How To Power a Portable Air Conditioner: The Complete Guide

How To Power a Portable Air Conditioner

The development of ultra-light and portable air conditioners helps us enjoy outdoor adventures even when the temps rise. But they can also come with a lot of questions, including their electrical needs. Knowing how to power a portable air conditioner is crucial.

There are also a few tips about installation worth knowing for how to use a portable air conditioner.

In this article, we’ll walk through how many watts a portable AC uses, plus the best ways to cover those electrical needs through portable power stations, solar panels, batteries, generators, and more.

Then we’ll wrap up with how to install a portable air conditioner.

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Ultimate Guide to Campervan Electrics: Build Your Powerhouse

Quick Answer: How To Power a Portable AC

Here are our top recommendations for running an air conditioner away from an outlet.

To power a portable air conditioner with low power draw of ~250W, such as our favorite Zero Breeze Mark 2, you can get a mid-range portable power station and a ~200W solar panel to get many hours of cooling and enough solar charge to keep it going endlessly. We recommend this kit:

If you have a larger ~1,500W air conditioner, like the BLACK+DECKER 14,000 BTU model we love, OR to run a smaller ~250W unit for a lot longer (>10 hours), then go with a larger portable power station or a fuel generator:

These arrangements will work for most people to power a portable air conditioner when you’re away from an outlet. Once you know how to power it, don’t forget to grab one of the best camping tents with AC ports or the best camping fridge to get the most out of your device.

How Much Electricity Does a Portable AC Use?

The unfortunate reality of air conditioning is that it requires a lot of energy. Large home air conditioners often pull 3,000W to 4,000W.

Thankfully, portable air conditioners can cut those needs down dramatically. It’s more than possible to beat the heat even when you’re away from household electrical outlets. And how much you spend is entirely up to you.

Camping tip: Another great way to stay cool is to create shade using one of the best camp canopies.

How Many Watts Is a Portable Air Conditioner?

To know how much electricity a portable AC uses, you’ll want to look at the power consumption rating of the device, usually provided in watts. It fluctuates based on the size, BTU rating, and energy efficiency.

The more powerful the AC unit is, the higher the wattage will be, meaning more electricity used. How many watts does a portable AC use? It depends entirely on the unit.

There are basically three groups of how much power portable air conditioners use: low-powered evaporative coolers (<100W), truly portable camping air conditioners (~250W), and large portable air conditioners (~1,500W).

Here is a summary of the how many watts portable air conditioners use from our camping air conditioners post:

The equipment needs for each wattage level is very different, so this article split things up accordingly.

The next section is for the smallest units, but you can jump to the other sections through these links:

evaCHILL portable air coolers in white and black

Powering a Small Portable Air Cooler: Less Than 100W

When you want to keep costs low, you can get some relief by using portable air coolers. These are small, affordable, and have a low-power draw.

Our favorite personal air cooler, the evaCHILL Portable Cooler, draws a measly 7.5W at 5V. This can easily run for many hours on a pocket-sized power bank, like one you might use to recharge phones on the go.

Let’s review the options for keeping small devices like the evaCHILL Portable Cooler running while away from any power source.

Anker power bank

The Best Power Bank Chargers

Power bank charges are affordable, compact, and useful for many purposes. They pack enough power to keep an evaCHILL Cooler running for many hours and charge your phone multiple times.

We’ve personally used Anker power banks for years, through demanding travel, camping, and all sorts of outdoor adventures. They’re one of the best brands for small portable energy solutions.

Here are the top options for power banks and the estimated hours they can run evaCHILL on full blast:

Best OverallAnker 737 Portable Power Bank 24,000mAh~16 hours running the evaCHILL140W capability can power larger devices such as Macbooks, smart digital display, three outlets including USB-A and USB-C$$$Check Price
Best BudgetAnker Portable Charger 313 Power Bank 10000mAhOver 6.5 hoursSlim & lightweight design, 12W maximum, single USB output with dual USB-A and USB-C input for charging$Check Price
Most RobustBaseus Portable Power Bank 30,000mAhAbout 20 hours7 ports with 65W maximum, LED digital display to monitor current, voltage, and power, overheat & short-circuit protection$$Check Price
BigBlue solar panel 28W

Small Solar Panels to Recharge Power Bank or Run Small Devices

The power bank is a good start, but to keep them running longer away from an outlet, a small solar panel can do wonders.

