Category - Air Conditioning
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Will Scholfield, Engineer

31 Jan : Updated 9 Apr ● 9 min read

Portable vs wall-mounted air conditioning: Which is better?

Portable and wall-mounted air conditioning units both come with their benefits. Depending on your home setup, one type of system may be more suitable than another. So, before you buy an air conditioning system, you need to know exactly what you’re looking for and what each product does. If not, you may end up wasting energy and, as a result, money. 

To help you make the right choice when deciding between a wall-mounted or portable air conditioning unit, we put together this guide. Here, we explore how both systems work, how much they cost to install and examine the pros and cons of each system. But first, how does an air conditioning system work? 

How does an air conditioning system work?

Air conditioning units work by removing the warm air from inside your home and pumping it outside, simultaneously releasing cool air back into the room. 

More specifically, warm air is drawn into the air conditioning system before flowing over cold evaporator pipes, this cools the air down while a dehumidifier removes excess moisture. 

As this is happening, the refrigerant that flows through the pipes absorbs the hot air and evaporates - changing from a cool liquid to a warm gas. 

The warm air is pumped outside while the refrigerant flows through a compressor and a condenser. This turns the liquid back into a gas, which is recirculated into the room, cooling everything down and reducing the humidity.

Air conditioning units can be reversed too, so in winter you can essentially take cold air out of a room and heat it up.  

Wall-mounted air conditioning units

Wall-mounted air conditioning systems, or split system air conditioners, comprise two different units; an internal and an external unit. The indoor unit is mounted on the wall and the outdoor unit is usually placed on the ground or against a wall. These two units are connected through piping which is fed through the wall. The two units work together to cool your home's air and release warm air and moisture efficiently. The indoor unit is usually very quiet, whereas the outdoor unit tends to be noisier in operation.

How much do wall-mounted air conditioning units cost?

To have a wall-mounted air conditioner installed, it will cost around £1,500, but this will depend on the type of system you want and other factors, including: 

  • The type of property you live in (a flat will be more expensive than a house)
  • The size of your house and the number of rooms you want to cool
  • Extra features, like smart technology integration
  • The type of air conditioner you choose to buy

Explore our blog for more information on how much it costs to install air conditioning

How are wall-mounted air conditioners installed?

A wall-mounted system must be installed by an F-gas qualified engineer to ensure everything is in full working order and the unit is safe to use. 

When the indoor unit is being fitted, it should be installed as close to the ceiling as possible. This will allow for greater coverage of the room. 

If you’re having a smart system installed, you will need to ensure that both the smart thermostat and the air conditioner can connect to your home’s wifi. Smart technology gives you greater control over your system, but to work effectively it needs to be within range of your wifi router.

How much do wall-mounted air conditioning units cost to run?

Depending on the size of your air conditioning unit, it could cost as little as 70p per hour to run or as much as £2.00 per hour. 

How much it costs to run a wall-mounted air conditioning unit will vary vastly based on the appliance’s wattage and the size of the room. 

Due to the effectiveness and efficiency of wall-mounted air conditioners, you will not need it to be running all day and may only need to switch on the air conditioner for a couple of hours at a time. 

Read more about air conditioni­ng running costs...

Want to know the specifics on how much an air conditioner costs to run?

Want to know the specifics on how much an air conditione­r costs to run?

Check out our complete guide. We cover how to work out the costs, the factors that can influence the cost, and how to reduce them.

Check out the guide

How effective are wall-mounted air conditioning units?

Wall-mounted systems are generally considered to be one of the most energy-efficient types of air conditioners. Another benefit is that they can double up as heaters during the winter. This gives you the option of reducing how much you use your central heating system and potentially helping you save money. 

Portable air conditioning units

A portable air conditioner is a standalone system, perfect for cooling smaller spaces such as an office room, a single bedroom or a garage, for example. Usually, a portable air conditioning unit will be placed on the floor and will be fitted with wheels; a perfect way to transport the unit to different areas of a home when needed.

