Portable Air Conditioner vs Mini Split, Which is the Better Option?

portable ac power consumption

When it comes to cooling down your living space, you have two options: portable air conditioners and a mini split system. While both of these units can be quite effective, they have different features and benefits to offer. This can make one more suitable for one kind of system, while the other may not work the best for you. 

A portable air conditioner can be easy to move around, so being able to cool a single room at a time may be a hassle for some. They are also not as energy efficient as their split counterparts, so some may not like them the best. On the other hand, a mini split system can provide targeted cooling and heating, is more energy-efficient, and requires no boring ductwork. However, a mini-split system costs more to install and is way messier, unlike portable air conditioners which only require you to take care of the ductwork and plug them in to work. 

Air Conditioners

Air conditioners are essential appliances that help cool indoor spaces and can even cool down an entire house. They can significantly improve the quality of your stay in your home and can even help to heat up the space during the transitioning periods (autumn and spring). Different types of air conditioners are available, including central air conditioning units, ductless mini-split systems, portable air conditioners, and window units. Each type has its own unique features, advantages, and disadvantages. For this reason, it is important to be able to differentiate the different types of air conditioning units and to make sure that your unit covers exactly your needs with the least amount of energy used in the process. 

Central air conditioners are typically used in larger homes and buildings, where the unit is installed outside the building and connected to the ductwork that disperses a cooled liquid throughout the house. Inside the home, every indoor air handler works separately, cooling one room at a time. A system like this can be connected to a central handler system, which sends cool air to each room, instead of a cooled liquid to every internal handler. 

Ductless mini-split systems, on the other hand, provide targeted cooling to specific areas. Portable air conditioners are perfect for people who need a temporary cooling solution, for example in July and August only, Window units are another option. They are, in essence, ductless units and require virtually no installation. They are perfect for a smaller space, or a single room, but energy efficiency is not one of their strong sides. They can be stored off-season. Overall, air conditioners are a great way to keep the air in your home at comfortable levels during the summer. 

Portable Air Conditioners

Portable air conditioners are stand-alone units that can be moved from one room to another. As portable AC units, they are a good solution for temporary cooling needs, as this indoor unit can provide temporary relief, especially during the hottest parts of the day. The indoor unit can be moved wherever you need it, including other rooms and hallways, but these units have limits to their cooling power and may not be able to cool an entire home, even a smaller one. 

These units are self-contained and can be moved easily from one room to another, making them a flexible and convenient option. Portable air conditioners typically have wheels for easy mobility and a hose that exhausts hot air out of a window or vent. They are available in different sizes and cooling capacities to suit various room sizes. 

How Does it Work?

Portable air conditioners work by pulling warm air from the room into the unit, where it is cooled and then blown back into the room through a vent. The warm air is then expelled through a separate exhaust hose. Some models also have the ability to dehumidify the air, helping to create a more comfortable indoor environment.


Portable air conditioners offer several advantages, such as their mobility and ease of use. They can be moved from room to room as needed and do not require any permanent installation. They are also typically less expensive than other types of air conditioning units, making them a popular choice for those on a budget.


One of the biggest advantages of a portable air conditioner is its mobility. Most models come with wheels, making them easy to move from one room to another. This means you can enjoy cool, comfortable air wherever you need it most, without having to purchase multiple units.


Portable air conditioning units are less expensive than mini-split units and other types of air conditioning. This is because a portable unit has lower cooling power and the cooling process is not as energy efficient. On the other hand, they also release more noise than mini-split units which are designed for quiet operation. Thanks to their portability, you can also use one unit to cool multiple spaces, for example, the living room during the day and the bedroom during the night. This way, a portable system does the job of multiple fixed units. 

No Installation Necessary

A portable air conditioner requires no installation, unlike central units. Which makes it perfect for all those who rent out a place. Portable units are lightweight and can be taken with you whenever you move, unlike a split system which requires professional installation and dedicated wall space. They are also a good solution for those who cannot install a permanent solution for a variety of reasons. 


A portable air conditioner is generally less efficient than any other kind of AC unit. They are also less powerful, which would say that they are not best suited for large homes and areas. Additionally, they can be more expensive than other types of air conditioner units, per BTU (British Thermal Units) unit of cooling power delivered. This can be a problem for those looking to cool down large spaces, especially if they are on a tight budget. 

Low Power

Low power is a natural result of the smaller size of portable AC units. They have a lower power output than any other AC unit with an indoor and outdoor unit (split system). This makes them less effective in cooling down large indoor spaces, and you may need professional advice on how to make them work, or what type of air conditioner to install. 

