How Often Should You Drain A Portable Air Conditioner?

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A portable air conditioner extracts moisture from the warm, humid indoor air as it cools the air. This moisture accumulates in a reservoir inside the unit, and you then drain it manually. But how often should you drain a portable air conditioner? We researched the topic, and this is what we discovered.

The moisture content of the air in the room where you install a portable air conditioner will determine the frequency of draining the AC. If you live in a dry area, you will need to drain your portable AC once a month. However, if the room is very humid, you may need to drain the portable air conditioner as often as every 8 hours.

A portable air conditioner requires regular maintenance to function efficiently. As such, you should drain the AC to enhance its functionality. Read on to discover more about how to drain a portable air conditioner. We will also tackle what happens if you do not empty your portable AC and best practices for the AC.

Hands moving a portable air conditioner into a house, How Often Should You Drain A Portable Air Conditioner?

Do portable air conditioners need to be drained?

Portable air conditioners draw hot air from a room into the unit. The hot air carries moisture in vapor form. As the motor inside the AC cools the air, the vapor condenses to liquid form. The condensate then collects in a reservoir inside the unit. The AC then releases cold air with little moisture content for circulation in the room.

Depending on the model of your portable air conditioner, you may or may not need to drain the unit manually. The models that do not require manual draining are designed to support self-evaporation. This technology lets them vent the moisture through the exhaust hose as soon as it condenses. Hence, the condensate does not accumulate in the unit.

In contrast, models that require draining have a reservoir or a drain pan where the condensate collects. They also have a drain port that can connect to a garden hose to drain the unit manually.

Some models have two drain plugs: an upper and lower drain plug. The upper plug facilitates automatic draining when the reservoir is full while the lower one is often used to drain the tank for storage.

Frequency of Draining A Portable AC

The humidity content of the air in the area where you place your portable AC will influence how often you drain a unit that requires periodic emptying. This is because the moisture content in the air affects how much condensate the unit extracts per cycle and, consequently, how long it takes to fill the reservoir or drain pan.

Typically, standard portable ACs have storage tanks that require draining every 8 hours. However, you may vary this frequency depending on the atmospheric conditions in your area.

The air in dry areas has very low relative humidity levels. Thus, the air's moisture content is minimal compared to the total amount of moisture this air can hold. For this reason, the AC extracts very little condensate per cycle. As a result, you may need to drain your portable AC once every month if you live in this area.

Conversely, you may need to reduce the 8-hour interval if you live in a very humid region since the condensate accumulates a lot faster. Additionally, activities such as cooking or taking a shower may increase the relative humidity of the air inside your home, which necessitates draining the unit more frequently.

How to drain the portable air conditioner

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You can use a pan, a drain hose, or a condensate pump to eliminate water from the unit's reservoir. We recommend that you unplug your unit before you begin to drain it.

Using The Drain Hose

Because a portable air conditioner does not have a pump, it relies on gravity to drain the condensate. Therefore, ensure that the hose lies flat on the ground and is cut to the shortest length to facilitate draining.

Firmly secure the drain hose in place to avoid leaks. In addition, poorly connecting the drain hose can prevent the condensate from draining correctly. If you push the hose into a drain, do not push it too far since the hose will not drain if its outlet touches the water.

You can also leave the hose connected to the AC for continuous draining. Ensure that you position it at a downward angle. Consult your user manual to check if your portable AC supports this feature.

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Draining Into A Pan

If you opt to drain your portable AC into a pan, position the pan under the drainage hub and unplug the drain plug. Dress appropriately and stand strategically to avoid getting soaked as the condensate gushes out. Further, you can line towels around your floor to absorb any spilled water.

Reattach the drain plug back once you drain your AC completely.

Using A Condensate Pump

Unlike a garden hose, the condensate pump does not need to be positioned at a certain angle to function effectively. Instead, the pump turns on and pushes the water outside. Moreover, you can leave the pump connected to your unit for convenience.

Typically, condensate pumps have two hoses; one connected to the AC and the pump, and another with an open end to drain the water outside. Having such a pump is advantageous since it automatically begins to drain the condensate once it reaches a certain level.

This automatic condensate pump below has a safety switch that can be connected to shut down the AC or set off an alarm to warn of possible tank overflow.

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What happens if I don't drain my portable air conditioner?

Newer portable AC models have an automatic shut-off sensor that switches off the unit if the condensate accumulates to a certain level. For this reason, your appliance will not cool the air in your room if you fail to drain it when it becomes too full.

If your AC model does not have an automatic shut-off sensor, the condensate will spill if you neglect to drain the unit. Spillage may result in expensive damages to your wooden floor or to other items placed on the floor, such as mats which may become soaked and eventually start to rot or breed mold.

Your portable AC may also become a breeding ground for bacteria and mold if you leave stagnant water in the unit for some time. These micro-organisms can result in allergies and other respiratory infections when they contaminate the indoor air.

Best Practices for Maintaining A Portable Air Conditioner

These tips below will aid your portable air conditioner to serve you effectively, keeping you cool through the hot season:

Keep the exhaust hose short and straight

You should keep the exhaust hose short and straight to achieve maximum efficiency for your AC. A short exhaust minimizes the risk of excess moisture building up and seeping into the unit, resulting in internal damage to the appliance.

Do not extend the exhaust hose as this would cause the unit to overheat, voiding the manufacturer's warranty.

Turn off unnecessary heat sources

Unsuspecting sources such as electronic equipment and light bulbs can cause your AC to work harder to keep your home cool. Switching these appliances off or substituting some for units that emit less heat, such as using a microwave instead of an oven, can aid your AC to cool the home faster.

Woman hand turning off an oven to lower temperature in the house

You can also pair the AC with a ceiling or floor fan to hasten cool air circulation. This arrangement will enable you to achieve cooling a lot faster.

Shield the room from external heat sources

Portable ACs function best in closed spaces. Condition the room by closing windows and doors to minimize introducing excess warm air to this space. Shutting the windows and doors will keep cool air circulating without overworking the AC.

Beautiful woman is closing window in a living room

While you should place the AC near a window for venting, choose the coolest corner of the room to keep the unit from overheating. It would be best to choose a corner that doesn't get any direct sunlight. Additionally, use curtains, blinds, or other window coverings to bar direct sun rays from entering the room.

Get an early start

Getting a hot room to a comfortable, cool temperature is very energy-consuming. Therefore, take advantage of the room's cool conditions in the morning or late afternoon to start running the unit instead of running it when the room is already very hot. Moreover, the AC produces less noise when it only needs to maintain a pleasant temperature compared to cooling the room.

If your AC has a timer feature, program it to go on or off at suitable times.

Keep the AC clean

Asian woman changing the dirty air purifier filter after using

Proper maintenance keeps your unit running efficiently for a long time.

Regularly clean or change the AC's filters as recommended by the manufacturer since this frequency varies from one model to another.

Routinely vacuum out any debris or dirt that gathers on the vents to keep the unit in good working condition. Dirt causes the AC to overwork, shortening its lifespan.

Remember to wipe down the AC's casement to help maintain its overall useful life.

Wrapping It Up

A portable air conditioner dehumidifies warm air while cooling it before it discharges cool air to a room. Some models allow the condensate to collect in a reservoir, while others vent the moisture immediately.

You should drain this condensate as soon as it reaches a specified level. Take into account the climatic conditions of the area where you live and the activities you carry out in a room to determine how often you need to drain your unit.

You may be curious about these topics as well:

What Temperature Should A Portable Air Conditioner Be Set At?

How Long Does A Portable Air Conditioner Take To Cool A Room?

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