Do portable air conditioners need to be drained?

Regular maintenance is crucial for the proper functioning of portable air conditioners, and one essential task is draining the condensate tank.

The frequency of draining depends on the indoor air conditions and the specific model and brand of your portable AC.

Moisture management in portable air conditioners: 3 effective drainage methods

Some portable air conditioners employ various methods to handle the moisture extracted from the air during the cooling process. There are 3 main methods they use for moisture removal, or drainage:

1. Manual draining

In older units, water is collected in a built-in condensate tank (also known as drain pan, water collection tray or a removable bucket).

Some models feature detachable tanks that can be easily removed and emptied when full. Certain units have built-in tanks with a sealed hole at the back, requiring you to lift and tip the unit to drain it through the hole.

The frequency of draining depends on the humidity levels and usage patterns. Sometimes, the unit may shut off automatically, alerting you when it is time to empty the tray.

2. Automatic evaporation (or self-evaporative systems)

Many modern portable air conditioners come with a convenient self-evaporative feature.

Moisture is automatically drained through the same exhaust hose that expels hot air from the room, eliminating the need for manual draining.

3. Continuous drain setup

Certain portable air conditioners feature a drain port allowing you to connect a hose for directing collected moisture to a nearby drain or even outside.

Some models use a gravity-based system, where the outer end of the hose is positioned lower than the one attached to the condensate tank, ensuring smooth water flow.

Certain units feature a pump mechanism that enables the outer end of the hose to be elevated above the inner condensate tank, allowing the pump to draw and empty condensate either vertically or horizontally.

With this continuous drainage setup, manual emptying of the water collection tray is unnecessary (provided the unit is appropriately positioned to allow water to flow out through the hose).

How often would your portable air conditioner need to be drained?

The frequency with which you need to drain your portable air conditioner depends on several factors, including:

  • the humidity levels in your environment
  • the duration of use
  • the specific model of your portable AC (meaning the unit’s moisture management system).

Refer to the table below for a general guideline:

Climate condition

Drainage frequency

Humid or extreme humid

Approximately once every 8 hours


Once every 2 – 4 weeks


Rarely, if ever (since there will be minimal moisture extraction)

The user manual for your specific unit will provide guidance on the optimal drainage schedule.

If you notice the tank filling up quickly or experience reduced cooling efficiency, it may be an indication that more frequent drainage is necessary.

What happens if you don’t drain your portable air conditioner

 If you neglect to drain your portable air conditioner, the accumulated condensate in the tank can lead to several potential issues:

  • The tank may overflow, causing water to leak and potentially damage your flooring or surrounding area.
  • Stagnant water within the tank provides an ideal environment for mold and mildew growth, compromising air quality and potentially causing health concerns.
  • The excess moisture in the air may also hinder the cooling efficiency of the unit, leading to reduced performance.

Regular and timely drainage of the condensate is crucial to prevent these issues and maintain the integrity of your home environment, also ensuring the proper functioning and longevity of your portable air conditioner.

Operation of portable air conditioners: Cooling cycle explained

Portable air conditioners operate based on similar principles as any other air conditioning unit – extracting warm air from a room and expelling it outside after cooling. Here’s a breakdown of the steps:



Step 1

The unit’s fan draws warm, humid air from the room into the portable AC.

Step 2

The warm air passes over an evaporator coil containing refrigerant, absorbing heat and condensing moisture onto the coil.

Step 3

The now-cool, dehumidified air is released back into the room.

Step 4

Extracted moisture is removed from the unit through various drainage methods (self-evaporative, exhaust hose, drain pan).

Step 5

Heat from the warm air causes the liquid refrigerant to evaporate into a high-pressure gas.

Step 6

The gas travels through a condenser coil, where it is compressed back into a liquid, and the generated heat is expelled outside through an exhaust hose.

Step 7

The refrigerant, now cooled, restarts the cycle as the unit pulls in additional warm air from the room.

Creating a continuous drainage system for your portable air conditioner

To achieve continuous operation for your air conditioner, setting up a drain hose is a practical solution. The drain hose will automatically empty the water from the condensate tank.