Don’t be fooled by the options that include a tiny 1.5W solar panel to charge a 10,000 mAh battery pack. This solar panel isn’t large enough to be useful.

To add extra time, you need a small solar panel that’s at least 15W to help:

  • Run the evaCHILL directly (without a power bank)
  • Charge a power bank (~6 hours for 10,000 mAh)
  • Charge other small electronics like phones and cameras

Going with a larger panel helps power/charge multiple devices at once, but it doesn’t charge any single device faster since the output of these tiny solar panels is limited by the USB outlet (usually 5V/3A max).

Here are the top small solar panel options:

Best OverallBigBlue 28W Portable SunPower Solar Panel ChargerCan run the evaCHILL and provide partial charge to power bank simultaneouslyExcellent reputation, three USB-A outlets, includes USB-A to USB-C cable$$Check Price
Best BudgetFlexSolar 15W Small Solar Panel ChargerBest for only using to power evaCHILL or charge one power bank (not at the same time)Incredible price, compact design with IP67 water and dust resistance, 5V/3A output is ideal for small power bank$Check Price
Best for Multiple DevicesFlexSolar 40W Solar Panel Chargers 18WCan handle charging a power bank and running the evaCHILL simultaneouslyUSB-A and USB-C ports, fold-up design, affordable, DC output for large power station charging$$$Check Price
The Best Camping Air Conditioners

How Many Watts Does a Portable AC Use?

The best camping air conditioners, such as the Zero Breeze Mark 2 and the BougeRV Portable AC, both run at about 250 watts when they’re going full blast. This is a pretty hefty amount of power to use without an outlet, but it’s not impossible.

The are four ways to power these ~250W portable air conditioners:

  1. Easiest: Built-In Battery
  2. Best: Portable power station with optional solar panel
  3. Complicated: Connect to an RV or campervan electrical system
  4. Cheapest: Fuel generator

Want to read about another one of our best camping tips? Get a 5-pound propane tank so you can stop using those wasteful and overpriced green canisters!

Zero Breeze Mark 2 with two batteries and AC adapter

1. Battery-Powered Portable Air Conditioners: Quick Summary

There are two battery-powered portable air conditioners that are worth attention: Zero Breeze Mark 2 and ECOFLOW Wave 2.

a) Zero Breeze Mark 2 Battery Powered Portable AC

The 240W Zero Breeze Mark 2 is by-far our favorite camping air conditioner. It can come with a battery that has 840Wh and lasts up to an estimated 6 hours. 

To get extra time, we recommend charging it with other power solutions instead of buying extra batteries. You can save money and get a more versatile product.

Zero Breeze solar panel adapter

You can also connect a ~200W solar panel DIRECTLY to the Zero Breeze Mark 2 Battery with this affordable adapter from Zero Breeze to charge the built-in battery. No other brand offers the simplicity of this arrangement.

b) ECOFLOW Wave 2 Portable AC With Battery

ECOFLOW Wave 2 is another battery-powered portable air conditioner, with a more impressive 5,100 BTU rating. It also pulls more power at ~500W, but has a larger battery to make up for it.

Unfortunately, the Wave 2 doesn’t allow for DC power to run the compressor. And the battery must be connected to the device for charging.

We like the Wave 2, but wish these power limitations didn’t exist. Nonetheless, it’s a great device that’s more powerful than Zero Breeze.

Jackery Explorer 1000 power station

2. Using a Portable Power Station to Power a 250W Portable Air Conditioner

The best way to provide power to an AC unit off-grid is with a portable power station and a solar panel array.