Low Energy Efficiency

Low energy efficiency with a portable air conditioner is a known issue. Unlike wall-mounted split system units, a portable air conditioner will use more power to do the same work. This should say that they will result in a higher energy cost and a higher monthly bill at the end of every summer month. This is another reason to consider ductless mini-split AC. 


Portable units are also very noisy compared to their split system counterparts. This can be a problem if the AC is placed in a bedroom or any other room where you may need to spend quiet time, such as sleeping. Here a central AC split system is a much better option. 

Uses Floor Space

What many may dislike the most, besides the high running costs and humidity control, is that these units take up valuable floor space. Portable ACs can, therefore, create visual clutter, unless you are witty with their placement. However, as this is difficult to achieve in any setting, you may still want to consider the split system units. 

Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioners

A ductless mini-split air conditioner, also known as a mini-split AC, is a type of air conditioning system that doesn’t require ductwork. It consists of two main components: an outdoor compressor/condenser and an indoor air-handling unit. The indoor unit is mounted on a wall or ceiling and is connected to the outdoor unit via a small conduit that contains refrigerant tubing, a power cable, and a condensate drain. Mini-split ACs come in different configurations, including single-zone and multi-zone systems, and can be used to cool one room or multiple rooms. They are popular in homes that don’t have existing ductwork or where ductwork installation is not feasible.

How Does it Work?

The mini-split AC system uses a refrigerant to absorb heat from indoor air. Then, the refrigerant is sent to the outside unit where the heat is dissipated/evaporated into the outside air, resulting in a cooled refrigerant that is sent into the home once again. At home, indoor heads blow hot inside air over the cold refrigerant, effectively cooling down the indoor air. This makes them very efficient and allows for a lower energy bill per unit of the square footage of your home. 


Low running costs, low noise levels, dividing your home into temperature zones, and year-round operation for both heating and cooling all the while using less electricity make a mini split the perfect solution for many homeowners and all alike. Every small space can be cooled down more quickly and with lower energy consumption than with a portable air conditioner. 

Energy Efficient

Ductless mini-split air conditioners are really great because they are highly efficient. This means that they use less energy compared to traditional central air conditioning systems, which translates to big savings in your energy bills over time. What’s more, mini-split air conditioners often come with awesome features such as inverter technology, which allows the unit to automatically adjust its cooling output based on the current temperature and humidity levels in the room.

These air conditioners are perfect if you want equal efficiency in different rooms of your home. They’re also great if you’re worried about unit shorts. The variable speed compressors in mini-split air conditioners also contribute to their efficiency by consuming less energy when the temperature has stabilized. Overall, these features make ductless mini-split air conditioners a really smart choice for energy-conscious homeowners who want a reliable and efficient cooling solution.

High Powered

When it comes to cooling down large rooms or entire homes, portable air conditioners may not always do the job effectively. However, with ductless mini splits, you can rest assured that the cooling capacity will be powerful enough to make your space comfortable quickly. Unlike most portable air conditioners, these units are designed to provide equal efficiency for larger areas while maintaining constant air quality control.

So, if you’re looking for a reliable and effective cooling solution for your home, ductless mini splits might be the perfect choice for you. They may be small in size, but they pack a punch when it comes to keeping your space cool and comfortable.

Space Saver

Most mini-splits save you space. They are usually mounted on the ceiling or the walls of your home, and, because they do not take up any floor space, they keep your place clean and clutter-free. For this reason, they are a good solution for small spaces and homes, especially when the floor space is limited. Most split-system solutions have a very sleek design that looks good as well. 


Good professional installation and the nature of mini splits make them very quiet. Most models feature noise-canceling technology and the compression unit is outside so that the noise indoors will be kept at a minimum level. The indoor heads mostly have a fan and a coil only, so that you will be safe from introducing noise to your bedroom, nursery, and any other places in your home which you may want to keep quiet. 


The main disadvantage of a mini-split system over a window unit or a portable air conditioner is that they require professional installation. Installation costs are never low, so the cooling feature added to your home can pose a significant expense. Still, with so many advantages, a central AC unit or a mini split is a great solution for most US homes. 


Despite the higher cost of a central AC unit or a Ductless AC unit, it is important to consider the higher energy efficiency ratio that these models feature. This will accrue significant energy bill savings over time, especially when compared to portable air conditioner models or window air conditioners. In addition to this, the fact that every noisy part is placed outside can help preserve your health and your nerves. 

Requires Professional Installer

The need for a professional installer with mini splits is apparent, but this should not put you off from making a decision like this. Money savings, quiet operation, and a more comfortable temperature zoning of your home will be more than enough to help you pay off the installation costs. 

