Canstar Blue reviews portable air conditioners from De’Longhi, Kogan, Convair and Dimplex based on quietness, functionality, reliability, ease of use, after sale service, value for money & overall customer satisfaction in 2017.
See our Ratings Methodology.
Sometimes it’s too expensive, or inconvenient, to install a permanent air conditioning unit. Portable air conditioners are the unsung heroes of summer, whether you’re a renter, on a budget, or just want the convenience of a personal portable air conditioner to fight back against the Aussie heat. To help you find the right tool to stay cool, we’ve rated the most popular brands of portable air conditioners in Australia.
Every year Canstar Blue surveys thousands of people across the country to find out how they rate several cooling & heating products based on factors such as effectiveness, functionality, quietness and value for money. You may also be interested in our ratings for:
The winner of our inaugural portable air conditioner ratings was Italian small appliances manufacturer De’Longhi. Our survey respondents gave De’Longhi five stars for overall customer satisfaction, as well as functionality, reliability and ease of use. It received a respectable four stars on value for money, quietness, and after sale service – a commendable result all-round.
The other contending brands this year were Kogan, Convair and Dimplex. Some of the outstanding results from these are:
The two biggest factors driving overall customer satisfaction with portable air conditioners were found to be value for money and noise while operating. It’s no surprise that no one wants to face the choice between sweating like mad and sitting next to a noisy machine for hours on end. As portable air conditioners are often considered a short-term or supplementary cooling solution, it stands to reason that price is a significant factor. Why fork out extra when the whole point is to have something relatively flexible and simple?
To help you decide which portable air conditioner will be best for your cooling needs and budget, here is an overview of the four brands that featured in our 2017 review.
It is perhaps best known for its coffee makers, but this Italian manufacturer creates small appliances for all around the home. The De’Longhi Pinguino portable air conditioner range includes five different models, all of which include three fan speeds and a dehumidifier. Some also have reverse-cycle functions (i.e. it can also produce heat). Two models only use air for cooling (the ‘Air to Air’ line) in smaller units with handles and castors for easily moving around. The simpler version includes a 12hr electronic timer and thermostat, while the next model up takes the timer limit up to 24hrs.
The three ‘Water to Air’ models can use water for cooling, and can automatically switch over to an air-only mode when the water tank runs out (which usually takes about 6hrs). Each model progressively adds more power and features, as well as a larger price tag. All include LCD displays and remotes, a turbo power option, auto and sleep modes, and a 24 hour digital timer. At the very top of the range, De’Longhi offers inverter technology with 5kW of power.
2 products available through Appliances Online
$820 - $1,261
(as at 14:09 on 11.01.18*)
The Australian online retail giant was founded in 2006 out of a garage, and a decade later is powering through the appliances and electronics market with established brands as well as its own private label products for bargain hunters. Kogan offers six different portable air conditioner models. Two simple evaporative cooler models include three wind speeds, air purifying, a basic timer and a remote.
Moving into more powerful units, two models at 2.9kW and 4.7kW feature three operating modes (air conditioning, dehumidifying, and two-speed fan), plus sleep and smart functions to automatically meet your cooling needs. They also include a 24 hour timer, remote, and window exhaust connection kit. The 4.7kW model has an automatic swing function to spread cool air to where it’s needed. Finally, two reverse cycle models (3.5kW and 4.1kW) add heating function to the portable units, suitable for larger areas such as the living room. These also include humidifying and three-speed fan modes, auto swing, a 24 hour timer, remote, and window exhaust kit. Kogan was the only brand to rate five stars on value for money in our portable air conditioner review – a great result.
4 products available through Kogan.com
$299 - $399
(as at 14:09 on 11.01.18*)
Claimed to be Australia’s ‘largest air conditioning manufacturer’ and a pioneer of the all-plastic evaporative cooler design, Convair produces both refrigeration cycle and evaporative cooling portable air conditioners. This brand’s range sits at the more affordable end compared to others, so may be worth a look if you’re strapped for cash but still want to keep cool.
There are two evaporative air conditioners to choose from – the Mastercool, a larger unit on castors for medium to large rooms, or the Magicool, with easy glide wheels and a carry handle, for small rooms. Both include three-speed fan cooling. The Supercool refrigerated air conditioners by Convair come in three models. These are tiered in terms of increasing size and power, which translates into tiers of cooling capacity, airflow, and humidity removal. All include a window venting kit, dehumidifier function, fan-only option, electronic thermostat, and castors. Only the largest, most powerful model offers reverse cycle cooling and heating.
Specialists in home heating and cooling solutions, Dimplex, currently offers five models of portable air conditioners, all but one of which contain a dehumidifier function. These come in a range of sizes to suit different cooling needs. The smallest and simplest is purely an evaporative cooler, with three speed settings, three operating modes (natural, normal, and sleep), a 6L tank and 8hr timer.
