How often should you drain your portable air conditioner?

How long it takes until your air conditioner needs to be drained can range from a few hours to a few weeks, depending on the humidity levels.

Portable air conditioners are a popular addition to many homes because they are convenient and movable.

However, this type of air conditioner does need to be drained. There are different factors that determine how often you need to drain your portable air conditioner, but humidity is the main one.

Fortunately, you can automate this process to avoid damage if manual draining is not an option for you.

Portable air conditioner benefits

If you want a cooling solution that will keep your home or apartment comfortable on days when the weather is particularly hot and humid, a portable air conditioner is a popular choice.

This type of air conditioner tends to be relatively inexpensive, and it can be moved around the house at your convenience.

This also results in greater energy efficiency because unlike central air conditioning units, a portable air conditioner only cools select spaces in your home and does not have to keep the entire building cool.

How often should you drain your portable air conditioner?

Part of what makes portable air conditioning units so flexible is the fact that all the air conditioner’s components are housed in a singular unit.

Although this means that you can easily move your air conditioner around, it also means that the moisture that accumulates around the coils and that is usually moved to the outside section of a split unit, has nowhere to go.

As a result, portable air conditioners build up moisture while they are running. This moisture is stored in an internal tank and needs to be drained when it is full.

How long it takes for this tank to fill up, and subsequently, how often you need to drain your portable air conditioner depends on a few factors.

The main factor that will influence how frequently you have to drain your air conditioner is how humid the air is in your area.

The more humidity there is in the air, the more moisture your portable air conditioner will drain when it cools your air, and the quicker this collected moisture will fill up the unit.

If you live in an area with high humidity, you may need to drain your portable air conditioner every four to eight hours, but in dry areas you can go several weeks without draining your air conditioner.

Other factors may also influence this timeframe. However, it is vital that you drain your air conditioner, regardless of how often this needs to be done or whether you drain it through a continuous drain setup, to avoid any long-term damage that could be caused by not draining it.

How other factors affect how frequently you should drain your portable air conditioner

Although humidity is the main factor that determines how frequently you need to drain your air conditioner, there are also some other factors that can increase or decrease how often you need to drain your unit, like:

Factor Effect on timeframe
Using the dehumidifier setting on the air conditioner Increase
When your area is experiencing hotter-than-usual weather Increase
Running your air conditioner all day on the “Auto” setting Increase

It is also imperative to note that these factors could also cause you to have to drain your portable air conditioner more frequently, even if it is an auto-evaporation model.

How to set up a continuous drain for your portable air conditioner

If it is inconvenient to drain your unit so often, or you need to leave it unattended for extended periods of time, you can set up a continuous drain system, which allows the air conditioner to drain into your drain or into a vessel on its own.

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To do this, you will need a drain hose kit, like this LitKiwi Window Air Conditioner Drain Kit, which has a secure and waterproof fitting and stainless steel clamps to prevent leaks. You can let the tubing drain into a floor drain, or a vessel like a plastic bin.

A condensate pump, like this Little Giant one, is a great option for if you want to automate drainage completely.

Why it is important to drain your air conditioner

Although it may seem inconvenient to drain your portable air conditioner, especially if you need to do this every few hours, it is necessary for a few reasons, including:

  • Your air conditioner may stop working or shut off completely
  • Your tank can overflow, and this can damage your home’s floors and electrical equipment
  • This can cause mould to grow inside your air conditioner

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