Portable power stations provide hours of power to devices with many DC outlets and 110V AC plugs. They also store the energy that solar panels capture. Plus, having one at the house helps when the power goes out too.

Understanding Portable Power Station Ratings

The most important details for portable power stations are:

  1. The battery size, based in watt-hours (Wh)
  2. The capability of the 110V AC inverter in watts (W)

To power a portable air conditioner, we’re most concerned about the watt-hour battery storage. The more power it can store, the longer your air conditioner can run. This is a critical part of how to use a portable air conditioner.

The AC inverter rating is helps you understand what you can connect to the AC outlet. Things like hair dryers and microwaves need very high wattage, but 250W portable ACs aren’t a problem. Ideally, we’ll avoid using the AC plug anyway because DC is more efficient.

How Many Watts Does a Portable AC Use?

A 250W AC unit won’t be running at full power all the time. It’s hard to estimate how much it will pull on average because it depends on the conditions and settings, but Zero Breeze says its 240W portable AC can last 6 hours on 840Wh.

Using this, we can say that running a portable air conditioner will use:

  • ~140Wh of battery power per hour on average
  • ~200W solar panels to run indefinitely
Bluetti portable power station to power a portable air conditioner

Long-Lasting Cold Air, Reasonable Price

Pick any one of these power stations and solar panels to get an awesome way to power your portable air conditioner. All of these provide hours of air conditioner power and can handle the charging of the matching ~200W solar panels (enough to power a small AC unit).

You might notice smaller, cheaper power stations exist. But they’ll be insufficient to power a portable AC because of the low Wh battery and maximum 100W solar panel charging.

Here are the power stations we recommend:

Best OverallBLUETTI Portable Power Station EB70S716Wh (~5 hours air conditioning without recharging)Very reputable brand, 800W pure sine inverter with four outlets, compact and lightweight$$Check Price
Best High Watt-hourJackery Explorer 1000 Portable Power Station1002Wh (~7 hours air conditioning)High-quality construction, multiple DC inputs, high Wh provides many hours of AC, 1000W AC inverter$$$$Check Price
Top AlternativeEF ECOFLOW Portable Power Station RIVER 2 Pro768Wh (~5 hours air conditioning)Extreme customer satisfaction, sleek lightweight design, 800W AC inverter$$Check Price
220W DOKIO solar panel array for AC unit

You can get the Jackery and the ECOFLOW power stations with matching ~200W solar panels. These will typically be a little lower than buying these exact (Jackery/ECOFLOW) solar panels separately.

But you can actually save money by going with other highly-reputable solar panels:

Best Overall220W DOKIO 18V Portable Foldable Solar Panel KitHigh customer satisfaction, excellent price point, 1-year warranty and lifetime customer support$$Check Price
Most Efficient200W GRECELL Portable Solar PanelSuperior conversion rate, portable and thin, comes with many adapters$$$Check Price
Ultra Light200W ELECAENTA Portable Solar PanelExtremely lightweight and flexible, IP54 waterproof, high conversion rate$$$$Check Price

Note: At ~200W solar, these will NOT provide much charging while running the air conditioner. They can either run the AC or charge the power station, but not both effectively. Keeping reading to get more power.

Bluetti 2000Wh power station

The Ultimate Off-Grid Portable Power for Endless Cold Air

If you want to charge and run AC at the same time – or use the AC for more than ~7 hours without charging – you’ll need a more powerful setup. These robust units can serve as a household backup power plan too.

The extra cost includes a plethora of additional features, such as enhanced battery management system, a higher-wattage AC inverter, an interface with more information, superior built-in chargers, and more outlets.

Ever think about putting a projector outside for an outdoor movie night? How about running powerful lights or stereo while camping or tailgating, without worrying about draining your car battery? The things you can do with these is endless.

