency of the air conditioner, so it needs to be cleaned periodically. In the case of LG, the company recommends cleaning every two weeks with a vacuum cleaner. If the filter is very dirty, it can be washed under running water and neutral detergent, with drying in the shade.
The water tank fills according to use. As the name suggests, the air conditioning condenser condenses the refrigerant (which is a gas) and turns it into a liquid. In a conventional air conditioner, the condenser would simply throw the water out of the room through the hose. In the laptop, water accumulates in a reservoir and, when the device signals that it is full, it must be emptied for the operation to continue.
So, is portable air conditioning worth it?
Portable air conditioning is my example of “good is not an enemy of the great”. It will never be as quiet or efficient as a split, but it works very well for what it is proposed.
Speaking specifically of the LG Dual Inverter Voice Portable, for anyone who is in doubt about a purchase decision, the device is more expensive than the market average, but it cools a lot, is easy to install and is as quiet as possible. But it is better to purchase this model because of the “air conditioning” part, not “intelligent air conditioning”. That’s because, for me, the extra software features aren’t worth what they cost.
Unfortunately, the LG ThinQ app sucks. At first, he had a series of wrong translations that bothered me, but at least it worked well. After an update in mid-September 2020, which completely changed the interface, the application was slow and stuck, almost unusable, on both Android and iPhone. Complaints on Google Play and the App Store have been widespread. It is not good to depend on the smart part of the equipment, therefore.
But, regardless of the model chosen, if you can’t go through the wall and install a huge air conditioner around, a portable air conditioner can be an excellent option to buy. It will require significant expense in the beginning, but the cost can be well worth it. Especially if you’re hot like me.