The high cost of air conditioners and the need for cooling on an emergency or temporary basis drives the market for portable air conditioning rentals. To a large degree, this also sets the prices. When consumers either cannot predict cooling needs (emergency) or have a limited selection of service providers, the market is weighted in favor of rental suppliers.
While portable air conditioners can be used on a permanent basis in situations where a fixed air conditioner is either not allowed or inappropriate, the rental market meets these general needs1:
- Emergency air conditioning – for unexpected breakdowns of existing systems.
- Planned shutdown – for scheduled maintenance or upgrade of an existing system.
- Healthcare – by providing cooling and air filtration for a temporary medical need or until a permanent system can be installed.
- Industrial – when a need arises to temporarily increase cooling capacity.
- Computer or technical – either temporary or semi-permanent solution to prevent overheating of electronic equipment.
- Single event rental – for an indoor or outdoor activity where cooling is an issue. Wedding receptions, sporting events and family gatherings are some examples.
Although cost is the primary concern with portable air conditioning rental, advantages can be had. Maintenance, repair, installation and transportation to the site are the responsibility of the equipment owner and included in the price.
Types of equipment
There are three general types of systems available2. They differ based on cooling capacity (although there is a range for each type) and how air is exchanged. All systems require venting of hot air to the outside – without this, an air conditioner could not function and would simply be cooling air that it is also heating.
Single hose unit – This type has one vent hose (a dryer-style, 3 to 5” flexible, thin-walled, plasic/vinyl tube) running from the unit to an outside wall or through a window. There is no air return through this tube; it only expels hot air. These are small units capable of cooling up to a 20ft by 20ft room and have a capacity up to 12,000 BTUH (British Thermal Units per Hour). While they are the cheapest solution, because they do not draw in outside air they can create a negative air-pressure differential – consequently, warm air is drawn into the room from other areas which can interfere with cooling.
Dual hose unit – These use both an exhaust and intake hose for better air flow. Cooling capacity is increased and these units go up to 14,000 BTU.
Split units – One problem with portable air conditioners is that they increase ambient noise in the room where they are installed. To overcome this, a split unit puts the air compressor (the noisiest element) away from the inside unit. The compressor, which remains outside, is connected with a single hose to the inside fan unit. There are no ventilation hoses, but refrigerant circulates between the inside and outside units. There is also no air exchange with the outside.
All of the above units will produce water resulting from condensation on the cooling coils. Most portable units require manual draining to remove this water. The split units may have a drain line running outside along with the refrigerant line and some units have an additional hose that can be run to an interior water drain.
Costs and availability
Costs vary by region and proximity to a metropolitan area. The Internet is a useful tool to finding businesses in your area that rent portable air conditioners, and there are several directory sites available like Rental Site.com. However, finding local providers is just the first step.
Rentals are not usually listed by price online. This is because each business will want to talk to you about your needs before they recommend a system. They will try to estimate room size and other factors – of course lower BTUH will generally be less expensive. But this means that shopping will require a list of local businesses and several phone calls. Do not be afraid to negotiate if you find a better price but prefer another company. Call back and see if they will bend.
Expect to pay more for emergency service and for larger areas. Ask for a discount if the unit will be rented for a week or more. In true emergencies it is sometimes cheaper to simply move a stock or operations temporarily rather than paying to cool a large area.
Make sure to inquire about which type, brand and model of air conditioner will be provided. Some require electrical supplies of higher than the common 110 volt home outlet. Also ask about water removal – many systems will shut off automatically if condensation isn’t emptied. Other types will overflow and may cause damage.
One other tip is for events – ask your event manager if they know or can recommend a portable air conditioner supplier. They may even be able to get you a discount.
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