Portable Air Conditioner Troubleshooting Guide

Posted by: Mas Broto
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If your portable air conditioner isn’t working properly, you might want to wait before you call a technician to have it fixed. Some problems can easily be repaired at home. This portable air conditioner troubleshooting guide will help you identify what is wrong with your unit and walk you through the steps to fixing it yourself.

Below are some common issues with portable air conditioners. Read the list to find which one most closely matches your problem, and then follow the steps in order to fix it. Please note if you are experiencing any issues that aren’t listed below or that require any electrical wiring, it is strongly recommended that you don’t try to fix it yourself but rather contact a professional.

My Portable Air Conditioner Won’t Start.

  • Make sure that the portable air conditioning unit is correctly plugged into the outlet. If it has an integrated circuit interrupter, make sure it hasn’t been tripped. If so, press the reset button. If the reset button won’t stay engaged, there is probably a problem with the wiring, and you’ll need to have a professional technician fix it. Also, make sure that the cord itself isn’t damaged.
  • Check that the AC water reservoir isn’t full of water. Air conditioners also work as dehumidifiers; they terminate water from the air, which collects in buckets that need to be drained periodically. If it’s full, there is an AC float switch that interrupts the electrical power to the unit.
  • You should check the circuit breaker to ensure the power is being delivered to the room air conditioner. If the unit is on its own circuit and a fuse is blown, or the breaker is tripped, it is probably a problem with the electrical wiring. These portable AC problems will need to fix by a professional.

My Portable Air Conditioner Isn’t Cooling Properly.

  • Check that the air filter has been properly cleaned by removing the grill. Your filter should be cleaned every two weeks. To clean the filter, remove the AC filter from the frame and tap the filter lightly with your hands to remove any dust and dirt particles. Do the same to the carbon filter (if your unit includes one). Then thoroughly rinse the filters with warm water and a mild detergent. Let them dry completely, and install them again.
  • Ensure there isn’t any furniture or objects blocking the air intake vents on the AC unit and that there is proper clearance around the unit. The vents might be dirty and can be easily cleaned by light vacuuming.
  • Ensure there isn’t any ice building up on the air conditioner’s evaporator coils.
  • Ensure that the portable air conditioner is correctly sized for the room you are using it in. You can determine what size AC unit you need by looking at the BTU (British Thermal Unit) rating. The BTU describes the cooling capacity. The higher the number, the stronger the portable air conditioner. To get a quick estimate of how many BTUs you need, just multiply the room’s square footage by 35 to get a rough estimate. You can also refer to our Air Conditioner BTU chart to quickly find the BTU you need for your room. Be sure to account for extra sunny or shady areas, additional people in a room, and kitchens.

My Portable Air Conditioner Doesn’t Stop Running.

  • You should make sure that the portable air conditioner isn’t too small for the area you are trying to cool.
  • You should make sure that all the doors and windows are closed in the area you are trying to cool to minimize the heat gain to your home. Portable ACs need to operate in “closed” conditions with continuously circulated air to work properly.

My Portable Air Conditioner Won’t Blow Air.

  • This AC problem most likely means that the fan motor is bad. You shouldn’t try to fix this yourself. Contact a professional to have it fixed properly.

My Portable Air Conditioner is Leaking

  • Make sure that the water reservoir isn’t full. In more humid climates, water can collect more quickly. So how often you need to drain the water bucket depends on where you live and how much you run the portable air conditioner.
  • Almost all units also include the option for a drain hose, and this can become stopped up, preventing the water from draining correctly and leaking. So this hose may need to be cleaned, or it is not be properly installed.

My Portable Air Conditioner has Ice Build-up.

  • You should turn the air conditioner off and run the fan at high speed. This will dry out the inside of the unit and remove any ice that has built up on the coils. After about 2 hours, it should be scorched.
  • When the ice has melted off and is completely dry, check that the filter has been adequately cleaned. For more detailed instructions on cleaning the unit, see the above section, “Isn’t Cooling Properly.”

My Portable Air Conditioner is Making a Rattling Noise

  • Remove the portable air conditioner’s cabinet and reposition the fan. Then tighten the screw at the center of the fan. The noise is probably caused by the fan coming in contact with the housing or coils of the unit.

Hopefully, after following this troubleshooting guide, your portable air conditioner is running properly. If, for some reason, it still isn’t working or you have a more complicated problem that is not listed above, then you should probably contact a professional. Also, it’s important to reiterate that if the issue is more complex and requires any type of electrical wiring, you should contact a professional instead of trying to fix it yourself.

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Mas Broto
Have been in the heating and air conditioning (HVAC) industry for over 20 years. He is person that will grow and thrive to learn more about the HVAC industry throughout his career. Mas Broto is also a blogger, who's dedicated to bringing you the best knowledge to get ahead in the game of life.