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In the summer months of the year, when ceiling fans just don’t cut it, millions of Australian’s rely on quality air conditioning. However, with all of the different types of air conditioners on the market it can be difficult to know which air conditioner is best for you. If you’re not sure which is best: a portable air conditioner or a split system air conditioner, read our list of pros and cons below.

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Portable Air Conditioners

What is a portable air conditioner and how does it work?

As the name suggests, a portable air conditioner is an air conditioner that can easily be moved from room to room when needed. Generally not much larger than a bedside table, most portable air conditioners have a duct connected to the back of the unit that will need to be connected to a window.

The portable air conditioner draws in warm air from the room, dries it, and then cools it, ready to be circulated back into the room. Hot air is then expelled out the window via the connecting duct. Many portable air conditioners can also dehumidify and heat a room in the winter.



One key advantage of a portable air conditioner is that they can be easily moved when needed. This means that, unlike with a split system air conditioner, you won’t have to choose a single room in the house to be cooled. This also means that your portable air conditioner can be easily stored when not in use, freeing up floor space.

Another benefit of having a portable air conditioner is if you’re renting, you will be able to take your air conditioner with you when you move. Conversely, split system air conditioners are wall mounted so even if your landlord allows you to install one, you will not be able to take it with you when you inevitably leave.

Unit Cost

The unit cost of a portable air conditioner is generally much less than that of a split system unit, as portable air conditioners generally cost between $500 and $1000. However, it’s important to note that when choosing which air conditioner is the most cost effective it is important to take into consideration both the unit cost as well as the running costs.

No Installation Required

Portable air conditioners come full assembled and ready to use as opposed to split system unit that require professional installation. Not only will this save you money on installation costs, you won’t have to wait for your air conditioner to be professionally installed before you can use it.


Low Power

Although portable air conditioners have more than enough power to cool a small room, they tend to be around 2kW, much smaller than split system units which can be anywhere from 2.5kW to upwards of 9kW. This means that unlike split system units, portable air conditioners can only effectively cool small rooms of around 20 sqm.

Low Energy Efficiency

Another drawback of portable air conditioners is that they are relatively inefficient to run in relation to their size and cooling power. In fact, a portable air conditioner tends to cost around 50 cents per hour to run which is comparable to much larger and more effective split system units.


Portable air conditioners can also be very noisy to run for their small size. This is because, unlike split system air conditioners that have outdoor units, all of the components of your portable air conditioner are inside the room, increasing the indoor noise.

Uses Up Floor Space

Though small, portable air conditioners will still take up floor space. Additionally, your portable air conditioner will need to be positioned with a window close by which limits the space where it can be placed and may cause you to have to move around furniture to accommodate it (for example, it your bed is positioned under the only window you would have to rearrange the room for the air conditioner to be close enough to the window to be operational).

Split System Air Conditioners

What is a split system air conditioner and how does it work?

Split system air conditioners are the most common type of air conditioners in Australian homes. A split system air conditioner is made up of two parts: the indoor unit and the outdoor unit. The indoor unit is the wall mounted unit that you’re familiar with that blows cool air into the room. The outdoor unit expels hot air created during the cooling process and is usually installed on the outside of the same wall that the indoor unit is mounted on.


Energy Efficient

One of the main benefits of split system air conditioners is that they are generally much more energy efficient than portable air conditioners. This means that, although you may be paying more upfront for the unit and installation, you will be paying a lot less in running costs than a comparable portable air conditioner.

High Powered Cooling

Another great benefit of split system air conditioners is the high powered cooling they provide. Unlike portable air conditioners, split system air conditioners are suitable for cooling much larger rooms and spaces. Additionally, there are multi-split systems that have multiple indoor units connected to a single outdoor unit to provide greater cooling power if required.

The high cooling power will also help to keep your electricity bills down as you can rest assured that your AC has the juice to cool a large space. Conversely, using a portable air conditioner to cool a large space will result in a few degrees difference in temperature (if any temperature change is noticeable at all) and high energy usage.

Space Saving Design

Split system air conditioners are designed to be mounted on a wall instead of taking up floor space like a portable air conditioner. This space saving design will free up your floor space and provide little to no distraction from the rooms decor.

Quiet Operation

Split system air conditioners also come with the benefit of quiet operation. This is achieved by housing the noisier components of the air conditioner in the outdoor unit, reducing the noise in the room that is being cooled.


Unit Cost

When compared to portable air conditioners, split system units are significantly more expensive to purchase, with prices ranging from $500 to $2000+ in addition to installation costs. However, the higher unit cost and professional installation will reward you with an energy efficient unit with high powered cooling.

Requires Professional Installation

Not only is it illegal to install your own split system air conditioner, it will also void your warranty and a poorly installed air conditioner will not run efficiently. This means that split system air conditioners require professional installation which is an additional upfront cost.

However, in comparison with other air conditioners such as ducted units, split systems are relatively cheap and quick to install. In fact, a split system installation can be completed in the same day.

Less Suitable When Renting

Split system units are wall mounted which makes them less suitable when renting. This is because, firstly, you will have to have your landlord agree to it before you can have one installed. Secondly, a split system air conditioner is a permanent unit so if you install it in a rental you will not be able to take it with you when you move, as opposed to a portable air conditioner that can move with you.

Noisy Outdoor Unit

Another downside of split system units is that the outdoor unit can be quite noisy. If you live in a townhouse complex or have neighbours nearby this could be an issue.

Portable Air Conditioner vs. Split System Air Conditioner – Which Is Best?

There is no one answer to this question as what works for you in one home may not work in another. However, due to the energy efficiency and high cooling power of split system air conditioners, in most cases they provide a better option than comparable portable units. In saying that, portable air conditioners are a great option for renters who would benefit from the option of being able to take their air conditioning with them when they move.


Affordable Air Conditioning Brisbane – Logan – Redlands

If you’re not sure which type of air conditioning is right for you, contact your local air conditioning experts at ACS on 0403 254 272. We offer both residential and commercial air conditioning services, from installations and replacements to servicing and repairs Brisbane, Logan, and Redlands wide. Call us today on (07) 3206 3542 for all of your air conditioning needs.

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