Next up are three different sizes of reverse cycle self-evaporative coolers, at 3kW, 3.5kW, and 4.4kW powers. All feature a 0-24hr timer with sleep mode, touch controls, a window kit, and a smooth black and white finish. The most powerful portable air conditioner by Dimplex is a 5.3kW unit with a 0-24hr timer with sleep mode, LCD remote control, soft touch controls, window kit, and side exhaust hose. Watch out for further developments – Dimplex has three new models of portable air conditioners on the way.
1 product available through Appliances Online
(as at 14:09 on 11.01.18*)
There are two types of portable air conditioner mechanisms – refrigeration cycle air conditioners and evaporative cooling air conditioners.
Refrigeration cycle units use the same system as most large air conditioners. The essential principle is to transfer heat in a room to a refrigerant gas (which is usually just plain old air in household air conditioners), which is circulated out of the building to a condenser where the excess heat is dumped. The now cool refrigerant then circulates back into the building to repeat the cycle. This type of air conditioner must be connected to the outside of the building in order to dump heat, and this is usually done using a flexible hose that allows the unit to move around.
Evaporative cooling air conditioners pump air from outside through a screen which is partially saturated with water. This damp layer absorbs heat from the air. The cooled air is then pumped directly into the building, or used indirectly to cool the condenser of a refrigeration system. The advantage of an evaporative cooling unit is that it’s much cheaper to run than a refrigeration cycle unit.
Furthermore, evaporative portable air conditioners don’t require any external connecting pipes to circulate air – this makes them truly portable, unlike refrigeration cycle models. However, the use of water as the cooling mechanism has two main disadvantages. Firstly, the humidity of the cooled air is increased as it passes through the filter, which can be uncomfortable and less useful in humid climates where the air is already moist. For this reason, evaporative cooling is best suited to hotter, dryer climates. Secondly, these coolers require a steady supply of water in order to operate.
Portable air conditioners can be the perfect solution for anyone whose cooling needs are infrequent or temporary. This could mean just wanting to cool a single room at a time, or renters who only require a temporary way to keep cool in summer. Portable air conditioners are also much cheaper to buy upfront, meaning they’re ideal for households who may not be able to afford a full air conditioning system.
The unfortunate flip side of their modest size, however, is that portable air conditioners lack the power and features of larger, more expensive systems such as split system air conditioners. Additionally, portable air conditioners can be quite ineffective if they’re used to cool a large space – anything bigger than a small bedroom or living room will be tough. They’re also not very energy efficient, which will cost you in power bills over time. If you’re in a warmer environment in Australia, we suspect that investing in more substantive cooling methods will leave you happier in the long run.
|Portable & manoeuvrable
Great for renters and those who like flexibility
Often cheaper unit price than traditional A/C
Easy, fuss-free solution for quickly cooling a room
|Less powerful than traditional A/C
Ineffectual cooling for large rooms, usually best left in small rooms
Can still be expensive on a power to price ratio
Can be relatively energy inefficient for their size, especially in larger rooms
Most models are priced between $500-$800 which, despite being a significant investment, is much cheaper than the costs you’d incur by buying and installing a full-size air conditioning system.
In our latest survey, 73% of respondents said that they are concerned about the amount of energy their portable air conditioner uses. Part of the problem is that portable air conditioners are not covered under the Australian government star energy rating system, making it difficult for consumers to gauge the efficiency of products. The survey found that there is interest in star energy ratings for portable air conditioners – 81% of respondents said that if given the opportunity they would have purchased a unit with a high star rating.
Air conditioning units are rated either by their power requirement in kW (kilowatts) or less commonly by the amount of heat energy they dissipate, measured in BTU (British Thermal Units). Many of the units we found online had an energy output of 3.52 to 6 kW.
Take for example the Dimplex (DC10RC) 3kW portable reverse-cycle air conditioner. With an output of 3kW, and assuming electricity costs of 23c per kWh, this unit would cost 69c per hour to run. In the middle of summer, we imagine your air conditioner could be getting quite a workout, so it pays to be mindful of the dreaded electricity bill when turning on your portable air conditioner. Remember that costs will naturally vary depending on your electricity rates.
Portable air conditioners lose much of their effectiveness when cooling larger areas. Specifically, the amount of power you need from a portable air conditioner will depend on how much heat needs to be dissipated from the room. This varies based on several factors such as room size, window size, insulation, humidity, etc. There are several online calculators that can help you discern how powerful an air conditioner you’ll need, such as this one from FairAir.
While portable air conditioners are generally quite sparse in the features department compared to larger models, there are still several useful functions and features you should look out for:
As you can see, there is a lot to consider with portable air conditioners if you’re keen to get the best value for money possible. Taking a cheap option is tempting, but it could also pay to shop around and spend a little extra on quality.
See our Ratings Methodology.
*Product availability and price range are current as of the stated date, may be subject to change.
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Canstar Blue commissioned Colmar Brunton to survey 6,000 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have purchased a portable air conditioner in the last 3 years – in this case, 455 people.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then alphabetically. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.
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