Here are the best portable power stations:

Best OverallBLUETTI Portable Power Station AC2002000Wh (~14 hours air conditioning without charging)Excellent value from a reputable brand, fast charging capabilities, enough outlets to power everything with 2000W AC inverter$$$Check Price
Best BudgetNEXPOW Portable Power Station2400Wh (~17 hours air conditioning)More simplistic design with lower price, upgraded design, excellent customer satisfaction, 2000W AC inverter$$Check Price
Most RobustEF ECOFLOW Portable Power Station3600Wh (~26 hours air conditioning)Extremely capable device with 30A outlet and five charging sources, 3600-4500W AC inverter$$$$$Check Price
Elecaenta solar panel

The BLUETTI Solar Generator AC200MAX with 200W Solar Panel Included is one of the best deals around.

Otherwise, here are our recommendations for high-wattage portable solar panels:

Best OverallELECAENTA 300W Portable Solar PanelUltra-light thin design, IP54 waterproof, high conversion rate$$$Check Price
Best BudgetDOKIO 300w 18v Portable Foldable Solar PanelIncredible price, plenty of adapters, folding design$$Check Price
Best High Watt PremiumEF ECOFLOW 400W Portable Solar PanelHigh-performance panels, lightweight and portable, IP68 waterproof$$$$$Check Price
Best High Watt ValueEENOUR 400W Portable Solar PanelsWell-designed solar array, adjustable stand, excellent price$$$Check Price

If you don’t think you need as much solar panel charging, you can always get a ~200W solar panel instead.

3. Using Your RV or Campervan Electrical System

If you have an RV or campervan with a sizable electrical system, or are thinking about building one, you can use them to power your portable air conditioner.

At an average rate of 140W to run a portable air conditioner like the Zero Breeze Mark 2, that will use about 12 amps per hour on a 12V system or 6 amps on a 24V system, assuming very little loss.

Honestly, that’s not too bad. If you’re already running an induction stove or have ~200Ah on a 12V system, you can probably get some pretty solid use from a portable AC, depending on your charging and other electrical draws.

As usual, it’s recommended you stick to a DC connection to avoid the conversion loss of an AC inverter, which can be as high as 30%.

You can read more about campervan electrical systems in this post

Black+Decker Portable Air Conditioner with remote

How to Power Portable Air Conditioners: 1,500W Solutions

If you want to power a bigger portable AC unit, it’s time to turn to the 1,000 to 1,500W solutions. This BLACK+DECKER 14,000 BTU unit is our favorite model because it comes from a top brand, has a built-in heat pump, and provides excellent cooling power.

How to power a portable air conditioner like this depends on what electrical options and budget you have.

Using 110V/240V Outlets or Shore Power

When camping at campgrounds with outlets or when connected to shore power, this isn’t too much of a problem. This BLACK+DECKER unit runs at approximately 10.5 amps, pulling around 15 amps at peak. If you have a 30A connection, you should be find to run it and other devices.

Are you surprised to see the portable AC amps are somewhat reasonable? This show the importance of getting the best portable air conditioner.

Massive 3600Wh ECOFLOW portable power station

Incredible Power Station and Solar Panels

Knowing how to power a 1,500W portable air conditioner away from outlets is more challenging, but not impossible. Let’s start with the more expensive solar solutions, then go over much more-affordable fuel generators.

If you’re willing to go big on a power station, check out the 3600Wh EF ECOFLOW Portable Power Station. It will last ~5 hours running the 1500W AC.

Pair this with two sets of the EENOUR 400W Portable Solar Panels for 800W total, and you have a solid setup that will provide air conditioning for upwards of 10-12 hours per day! Just with the power of the sun!

Going this route also gives you an incredible backup power solution that can provide a lifeline during serious weather events, remote exploration, and much more.

As much as I love this arrangement, it is expensive.

A iPower generators are taking the market by storm with plenty of great reviews

Using a Generator to Power an Air Conditioner

Fuel-based generators can handle a high-watt device with just a bit of good ole dinosaur juice, gasoline or diesel. They’re a reliable and affordable way for how to power a portable air conditioner.

