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How to Clean a Portable Air Conditioner

A portable air conditioner is the next best alternative to a central air conditioning or window unit.

Did you know that your portable air conditioner needs an occasional deep cleaning for it to function properly? The air conditioners are an efficient and ideal way of keeping your home comfortable during the warm weather.

For starters, the air conditioners do not need any permanent installation, and can be moved from one room to the other. They are easy to maintain and give you the best service if well-maintained. Lets read more how to clean a portable air conditioner.

Why You Need a Portable AC Unit

  • It is an important cooling unit that can easily move from one room to another. It also acts a dehumidifier thereby saving you money and space
  • Having an AC unit helps prevent ailments that are triggered by high moisture levels. It strains the air and reduces the moisture levels in a room. It also has a hose pipe that brings in cool air into the room.
  • It is equally easy to mount, unmount, install, and uninstall. It is as simple as attaching the single/double hoses of the unit.
  • It is the perfect cooling unit for apartments with limited spaces
  • It is an energy efficient unit for houses with small square footage's. You can choose to place it in an area the needs the breeze.

Dangers of a Dirty AC Unit

How often should one clean the air filters? Once a month is fine, however, it depends on the usage. Having a dirty air filter damages the unit and also interferes with the airflow. Also, it consumes a lot of electricity to run the unit.

It is important to clean your unit at the beginning and at end of summer. Most people will use the AC during this time to keep the temperatures low. Cleaning your unit ensures it runs efficiently and saves you electricity.

Smelly Air Conditioner- What Causes It

The odor from a smelly cooling unit is repulsive and poses a health hazard to the occupants of the room. If your unit has a smell, it is time to deal with the menace. Some of the causes include:

Clogged filter - The role of filter is to keep debris away from the cooling unit. However, a debris build-up results in a repulsive odor. Since the flow of air is interrupted, it intensifies the smell.

Mildew and mold - Moisture accumulation plus dust create an ideal environment for the mold and mildew to thrive. It creates a conducive environment for bacteria to survive and grow. It is important to clean your unit to avoid such occurrences.

Zero maintenance - Neglecting your AC unit results in problems such as clogged filters and molds. Simple and regular cleaning makes all the difference.

Leaking refrigerant - You can tell the AC is leaking if it produces the smell of gas. Get it checked out for safety reasons. If it has a “sweeter” smell, it could another fluid leaking such as the antifreeze. When in doubt, seek the help of a professional HVAC technician.

Running on low - When your AC runs on low setting, it causes an odor. The AC is not utilizing its fully capacity, therefore, it does not dehumidify at it should be. It results in a murky smell.

When in doubt, always seek the opinion of a professional. Sometimes, the diagnosis might not be as basic as we think. However, simple cleaning on a regularly basis helps prevents the odor. After all, nobody wants to live in a room with a repulsive smell.

How to Clean Your Portable AC - Step-By-Step Instruction

Always unplug the unit first before draining the water

Your AC unit acts a dehumidifier during the cooling process. It collects water from the air which condensates in a tank. It is crucial to drain before commencing the cleaning process.

Run AC on fan mode

Running your unit on AC on fan mode completely dries out the unit on the inside. It is a necessary step before taking on the thorough cleaning. The process should take about two hours.

Removing the filter, dust, and any other impurities

The air filters gather dust and loose dirt as they run. You will need to remove the filter from its frame and shake out any dust. This trick works for AC units with the HEPA and carbon filter types. Sometimes, you might need to replace the filters. Read the manufacturer’s instructions on cleaning and maintaining the filters.

Thoroughly rinse the filter

Use plenty of water to rinse your filters to remove any dirt or dust that might be present. A solution of warm water and mild detergent will work fine as a cleaning solution. Give the air filter time to dry as you clean the rest of the units.

Vacuuming the air intake vents

A hose attachment or hand held vacuum is perfect for cleaning the intake vents. Pay attention not to touch anything that will cause any harm or damage to you during the cleaning process.

Cleaning the cooling coils

The cooling coils need a string acidic solution for a thorough cleaning. A simple acidic cleaning solution works well when sprayed directly to the cooling coils. Some homemade acidic cleaning solutions include lemon/lime juice, vinegar and water. Let it settle for a few minutes after cleaning the coils before returning the filters.

Cleaning the external housing units

The external housing unit of your portable cooling unit gathers dust over time. Luckily, a simple wipe from a damp cloth clears the mess. It is not advisable to use any abrasive or strong chemical solutions while cleaning. A simple solution of mild detergent and warm water will work fine.

Storing till the next season

If the AC unit does not have an in-built heater option, store it until the next season. If possible, return it original packaging, store in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight or moisture.