Not Suitable for Rentals

As these units require installation, are wall-mounted, and are likely to be bulky models, it is important to bear in mind that they are not suitable for rentals. If you are a landlord, looking for ways to use central air to increase property value, you may want to consider installing one, but if you rent out a place for yourself to live in, a portable air conditioner may be a much better solution. 

Noisy Outdoor

Although the indoor unit is very quiet, the compressor has to be installed somewhere, and this is always the outside unit with ductless mini splits. This means that the outdoor unit can be quite noisy and that you will need to place it away from your home, and away from outside spaces you use frequently. These units are not super loud, though, and placing them around shrubbery and other plants is usually enough to keep noise levels down to a comfortable level. 

Portable Air Conditioners vs Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioners

portable mini split

To compare the key differences between portable air conditioners and ductless mini-split air conditioners, see the table below:

FeaturePortable Air ConditionerDuctless Mini-Split Air Conditioner
Energy EfficiencyLowerHigher
Noise LevelHigherLower
Installation Required
Suitable for Rentals

Cooling Capacity

The cooling capacity of an air conditioner determines how much heat it can remove from a room. Ductless mini-split air conditioners generally have higher cooling capacities than portable air conditioners. This means that they can cool larger rooms more quickly and effectively. However, portable air conditioners are still suitable for smaller rooms and can be moved around the house as needed.

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is an important factor to consider when choosing an air conditioner. Ductless mini-split air conditioners are generally more energy-efficient than portable air conditioners because they don’t have to work as hard to cool the same size room. They are also less likely to leak cool air because they don’t require ductwork. Portable air conditioners, on the other hand, can be less energy-efficient because they have to work harder to cool a room and may require more frequent maintenance.

Power Consumption

When it comes to power consumption, ductless mini-split air conditioners are a more energy-efficient option compared to portable air conditioner systems. This can lead to long-term savings on your electricity bill. However, portable air conditioners can be power-hungry and may require a dedicated electrical circuit to operate efficiently.

Life Span

Ductless mini-split air conditioners generally have longer lifespans than portable air conditioners. With proper maintenance, they can last up to 20 years, while portable air conditioners typically last around 5 to 7 years. 

Installation Requirements

Ductless mini-split air conditioners generally have longer lifespans than portable air conditioners. With proper maintenance, they can last up to 20 years, while portable air conditioners typically last around 5 to 7 years.


While ductless mini-split air conditioners may be more expensive than portable air conditioners, both in terms of the unit itself and the cost of professional installation, they offer greater cooling capacity and energy efficiency. Central air systems and ductless systems, also known as mini-splits, have a higher Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating, which measures their energy efficiency over time, compared to portable air conditioner systems.


Do Mini Splits Use a Lot of Electricity for Heat?

Ductless mini-split air conditioners are a great option for homeowners looking to save on their energy bills. They are more energy-efficient than traditional heating and cooling systems, but they do use electricity to heat. Their heating efficiency is measured by a coefficient of performance (COP), which tells you how much heat energy the unit produces for each unit of electricity consumed. In colder climates, mini splits may require more electricity to heat a space, but they are still more efficient than most other heating options.

Does Portable AC Use More Electricity?

Portable air conditioners tend to use more electricity than window or central air conditioning systems because they are self-contained units. However, the amount of electricity a portable AC unit uses can vary depending on the size of the room being cooled, the unit’s energy efficiency, and how often it is used. To save on electricity bills, it’s important to choose a portable AC unit with a high seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) rating and make sure the unit is properly sized for the room being cooled.

How Long do Mini Splits Last?

Ductless mini-split air conditioners are known for their durability and can last for up to 20 years with proper maintenance. The lifespan of a mini split can vary depending on factors such as how often it is used, how well it is maintained, and the quality of the unit. Regular cleaning and upkeep, such as changing air filters and having the unit serviced by a professional, can help extend the life of a mini-split.

Is it Cheaper to Leave Portable AC on?

Leaving a portable air conditioner on all the time can lead to higher energy bills, especially if the unit is not energy-efficient or the room is not well-insulated. However, turning the unit on and off frequently can also cause it to work harder and use more electricity. To find a balance, use a programmable thermostat to set the temperature and schedule when the unit is on. It’s also important to make sure the unit is properly sized for the room and is operating at peak efficiency to reduce energy consumption and save money.


Portable air conditioners and ductless mini-split air conditioners both have their pros and cons. Portable air conditioners are budget-friendly, easy to move, and require no professional installation. However, ductless mini-splits are more energy-efficient, powerful, and space-saving. When deciding between the two, consider your cooling needs, budget, and installation requirements. Also, check the power consumption, cooling capacity, and lifespan of each option. Ultimately, the choice depends on personal preference and the requirements of your home or space. 

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