Portable air conditioning units are quick to set up and easy to run and control. However, as with any air conditioning system, the warm air and moisture drawn away from a room needs to be released. With a portable air conditioning system, you’ll usually need to fix a window kit to the unit. This will include an exhaust hose which will then dispose of this air through a window. When the portable unit is set up, you’ll then be able to start cooling your home straight away.

How much do portable air conditioning units cost?

A portable air conditioner can cost as little as £250 or as much as £1,000, depending on the type of system you buy. Naturally, more expensive units will have more power and cool a room more efficiently.

If you’re considering buying a portable air conditioner, it’s important that you do plenty of research around, to ensure that the appliance is as energy efficient and powerful as you need it to be. 

How are portable air conditioning units installed?

A portable air conditioner can be used straight out of the box, so there’s no need to organise professional installation or buy any specialist equipment. 

With the majority of portable air conditioners, you’ll simply have to plug the system into the mains and put the exhaust hose through a nearby window. 

To maximise the efficiency of your portable air conditioning unit, you should fit the hose to the window so the expelled air cannot get back into the room. 

How much do portable air conditioning units cost to run?

Typically, a portable air conditioning unit will cost around 35p per hour to run - around 50% cheaper than a wall-mounted unit. 

The hourly cost to run a portable air conditioning unit will vary based on the size of the unit you buy and how energy efficient it is.  

Now, whilst this price difference might make your buying decision feel like a no-brainer, things aren’t quite that clear cut. Even though a portable air conditioning unit costs less per hour to run, it won’t have nearly the same cooling capabilities as a wall-mounted unit. Ultimately, this might mean that you end up needing to buy two or even three portable units to achieve the same results as you would with one wall-mounted machine!

How effective are portable air conditioning units?

Compared to wall-mounted systems, portable air conditioners are less effective for a couple of reasons: 

  1. They take longer to cool a room.
  2. They generate heat. 

We previously mentioned that portable air conditioners require an exhaust hose, this is because of the heat they generate when they’re cooling your home. 

An exhaust hose attached to a window will help to remove some of the heat the conditioning unit creates, but not all of it. This is why you should always place your portable air conditioning unit near a door or window, to expel as much heat as possible. 

In addition to the heat generated, a portable system can be quite noisy too, as the compressor (which usually sits outside a home) is all built into the same unit. 

Pros and cons of wall-mounted and portable air conditioning units

If you’re looking for a concise round-up of the key points, look no further  - here are the pros and cons of wall-mounted and portable air conditioners… 

Pros and cons of a wall-mounted air conditioning unit

They are more powerful than portable units and can cool/heat a room more quicklyThe installation requires an F-gas qualified engineer
Suitable for larger roomsThey’re more expensive than portable air conditioning systems
They last longer than portable units
They don’t take up any floor space
They are less noisy than portable units 
Suitable for residential properties and offices

Pros and cons of a portable air conditioning unit

They are cheaper to buy and runNot as quiet as wall-mounted units
No installation requiredThey generate heat
Can be taken to other locations and roomsLess powerful than wall-mounted units
More suitable for rented premisesMore prone to breaking
Takes up more floor space

Which should you buy: a wall-mounted or portable air conditioning unit?

A portable air conditioning unit is a convenient, more budget-friendly alternative to a wall-mounted air conditioner. So it’s understandable that you may want to opt for a portable system. 

With that being said, as the UK is exposed to more extreme weather, investing in a high-quality wall-mounted air conditioning unit may be a better option in the long run. 

In terms of energy efficiency and all-round effectiveness, a wall-mounted air conditioner is the best choice. 

If you’re struggling to find the ideal air conditioner for your home, use our Find an AC tool. This service asks you a few questions about your location and the type of building you live in, then recommends systems to you - taking the stress out of finding an air conditioning unit.

We’re partners with leading air conditioning system manufacturers too, so we can bring you incredible deals for lower, fixed-price deals, including installation.  

Our engineers are more than happy to make recommendations for you based on your home specifications too, so don’t hesitate to get in touch if you would like to speak to an expert. 

Selecting which air conditioner to buy can be difficult, so if you don’t know your EER from your BTU, our air conditioning guides are like a breath of fresh air…  

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