And thankfully, many of the newer models are much quieter than the ones from before.

This carefully selected list includes three of the best options on the market, using the best technology to provide as quiet, clean, and versatile of a generator as possible. They’re also from reputable brands that stand behind what they sell.

Here are our top recommendations for generators to power a portable air conditioner:

Best OverallChampion Power Equipment 100692 2000-Watt Portable Inverter GeneratorLow 53 dB noise, 39 pounds, 3-year warranty, available in dual-fuel model, up to 11 hour runtime$$Check Price
Best AlternativeWEN 56203i Super Quiet 2000-Watt Portable Inverter GeneratorAmazing price level, built-in fuel shutoff, compact and lightweight at 39 pounds$$Check Price
Best High WattA-iPower Portable Inverter Generator 4300WVery high power unit but still under 63 dB noise, CO sensor included, 7.5 hour runtime$$$Check Price

You can pair the generator with a portable power station for an even better solution. The generator can replace (or supplement) solar panels to charge the portable power station. Then you can run your AC unit with the generator turned off, great for campgrounds with quiet hours. It also helps ensure you capture all the electricity the generator dishes out.

This NEXPOW Portable Power Station is great for running a 1500W air conditioner. Or you can get a smaller, more-affordable power station like this Bluetti 716Wh Unit, but that’s better for a 250W air conditioner since its battery is much smaller.

That wraps up how to power your portable air conditioner. But if you want to know more about how to use a portable air conditioner with a deeper understanding of the numbers, keep reading to find out more.

Or you can skip down to how to install a portable air conditioner.

With Renogy parts and Ampere Time lithium battery, this solid system will serve many people well whole keeping some funds around for the rest of your build

Diving into the Details of How To Power Portable Air Conditioners

We’ve based these product recommendations on some pretty broad assumptions, especially when it comes to solar charging. If you want to take a closer look to get a closer estimate based on your specific situation, here’s the section to help out.

By using solar panels and a good amount of battery storage, we’re able to camp anywhere we want without concerns for hookups. Have you ever considered Baja California camping? It’s amazing, and while there are campgrounds with hookups, the best ones are off-grid entirely. Don’t forget to get your Baja insurance coverage and your FMM tourist card before crossing the border. They’re required.

Watt Hours: Battery Power Available for Consumption

Batteries store energy, and one way to measure that stored energy is watt hours (Wh). They’re also often measured in amp hours, but that changes based on the voltage of the system (12V/24V/36V) and an air conditioner’s energy consumption rate in watts. 

To keep things easy, it makes sense to compare the wattage of a portable air conditioner with the watt-hours of the battery storage.

Can you guess how many watt hours a 250W device uses in 1 hour?

It’s 250Wh!

Hopefully that’s self-explanatory, but to be sure: 250W times 1 hour equals 250Wh. To run it for two hours, it would be 500Wh (250W x 2 hours =  500Wh). Simple enough in theory.

In the real world, there are a couple things that impact this watt-to-watt-hour relationship:

  1. Portable air conditioners don’t usually run non-stop at 100% power. So even though it’s rated at 250W, there will be times when it draws less power out of the battery. 
  2. On the other hand, some of the power transferred from the battery to the actual device will be lost during the process. So even though the battery says 250Wh, the device won’t get that full amount. It turns into heat and has other small losses.
  3. Solar panels don’t actually pull the wattage they’re rated for in real-world use. Their ratings are based on extremely ideal lab environments and don’t factor in loss through connections, heat build-up, and more.

Let’s look at an example to understand how this plays out.

Zero Breeze Mark 2 portable camping air conditoner

Zero Breeze Mark 2 Power: Watts, Watt Hours, and Battery Life

The Mark 2 Camping Air Conditioner is rated at 240W and can come with a battery that has 840Wh of battery storage.

If we say it’s used at 100% of the 240W power, that means it would use 240Wh of the battery each hour. Theoretically, this means that the 840Wh battery would last 3.5 hours (840Wh divided by 240W = 3.5 hours).

