How to Install Portable Air Conditioner No Leaks?

Portable air conditioners are a viable option for many people because they are readily available, good-looking and easy to install. Or are they? The answer to this question is both yes and no. YES – portable air conditioners are easy to install, but NO – it’s not something to take lightly. Done improperly, there will be either air or water leaks. This can result in poor performance from the AC, increased energy bills and water stains on the floor or carpet of your room.

How to Install Portable Air Conditioner No Leaks?

So let’s look at the right way to install a portable air conditioner, why it is to be done this way and what can happen if it isn’t done properly.

Selecting the Location for Your Portable

Portable air conditioners are designed to sit on a level floor surface near enough to a window so the exhaust hose will reach without stretching – usually within about 4 feet. The reason for this is that if the exhaust hose is stretched to its maximum length, it might not only present an obstacle to the movement of people, but it could tend to make the unit easier to tip over.

The portable AC should also be close enough to a 115 Volt electrical receptacle so the attached cord can easily reach without the use of an extension cord. The portable is an electrical appliance that draws a significant amount of power, and the addition of a household extension cord can result in the extra cord becoming overheated. This not only can restrict the power to the unit, but could possibly result in a melted cord and scorching the floor or even a fire.

Another consideration for the location of installing your portable air conditioner is the particular window you plan to use for the exhaust hose. If you have a choice, choose a window where the hot afternoon or evening sun will not be shining directly on the unit. The proper operation of any air conditioner requires it to be able to get rid of hot air. If it’s sitting right in the hot sun, it will make that part of its job much more difficult.

A final thought when selecting the location to install your portable AC concerns the issue of getting rid of water that will be accumulated by the unit during its normal operation. Some portables are what are known as “fully self-evaporating”. This means that all of the water removed will be used either to help cool the unit or will be blown out the exhaust hose with the hot air. Others may have a removable container – a bucket – that will collect the water and have to be emptied when it is full. Still others will collect the water in internal cavities and will need to be drained through a hose or tube from time to time.

Pro Tip: Have a plan for getting rid of water, if necessary. Before purchasing a portable air conditioner, be sure to do your research to find out what will be required of you for getting rid of the water that the unit will remove from the air. Depending on the type of unit you buy, think about this water removal issue; it may be an important factor when you choose the location to install your AC.

Installing the Exhaust Hose or Hoses

There are two main types of portable air conditioners; single hose and double hose. While their operation is different, the actual installation of the hose or hoses is very similar. For the purpose of explaining the right way to install them, we will simply speak of “the hose”, rather than repeating, “hose or hoses” several times. Here is where we will prevent air leaks that will affect the performance of your portable AC unit.

3 Methods

portable ac install on hung window
ventilation through a single hung window

1. The most common method of providing for the ventilation of a portable is through a double or single hung window; one that slides up from the bottom. Virtually every portable AC comes with a window kit designed to be used in this type of window. After raising the window part way up, the window kit should be placed in the opening at the bottom of the window following these basic steps:

  • Extend the telescoping/sliding sides of the window kit to fully fit the entire width of the window. There will either be provided screws or plastic pegs to secure the window kit at the desired width.
  • Apply the self-adhesive (peel and stick) foam or the foam strips as needed so that there are no visible gaps between the window kit and the window sash or sides once it is closed. Make sure to provide a good seal on all edges. This is the key to installing a portable AC no leaks – airflow in or out except through the hoses.
  • Connect the exhaust hose to the back of the portable AC by following the installation instructions.
  • Move the unit to its desired location near the window and connect the exhaust hose to the window kit opening per instructions.
  • Do you feel any air coming in? If not, that’s good. Do you hear any whistling? Ditto – if not, you’ve probably done a good job.
portable ac install on sliding window
ventilation through a sliding window

2. If you have sliding windows that slide from side to side, some of the provided window kits will extend far enough that they will fill in the entire height of the opening. If your window is taller than the fully extended window kit will fill, you have a couple of options:

  • purchase a special window kit for a sliding window at your local retail store or find one online.
  • fill in the extra space between the top of the sliding window opening and the highest edge of your window kit when it is fully extended. Popular materials used for this are either plywood or plexiglass. You may be able to get this cut to size at your local supplier, or you can do it yourself if you have the appropriate tools.

However you end up providing for the exhaust hose through a sliding window, be sure to seal all gaps and cracks with foam so that no air, dust or insects can enter around the window kit.

Another option is to consider a window air conditioner built for vertical installation – that is, in sliding or gliding windows.

portable ac install on wall
ventilation through a wall

3. Portable air conditioners can also be vented through a wall if no suitable window is available. This is the most difficult method, and unless you are handy and have the appropriate tools, it will be best to consult a competent carpenter to do this work. The positive side of this type of installation is that there are no gaps to allow air leaks, and you do not interfere with the full view of a window.

Pro Tip – What Not to do: One of the important points to note concerning this type of installation is that the exhaust hose of a portable AC is larger than that of a clothes dryer. Do not try to use a dryer vent and crush or squeeze the AC hose down to fit it. To do this will greatly affect the ability of the AC to work properly, and may cause it to overheat and shut down – possibly even causing it to be damaged.  Special vents are available that are the correct size for a portable AC to be vented through a wall.

Preventing Water Leaks from a Portable Air Conditioner

As mentioned above, unless you have a fully self-evaporating portable AC, you will have to deal with the removal of water that has been collected by the normal operation of the unit. Here are the three most common methods of water removal and how to prevent leaks or spillage:

1. Removable Container

If your unit has a removable water container or “bucket”, it will usually have a float that will rise up as the bucket fills. Before the bucket is completely full, the float will cause a switch to shut off the AC and signal that it is time to empty it. Carefully remove the bucket and carry it to a sink for emptying. A good way to prevent spillage is to place a large towel next to the AC unit under where the bucket is removed – that’s where the spill is most likely to occur.

Related Article:Why Portable Air Conditioner Fills with Water Quickly?

2. Internal Water Collection

If your unit doesn’t have a bucket, it is probably designed with internal cavities molded into the unit that will collect about a quart of water. These units often have two drains at two different levels,  but will sometimes have only one drain near the bottom – either on the side or the back.

Water that is collected internally will only need to be drained when a signal tells you that the cavities are full. This will usually also shut off the AC so the water doesn’t continue to fill up and overflow the holding areas.

There will be a drain hole to which a supplied tube can be connected to drain the accumulated water into a container. This should then be carefully carried to a sink and emptied. Be sure to place a large towel under the drain hole to catch any spills. Also be sure to securely replace a drain plug if one was removed to connect the tube.

3. Continuous Water Drain

If your portable air conditioner is located close enough to a floor drain, a tube or hose of the appropriate size can be connected to the drain on the unit. This will provide a continual drain for water that is collected inside the unit before it is full enough to shut it off. If you use this method, be sure to use the correct size fittings so you can be sure they fit tightly and not allow any water to leak onto your floor.

Final Tips

Installing a portable air conditioner so that there are neither air nor water leaks is important. The key to this is to pay close attention to the details, plan ahead and don’t rush the job. You’ll soon get used to how to “best install a portable AC no leaks” of air or water. Following these tips will ensure that you will have a pleasant experience with your portable for many years.

Written by

Rene has worked 10 years in the HVAC field and now is the Senior Comfort Specialist for PICKHVAC. He holds an HVAC associate degree and EPA & R-410A Certifications.

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