Test the AC

Let your AC run for a few minutes before reinstalling the hose and other parts. If the appliance is blowing cold air, it means it is running efficiently

What to Look For In Portable AC Units

Do you want a remote controlled AC or the digital one? Do you want with an in-built heater, dehumidifier, or air purifier? For starters, it all boils down to individual preferences. There are so many other factors to consider besides comfort and costs.

The majority of the people and homeowners may not be aware of the British Thermal Units standards and ratings on air conditioning units. For instance, heavy duty cooling units need a higher cooling capacity. It is important to look out for the BTU ratings before making a purchase. Establish if it meets the requirements of the intended space. If it does not, it might not be as effective as intended.

A 7,500 BTU unit will work perfectly in a 1,200 cubic feet or 150 square feet room while a 13,000 BTU unit is ideal for 450 square feet or 3,600 cubic feet.


Sometimes, the specifications might not be very accurate given factors such as humidity and the ceiling level.
Another challenge is the number of appliances in a room and how much heat they generate. For instance, some garage appliances might emit too much heat which interferes with the efficient cooling of the unit.

Lastly, the room might not be properly insulated thereby reducing the efficiency of the cooling unit.

Paying Attention to the Warnings

Given all the benefits that the cooling unit has to offer, it is important to pay attention to the warnings too.
Follow the manufacturer’s manual on how to install, clean, and what not to do. Do not attempt to make any repairs or an attempt any experiments that might cause harm to you or the unit.

Caring and Maintenance Tips for Your Unit

Cleaning your unit on a regular basis is not enough. Here are few tips that will ensure your AC runs efficiently as it should and last for a life time.

Positioning matters

Even as you move the unit from one room to another, pay special attention to its positioning. Do not place it in very dusty and dirty places. The small dirt loose particles will cause damage to the unit’s motor causing it to clog. It often results in electrical and mechanical issues.
Humidity is another aspect to consider. For starters, you will need to drain your tank on a regular basis.

Power source

The power supply to your AC should have a capacity of at least 120 AV. It will give it enough power to start the unit’s motor, compressor, and fan. If the circuit supply is lower than that, you might have a busted fuse. It is recommended to invest in a surge protector that will protect your AC in the case of a sudden power surge that could potentially fry your unit.

Your filters need tender love and care

The rule of the thumb is to ensure you read the manual on caring for your filters. Regular cleaning is important for an efficient running of the unit. Neglecting your filters gathers dust, moisture, and other loose impurities, which create a layer around the coil. As a result, the coil does not transfer the heat efficiently and there is the risk of overheating.

Do not clean your filters with soap or detergent as it may encourage the clogging of residues.
If your unit has a carbon filter, change it every 3-6 months.

The exhaust hose should always remain straight

A straight hose keeps moisture from gathering into the pipe which finds its way back into the unit. Moisture shortens the lifespan of the device. Check for moisture levels regularly.

Store it the right way

If you do not intend to use your device for quite some time, ensure you store it in the right way. For starters, ensure the tank is well drained and dry. Drape it with a plastic sheet to keep away the moisture. Store it in the closet or attic, away from extreme heat or cool

Exterior should be clean

Give the AC’s exterior a clean wipe every time you clean up around the house. Use a clean damp cloth with chemicals or abrasives. Keep you interior away from direct sunlight to avoid discoloring it.

Professional maintenance

Once in a while, consider professional maintenance for your cooling unit. Your unit might have a problem that only a HVAC professional can diagnose. Also, some of the issues might require a professional touch besides the basic care.

Clean Condenser coils

The condenser coils should be free of grease, dirt, and grime for the cooling unit to function properly. Clean them to restore them to their natural state with store-bought solutions, or a simple acidic solution.


How to clean a portable air conditioner comes in handy during the hot season. The advantage is that it can be moved from location to another. Also, it is easy to maintain and install. How do you take care of your cooling unit to get the best out of it? What cleaning tips should you follow? What maintenance tips will ensure your system last for a life time?

While cleaning, it is important to unplug the unit and drain all the water collected. A sponge and warm water are enough cleaning accessories. Pay special attention to other parts of the units as well. Avoid using strong chemical solutions and abrasives during the cleaning process. Do not touch any parts that might cause any harm or injury such as moving parts with sharp edges. Also, ensure all the parts are completely dry before assembling them back and running the unit. It also calls for basic maintenance tips that will ensure your cooling unit is operating as it should. It goes beyond regular cleaning of the coil, fans, and vents. It means that positioning and storing your unit in the recommended way. Keep your unit away from culprits such as dust, dirt, and humidity.

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