But Zero Breeze says that each battery actually provides up to 6 hours of power.

It’s because it won’t be running at 100% power the entire time. The Zero Breeze unit won’t even let you do that because it would put too much stress on the system.

Zero Breeze assumes it only uses about 140W on average (140W times 6 hours = 840Wh). That’s less than 60% of the Mark 2’s maximum wattage of 240W.

Calculating How Many Watts Does a Portable AC Use

To find the watts your AC will use, start by finding the watt rating of your device, then multiply it by the expected usage in a percentage.

Hot areas push your air conditioner power use high, which could be around 80% of the maximum wattage. If you only need about 5 degrees temperature cooling, you can probably drop that down to 40%.

Quick summary for load percentages based on environments:

  • 80% of wattage for incredibly hot areas
  • 60% for most uses that might need 10-15 degrees temperature change
  • 40% for areas that only need a slight boost

For example, if you get a 500W unit and will be in a hot area, you’ll probably use 80% or 400W on average. Bring that same 500W unit to a more comfortable setting, you’re probably looking at 40% or 200W.

Battle Born lithium batteries are some of the best on the market

How Much Battery Storage Do You Need?

Now let’s get a rough idea of how much battery power you need to power a portable air conditioner. For right now, we’ll assume you are NOT recharging the battery at all.

Take the wattage rating of the device, multiplied by the estimated percentage load, times the number of hours. The result is the watt-hour of battery used. (W x % x hours = Wh)

We know from the last section that the Mark 2 is rated at 140Wh per hour used. To use it for 6 hours, that’s 140 x 5 = 840Wh of battery storage (the actual Wh of the Mark 2 battery!).

Now let’s do that same 8-hour calculation for different wattage ratings:

  • 100W device times 60% = 60W actual use, times 8 hours = 300Wh battery
  • 250W device times 60% = 150W actual use, times 8 hours = 750Wh battery
  • 1,500W device times 60% = 900W actual use, times 8 hours = 4,500Wh battery

As you can see, the battery you need depends heavily on the wattage of the device.

Solar panels are a great way to leave campgrounds behind while stil staying powered up

Solar Panel Charging for More Watt Hours

Solar panels, like other electrical devices, are rated in watts. And just like everything else, that rating isn’t actually what you get in real life. Other factors include:

  • Angle of the sun
  • Hours of sunshine
  • Obstructions such as clouds or trees
  • System inefficiencies or heat production

Generally, the best environments are closer to the equator, during peak summer, with no obstructions and a well-cooled system.

You can expect to get ~85% of a solar panel’s rating during this ideal situation. A 200W solar panel array actually pulls ~170W, or 170Wh each hour.

These ideal conditions are hard to get. You can use sophisticated solar panel calculators to get a more precise idea of your situation.

But for many people in the United States, I suggest using more conservative figures. Let’s go with 70% rate and ~5 hours of charging per day as a conservative baseline figure.

Estimated Solar Panel Watt Hour and Amp Hour Charging Capabilities

Here are some estimates for how many watt hours you’ll charge with certain solar arrays:

  • 100W solar times 70% is 70Wh per hour, times 5 hours equals 350Wh charging per day. 
  • 200W solar times 70% is 140Wh per hour, times 5 hours equals 700Wh charging per day
  • 400W solar times 70% is 280Wh per hour, times 5 hours equals 1,400Wh charging per day

You can pretty easily convert the watt-hours to amp hours by dividing the Wh by your system’s voltage. For example, 350Wh divided by 12V is 29.2 amp hours. That same 350Wh on a 24V system is 14.6 amp hours.

It’s worth noting that you’ll also need to verify the solar charger’s capabilities. Small power stations are often limited to about 100W, medium ones can usually handle 200W-400W, and robust systems might be able to go higher if equipped with a more robust charger.

Zero Breeze Mark 2 works outside of your overlanding rig.

