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Do Portable Air Conditioners Need to Be Drained?


Choosing an appropriate type and size of air conditioner for your home is crucial. Usually, people with little interior space and who want an option for spot cooling will typically prefer a portable air conditioner.

If you’re considering purchasing or already have a portable air conditioner, you are probably concerned if portable air conditioners need to be drained. Keep reading this article to learn more about how portable air conditioners work and their drainage methods.

Do I Need to Drain My Portable Air Conditioner?

The answer to your question is yes, your portable air conditioner needs to be drained. Consumers must learn when and how often to empty the tank in a portable air conditioner. It depends on the weather, but those people who live in humid climates may need their AC tanks to be frequently drained.

Why Do You Need to Drain Portable Air Conditioners?

Unlike other cooling devices such as central air conditioning systems, evaporative coolers, and window air conditioners, water can overflow and seep out of a portable aircon if condensation builds up inside the AC tank without being drained. Like any moist environment, a tank filled with stagnant water can become a breeding ground for mold.

Some newer models of portable air conditioners are self-evaporative, allowing moisture to escape through the exhaust hose, which also vents hot air. Depending on the environment’s humidity levels, a portable AC unit might continue to store water that needs draining when self-evaporation mode cannot empty it.

Although, some modern versions may not even require a drain plug because the machine evaporates the water on its own. It is due to cutting-edge self-evaporative technology.

Nonetheless, some older portable air conditioners still need to be drained. They have a drain plug connected to a hose, a pan, or a reservoir that requires draining regularly. For more information about your device, refer to your portable air conditioner user’s manual.

Why Does My Portable Air Conditioner Produce Condensation?

As your portable unit cools the space, it absorbs moisture or water vapor from the air. This moisture condenses as water in a tank in the AC unit. The portable air conditioner then circulates cool and dehumidified air around the space.

How Do You Drain a Portable Aircon?

The humidity level in your space will impact how frequently your portable air conditioning units need to be drained. While all portable air conditioners require drainage regularly, the method used for drainage varies. These methods include:

Manual Bucket Drainage

Portable units include either a detachable tank that can be removed and emptied or a built-in tank with a hole through which water can be released when the unit is tipped over.

Drain Hose

A hose can be inserted through a window or into a bucket to drain condensate, sometimes with the help of an internal pump that allows the tank to be drained vertically or horizontally.

Automatic Evaporation

Moisture is automatically drained through the same exhaust hose that eliminates air from the room. If you have one of these advanced portable ACs, you won’t need to worry about emptying them again. But be aware that these are typically on the pricey side. If you are okay with some draining now and again, most portable AC systems make this procedure simple.

To empty an internal water tank, follow these steps:

  • Find a drain pan or bucket. Move the portable air conditioner to a space where the unit can be easily drained into a sink.
  • The drain plug is located on the back or side of the AC unit.
  • Remove the drain plug as well as the rubber stopper. It will start draining the water tank.

Regardless, even if your portable AC has auto evaporation, you may still have to manually drain the unit, especially if you’re in a high-humidity area.

Draining Your Portable AC Without a Continuous Drainage Hose

You can empty your portable unit using a hose connected to the outside, or you can place a shallow pan or container under the drain outlet of the AC unit, remove the drain cap from the outlet, and allow the water to empty into the pan or container.

When doing it this way, you must be extra cautious since the unit must be slightly tilted backward to ensure that most water drains into the pan or container without dripping.

What Happens if You Don’t Drain Portable AC Units?

If your air conditioner has a drainage reservoir that grows too full, it should automatically shut off to prevent overflowing. Before using it again, your AC reservoirs need to be drained. But what if it isn’t overflowing but still contains standing water?

When you notice that the reservoir is not overflowing but still contains water, this should not be an issue as long as the portable AC is drained properly. It is normal to happen since your portable AC is in regular use.

If you do not intend to use your unit regularly, any standing water should be disposed of to prevent mold and bacteria growth. These germs can breed in air conditioner reservoirs, causing allergies and other health problems.

How Often Should I Empty My Portable Air Conditioner?

Most modern portable air conditioners do not require draining. These AC units use a condensation exhaust system to remove water vapor gathered during the cooling or dehumidifying process. Then, the moisture gets expelled with hot air through the system’s exhaust hose.

In rare situations, you may need to empty your air conditioner. When it is excessively humid, the water collected during the cooling process isn’t exhausted quickly, and it can cause water to fill the internal reservoir.

Most of the time, the device will shut down automatically to prevent the internal tank from overflowing. When this occurs, units can show fault codes and alerts or indicate through a light. When this happens, you must empty the drain tank, pan, or reservoir.

The rate at which water accumulates in the AC’s reservoir or other parts may vary significantly. It usually depends on how much humidity is in the atmosphere. Other factors that influence how often you should drain your portable air conditioner include how much the unit operates, the size of the tank, and the weather conditions.

Some units can fill up in a few hours, while others take several months to reach maximum capacity. Fortunately, almost all portable air conditioners with reservoirs have a safety feature. If the reservoir becomes full, this switches the unit off. However, the AC reservoir should be empty before the portable unit turns back on again. Otherwise, your AC unit may start to spill and leak.

There is no right or wrong answer to how frequently you should empty your portable air conditioner. If you have an older model, it should be inspected regularly and drained of any noticeable water buildup. For newer units, leave them alone until they alert you they need draining. In any case, I encourage regular checks to be safe.

Why Do Portable AC Have 2 Drains?

If you have a portable air conditioner with two drains, you need to know its functions to drain it properly. Some users may notice these two drainage plugs on their units. Because the device should have a self or auto-evaporation mode, they may need to pay attention to the draining process.

It would help to avoid overflowing stagnant water in your tank because drainage is needed even with auto-evaporation systems. It is critical when high humidity levels and the unit accumulate more moisture than intended.

There is upper and bottom drainage on portable units with two drains. The upper drainage is designed to empty the reservoir automatically when complete, while the bottom drainage empties the tank for storage. When an AC system is dehumidified, the upper drainage is the continuous drain outlet that collects water.

When in cooling or heating mode, the lower drainage collects water. To avoid causing damage, consult the user manual for your portable air conditioner to determine the steps to empty each drain plug safely. Depending on the type, an AC will flash warning lights or abruptly switch off if too much water accumulates.

Final Thoughts

We hope this article has answered your questions about portable aircon, including how they operate and how often they need maintenance, such as draining the tank so it can function when required. If you already have one, maintain your cooling system to use the cool air throughout the hottest months.

JP Reyes

JP has been in the aircon industry for almost as long as he has been alive. As a child JP would help his tatay fix aircon units at their junk shop in Cavite. After graduating UP in the early 2000's, JP then started his own Aircon servicing business and within 5 years had 10 shops in 8 different cities. Fast forward to today and JP brings all his experience and expertise online to give readers trustworthy advice and reviews about Air-conditioning buying, servicing, cleaning and repair in the Philippines.

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