Episode 124

Are there any portable air conditioners that don’t need to be vented?


September 7th, 2021

9 mins 29 secs

Your Hosts

About this Episode

👉 Be Ready: FREE Checklist for Campervan Essentials Packing & Outfitting
👉 Article: Campervan Air Conditioners: Staying Cool for Vanlife

Air conditioners are not magic.

Well, it's that time of year again. No, I don't mean Christmas. I mean, when our camper van air conditioner articles and questions and traffic goes crazy, many more people are much hotter than they normally would be.

So, yeah, I thought I'd answer a couple of common questions. And specifically this one, are there any portable air conditioners that don't need to be vented?

The answer to that question is no. What do I mean by that? Why am I so cursory? Why am I cutting to the chase like that? The answer is no. Well, because when a compressor style air conditioner goes through its compression process and all the other stuff that it does to make warm air cold, it generates heat and that heated air has to go somewhere doesn't it?

The idea that you can plop an air conditioner in the middle of a van or a room without having a vent going outside... What that would mean is that the hot air would just be going back into the room, canceling out the cold air that's being generated at the cost of a lot of power usage.

Therefore, I completely disagree with these small portable compressor units, and I won't name any names other than to say that we don't promote them on Vansage.com.

We're not interested in reviewing them or talking about them. We could make a lot of money from that if we did, because so many people are so excited about a little portable air conditioning unit that you just set on the picnic table and magically it cools down the entire park.

I'm being a little bit glib about that, but. Is that how the marketing is for some of these portable, unvented units where it shows an air conditioner sitting on a table outside.

That's madness. There's no way that can have any impact on you personally, maybe if it's pointed right at your face. And that's what I've heard actually, is that the very low BTU compressor style air conditioners really do need to be within a few inches of one single person for them to work at all.

But I would argue that again, the heat that's generated from producing that small amount of cold air is making the entire van warmer at the same time. Your air conditioner needs to be vented outside so that the hot air doesn't get recirculated back in the room.

Again, they take up so much energy. They require so much power to do their job, that it pays to do air conditioning properly. It really does to an air conditioner that's built for your particular camper van or RV, and make sure that it's set up right with proper venting or it's just mounted on the roof.

Now, there are some really cool Marine style air conditioning units that are mounted inside. Up against the hall of the boat or the outside wall of the van or the floor of the van. And they go in a cabinet and they are vented directly out.

And then you can point the cool air wherever you want, including through what would normally be your heating ducts.

They're expensive for a 5,000 BTU plus unit to really do its job and cool down a very hot van. And oftentimes they are also 240V.

They are kind of pricey, but at some point we plan to review some of those. And kind of create more access because they're a great solution for camper vans. If you have the skill and know how to install them and to maintain them, and you want really high quality air conditioning that isn't sticking out of the roof of your van.

Now, all that to say there are some wonderful roof. AC units and I will of course link to in show notes to our camper van air conditioning article, where we have reviewed and listed some of the best that are available for your van. I don't want to belabor this as far as this simple question; "Are there any portable air conditioners that don't need to be vented?"

I hear some people arguing, what about a swamp cooler, otherwise known as evaporative coolers.

Okay. Well, first of all, they are only for individuals nad they don't lower the temperature in the space, even a small camper van.

What they do is mist your bare skin or very thin clothing or sheet so that you are cooler by virtue of the presence of higher humidity. Well, if you're pumping a bunch of humidity into your vehicle or distributing moisture in the form of mist, even a very, very fine mist, which the best type of evaporative coolers.

Do you need to vent that out of the vehicle? You need to have windows open and ceiling vents and whatnot so that you don't have an extremely high level of, of humidity in your vehicle.

That's going to cause mold and mildew and condensation and all that stuff in the future. Again, every air conditioning unit needs some kind of ventilation, whether it is the compressor type with a coolant inside that's processing air, removing heat and, generating cool air or an evaporative cooler that's distributing a mist.

And one of the finest evaporative coolers available is called Mighty Kool. The availability of it is spotty because they are a small company doing one-off manufacturer of the Mighty Kool 12 volt, K2.

It's interesting because the manufacturer over it his notes on Amazon, they're so careful to make sure that you understand that it's not an AC.

The title  on Amazon is "Mighty Kool. 12 volt. K2 is not AC". And he goes on to say, "do not order, unless you promise to read our emails so you receive the correct performance option for your pet." it says.

And so they're promoting it to keep your dog cool. And also there's a photograph in their description of the mighty cool directed towards a child in a tent or an RV or Campervan.

And that's what it's for, pointing at an individual to cool them down when it's very hot, so they can sleep. It will not drop the temperature in your van and neither will any other evaporative cooler.

Maybe if you are going through 20 pounds of ice every two hours and doing that thing where you push air through a cooler... Those kinds of air conditioning units, you might manage to drop the temperature a little bit, but for the most part, a few bags of ice is no match for the heat inside of a campervan or RV.

The only thing that really works well is a compressor style unit and those need to be vented to work properly so that the hot air that is generated by compression, isn't being redistributed into the vehicle and raising the temp.

So, to answer the question, Are there any portable air conditioners that don't need to be vented?, the answer is no.