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How to Recharge a Portable Air Conditioner


Portable air conditioning can keep your home cool, especially during summer. They’re great for maintaining the temperature of the space. But if your portable air conditioner is no longer functional, can you recharge it?

This guide will help you understand if you need to recharge your portable air conditioners and how to fix their existing problem.

How Does a Portable AC Unit Work?

Recharge a Portable Air Conditioner

A portable air conditioner pulls warm air from the room. It also takes the air and excess moisture and pushes it through a hose.

Portable conditioners have three main components:

  • Refrigerant
  • Compressor
  • Fan

With these three components, here’s how a portable air conditioner works:

  1. First, the fan spins around and draws the hot and humid air from one room inside the portable air conditioner.
  2. Inside the unit, warm air is cooled down by the air conditioner’s coils. This process also extracts moisture from the air.
  3. An air conditioner’s compressor uses coils to circulate refrigerant. As the hot air is transferred to the refrigerant, the energy applied causes it to heat up and turn into a high-pressure gas that moves through the AC system.
  4. The collected moisture from the air is removed in either two ways:
    • Through a self-evaporative system that vents the water vapor to the outside
    • Collected into an internal buck
  5. During this process, the refrigerant must be compressed for everything to work using its compressor.
  6. When the condenser coil gets dirty, the refrigerant cannot absorb as much heat from the indoor environment.

How Does a Refrigerant Work?

Refrigerant is usually found in either a fluid or gas state. It readily absorbs heat from the environment and can provide refrigeration when combined with other components, such as compressors and evaporators.

An air conditioner contains refrigerants inside its coil. The refrigerant absorbs heat and transitions to a highly pressurized cold liquid. The liquid flows outside, where a fan blows hot air over the waves and exhausts it. Therefore, the refrigerant changes its chemical state to capture and dispose of hot air. 

The refrigerant then cools down and turns back into a low-pressure gas. Finally, the fan blows air over the coils to distribute the temperature, resulting in cooled air throughout your home.

How to Recharge a Portable Air Conditioner

It would be best never to recharge your portable air conditioner unless stated by a professional. 

But when most people think of recharging their portable air conditioners, they assume it’s the refrigerant that needs refilling. However, if you find your AC needing to be recharged, the problem might be a leaking refrigerant. Although the unit may need to be recharged, one can only repair a refrigerant leak and not refill it.

If your technician advised you to charge your portable AC, these are the steps to do so:

  • When it is time to recharge the refrigerant, you will need to ensure that the unit is recharged by the same type of Freon already in the system. 
  • Gather all the necessary equipment, including gloves, safety goggles, refrigerant, a freon kit, and a screwdriver. 
  • Wear safety equipment. One should not ignore this step because freon is toxic. It can also damage raw skin because it is cryogenic.
  • Unplug your AC and let it cool down completely. 
  • Open the unit using the screwdriver.
  • Use a leak detector if you suspect a leak. You can also use soap or nitrogen. 
  • Once you are sure that there are no leakages, move on to connect the compressor to the valves.
  • Use the Freon kit and connect the valves to it.
  • Once you are sure that the connections between the freon tank and top valve are secure, recharge your AC. Check the manual to see how much your AC needs and recharge it accordingly.

How Often Do You Recharge a Portable Air Conditioner?

While some portable air conditioners will have the option to be recharged, it is not advisable to do so. Air conditioners are entirely sealed, so no gas leaves the unit. However, if you notice your refrigerants going down, it indicates that the AC unit might be running low on freon and needs repairing.

The refrigerant should remain constant in your air conditioner system because it is not a car or bike where you can check whether the oil level is filled for optimal running. Therefore, the refrigerant remains as same as before unless it leaks.

The system of your portable air conditioner might have a slow leak depending on its conditions and age. The most common cause of air conditioner freon leaks is likely erosion of the metal over time due to formic acid or formaldehyde corrosion. Small holes are formed when the acid eats away at the metal, and the unit eventually releases freon, resulting in refrigerant leaking. 

When your AC is running low on freon, this will cause the portable unit to start malfunctioning by not cooling. On the other hand, poor cooling can also be caused by problems other than a freon running low.

Should I Refill My Portable Air Conditioner?

Freon is the refrigerant that plays the role of dispersing cool air from the air conditioner. Unfortunately, freon contributes to greenhouse gas. Therefore, it is harmful to our environment and the ozone layer. For more information about refrigerant leakage, you can read this guide.

Currently, manufacturers no longer produce harmful chemicals in the AC unit. However, it is safe to say that you cannot replace your poorly functioning refrigerant system. The current portable air conditioners use modern refrigerants, which are safer for the atmosphere, but not for an amateur to handle. 

You can contact a local technician to determine the problem and repair a refrigerant leak, as you are not supposed to do it alone. Any quote should include the cost of repairing a leak. However, refilling the refrigeration is no longer a do-it-your-own job. Furthermore, filling the refrigeration up over the required amount (or too little) can further result in more complications and malfunctioning of the portable air conditioner.

Final Thoughts

Portable Air Conditioners

Portable air conditioners are a convenient way to keep the environment cool and comfortable. However, you must maintain them properly to get the best experience. No matter what it is used for, it would be best if you kept in mind that regular maintenance is vital to ensure the maximum cooling and functionality of the air conditioner.

Recharging your air conditioning unit might be an ideal way to fix your air conditioner problem. But, of course, you can always call a certified technician and ask for the repair cost to recharge or set up your unit.

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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