If you've been shopping around for a portable air conditioner, you've probably seen some portable air conditioner models that include heaters as well. At first glance the idea of combining the functions of heating and cooling in the same appliance appears to make sense. But like most "good ideas" there are pros and cons to consider before an informed purchasing decision can be made.
What are the advantages of having a combination portable cooler and heater?
For one thing, a portable AC / heater can be easily wheeled from one room to another as needed if your home has a single story layout .. But the definition of portability is put to the test when it becomes necessary to move your 67 pound ( avg. weight) cooler / heater up a flight of stairs to an upstairs bedroom. The heating component adds a negligible amount of weight, if any at all; These appliances are just heavy to begin with.
On the other hand, if you're alternately cooling and heating the same room, portability is not an issue and, as a bonus, you have one less appliance to deal with.
Does the addition of a heater to a portable air conditioner increase the cost?
Yes. A portable air conditioner with heater costs around $ 40 more than one without. Which, coincidentally, is about what you would pay for a well made stand alone electric space heater.
Does the type heater make a difference?
Absolutely, and this is where a lot of folks get caught off guard. You would assume, and rightly so, that if your portable air conditioner is advertised to cool 400 square feet the heating unit would heat an equal amount of space. But in reality this isn't necessarily the case since the heating coverage area depends on the type of heater built into the unit.
There are two completely different types of heaters used in portable AC / Heater combos. The first type of heater is actually the cooling compressor run in reverse mode (heat pump) to create heat instead of cold – just like a central air conditioner. This is the type of heater you want because it heats approximately the same number of square feet as it cools.
You can spot this type of cooler / heater by the way it's advertised. Usually the product description will say something like "12,000 BTU Heating, 11,000 BTU Cooling." If the product description omits this, click the Specifications tab on the product description page and look for "Heating." If it's stated in BTU's and closely approximates the number of cooling BTU's you're in good shape, but if it's stated in watts it's an electric heater ..
The electric heaters used in portable AC / heating combos are limited to 1,500 watts just like a traditional stand alone space heater. This also limits the heating coverage area to around 150 square feet. So if you see a 14,000 BTU cooler with a reach of 400 – 500 square feet and it's equipped with an electric heater you're going to come up short on the heating end by at least 250 square feet