Installing a Portable Air Conditioner

When you get your hands on your new portable AC, you’re likely going to plug it in and get that cold air cranking. But before you know how to use a portable air conditioner, there are some things to know about how to install a portable air conditioner:

  • Level it out
  • Vent hot exhaust
  • Attach drain hose

Level Surface and Let It Rest Before Use

Before you plug on a device that was just delivered or you just got out of the car, take a moment to let it sit on a level surface. These systems are carefully designed and the refrigerant needs time to settle.

In fact, many manufacturers recommend 24 hours after moving a portable AC.

This might work for home portable AC units, but obviously that’s not feasible for camping air conditioners. Nonetheless, let them settle for a little while and always use them on a level surface.

How portable air conditioners work in tents.

Venting Hot Exhaust

Air conditioners might seem like magic, but Newton’s third law still exists. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Even though this is actually speaking to forces, it also works for air conditioner cooling theory.

As cold air pumps out, the excess heat must go somewhere. If you don’t push the hot air outside, you will just be pushing it around.

So how does a portable air conditioner work? By capturing hot air and sending it outside!

The exception to this is for air coolers. They don’t use a compressor that captures this hot air. Instead, they infuse the air with extra water, which evaporates and cools down the air. It’s an entirely different method that doesn’t require ventilation, but it’s also not as effective, especially in humid areas.

You’ve probably noticed that houses with air conditioning always have the main AC unit outside, right? Even the newer mini-split wall-mounted units have it. That’s where the actual magic happens and heat is released so cold air can be forced in.

The same is true for portable air conditioners.

Some portable air conditioners just come with one vent hose to release the hot air, and this one you absolutely MUST connect to the outside.

Others come with multiple hoses. These can include an intake for the compressor, an intake for the fan side, and/or an exhaust hose for the cold air.

You really need to use them is when the airflow is restricted, such as if you place the air conditioner in a tight spot without much airflow.

Water Drip Line

Finally, another fact of air conditioning is that it creates condensation (water). If you find an air conditioner that says otherwise, it’s not going to do its job.

That’s because air has water it in. The higher the humidity, the higher the water content in the air. As the warm air is squished together to create cold air, the water doesn’t have as much room to literally hang out. So it starts to collect and will eventually fall.

This is the water cycle and is the basis for our weather. It’s also a natural occurrence on iced drinks, and… air conditioners!

When you get your portable air conditioner, don’t neglect the water line. Ideally, it will have a nice downward slope to a spot where a little water won’t hurt anything.

If you’re installing the unit in an RV or campervan, you might need to drill a little hole for this drain line. I suggest going as low as you can with it so gravity helps keep the line clear. If water sits in there, it can accumulate, allow mold or bacteria growth, and cause all sorts of issues.

For small units that aren’t in overly hot or humid areas, the water might be fairly minimal. But larger portable ACs in humid climates can create a surprising amount of water.

Some of the larger units made for household air conditioning just use a small drip tray. Don’t forget to empty it.

And on the units with a water line, you should regularly inspect it to ensure it’s clear. This is a critical part of knowing how to use a portable air conditioner.

ECOFLOW Wave 2 Camping Potable AC Unit

How to Power Portable Air Conditioners: Wrap-Up

Using a portable air conditioner away from a household outlet might seem like a challenge, but it’s just about lining up the wattage rating of the AC with the watt-hours of a battery and wattage of the charging device, like a solar panel.

To power a ~250W portable air conditioner, we recommend the Bluetti EB70S Power Station and a 220W DOKIO Foldable Solar Panel.

For a larger ~1,500W air conditioner, use a Bluetti AC200P Portable Power Station or a Champion Power Equipment 2000-Watt Portable Generator.

Once you have these, you’ll be ready to have cold air on a constant basis. Now all you need is one of the best camp canopies to get protection from the sun, bugs, and rain to go along with your portable AC. Or you can get a camping tent with AC ports to boost your comfort.

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