Attach one side of the drain hose to the condensate tank and the other one either to a drain or outside.

Using a drain hose with your portable air conditioner prevents the condensate tank from accumulating excess water, eliminating the need for frequent manual draining.

You can use this HOXHA air conditioner drain hose kit from Amazon for an easy set up.

Buy it on Amazon

NOTE: You should still regularly check your portable AC for moisture, ensuring the interior remains dry. Remember to inspect for mold and clean the filters at least once a month to maintain optimal performance.

Manual draining procedure for portable air conditioners

The process to drain you specific portable air conditioner is quiet similar to the process of draining all portable air conditioners and you just need a few supplies, such as:

Before starting the draining process, remember to ensure the unit is turned off and unplugged to prioritize safety when working with moisture near electrical equipment.

Follow these simple steps:



Step 1

Move the unit to access the drain plugs at the back.

Step 2

Place a shallow pan underneath the unit, ensuring it has enough capacity to hold the water without overflowing. Have a towel ready for any spills.

Step 3

Locate the drain port on the back of the unit. Refer to your owner’s manual for specific guidance on the drain port’s location for your model.

Step 4

Remove the drain cap covering the drain port. Some models may have an outer and inner cap that need to be removed.

Step 5

Carefully tilt the portable air conditioner backward to allow the collected water in the internal tank to flow towards the drain port.

Step 6

Once draining is complete, reinsert the inner and outer caps if applicable, ensuring they are securely in place.

Step 7

Use a towel or soft cloth to dry any areas of the unit that got wet during the process.

Step 8

Plug the portable air conditioner back into the electrical outlet and turn it on to resume normal operation.

Draining portable air conditioners: Brand-specific tips for Hisense, Midea, Delonghi, and LG Units


Most Hisense portable AC units feature a drain-free design, automatically disposing of moisture without any concern.

Nevertheless, you have the option to choose a unit with manual drainage if limited space prevents you from positioning the air conditioner close to a window or outlet.

Draining Midea portable air conditioners

Midea portable air conditioners are designed with an internal drain pan. You do not need to use a drain hose as accumulated water is evaporated and expelled as water vapor through the exhaust hose.

However, in humid environments, occasional drainage may be necessary. To drain the unit, place a drain pan behind it and unscrew the drain cap.

Be mindful of immediate water flow, so have some towels nearby to manage potential splashing. For a thorough drainage of the unit, tilt it slightly backward to release the remaining water.

A continuous drain hose is not necessary for Midea portable AC units, thanks to their self-evaporator system.

However, if a P1 error code occurs, this indicates that the bottom tray is full of water, or that the water is exceeding the system’s capacity.

To resolve the P1 error, follow these steps:

  1. Pull out the drain plug at the bottom back of the unit to drain excess water.
  2. Insert the drain hose (included as an accessory) into the drain plug to facilitate the drainage of excess water.

Draining Delonghi portable air conditioners

Most Delonghi portable units feature a drainage hose located on the back, either near the bottom or in the middle.

To drain the unit, remove the cap of the drain hose and direct the water into an external pan. This pan is not provided as an accessory, so you can get one yourself here.

After draining, remember to replace the cap to prevent water from flowing out during use.

Delonghi portable air conditioners efficiently use humidity-collected water to cool the condenser. However, more frequent drainage may be needed in highly humid conditions.

For optimal performance, it is also recommended to drain the units at the end of the season.

Draining LG portable air conditioners

While operating an LG portable AC in Cool or Fan mode with low humidity, drainage is generally unnecessary, as the air conditioner functions efficiently with some moisture in the collection tank.

However, if you are running the air conditioner in Dehumidification (Dry) mode, you can install a drain hose (10mm inner dimension) and direct the open end to a floor drain or outside.

Drainage steps for portable air conditioners may vary between models, and it is recommended to consult your owner’s manual for model-specific instructions.

To manually drain the unit, remove the drain cap, tilt the unit backward, and, on some models, remove both the outer and inner caps.

Use a shallow pan (not supplied with your portable air conditioner, so you get get one here) to collect and drain the water. Have some towels nearby to dry any wet areas.

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