The Secret Life Of Portable Air Conditioners

Portable air conditioning has been in Australia for over 40 years and has seen exceptional growth due to its easy install, temporary nature and outstanding efficiency.Most people don’t realise that portable air conditioners vary in size from 3 kW to a huge 20 kW making them highly versatile. They have wheels for easy maneuvering and even the large 20 kW unit can be wheeled through a standard doorway. The majority plug into standard 10 amp sockets and vent their hot air through temporary ducting.Due to their versatility and ease of use, portable air conditioners are used in places you would never think of; off-shore oil rigs, crane cabs, war ships, prisons, mental health units, dog kennels, air craft, super computers, exclusive VIP events…the list is endless! A 4.5 kW unit was even used to keep the Queen cool when she stayed at Kirribilli House back in 2006! Portable air conditioners are also used in the more mundane, but equally important, offices, retail, hospitality, construction, manufacturing, mining and emergency camps.Additionally, as the reliance on IT ever increases, temporary portable air conditioners are now the default choice for keeping server rooms cool during scheduled maintenance or in emergency breakdowns.So although most people think they know air conditioners, there are a few things they should be aware of when hiring them for commercial or industrial use.

Here’s a handy checklist:

  • What needs to be cooled? An office, marquee, mineshaft, data centre? The whole environment, just the people, a piece of machinery?
  • Where will the hot air be vented? Into the ceiling space, out a window?
  • Is there enough power? Is there a power socket available? What else will be using power?
  • OH&S and placement. Where will the portable air conditioner be placed? Avoid creating a trip hazard.
  • Site access. If the unit is required anywhere other than a ground floor, how will it be lifted? Is there an elevator or similar?

There are also a few tricks for new players. The key to an efficient portable air conditioner is removing the heat as quickly as possible. Try to avoid putting the hot air back into the existing air conditioning system as the heat will enter one part of the room but appear in another.

Additionally, portable air conditioners should generally not be used on double adaptors or power boards due to their electrical draw.

As well as technical requirements, softer factors are equally important when hiring a portable air conditioner:

  • Time. When do you need the unit? Is it an emergency? Do you need it delivered now or can it wait until tomorrow? Server down time costs on average $5000 / minute! Make sure your supplier can deliver when you need.
  • Looks. Can the unit be placed anywhere or does it need to be hidden from view? The popular 4.5kW unit is often described as a Dalek from Dr Who or a robot, so consider the impact of the look of the unit on your environment.
  • Reliability. If you’re using the unit to cool critical equipment then be sure the air conditioner is reliable – either it’s new or has a robust maintenance schedule.
  • Out of hours. Many installs need to be completed out of normal business hours in order to reduce the impact on people and / or operations. Check with the supplier on their ability to deliver when you want and also what extra charges apply.

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