I live in the Pacific Northwest where most summers are fairly temperate. Few days get into the 90's here, even during high summer season. This year, however, is quite different. We have already broken several records: The most consecutive number of days over 100 and the highest recorded temperatures, hitting 106 yesterday, then breaking that record today with 107. In some places, the temperature soared to 109 degrees. The previous record was held in 1941 at 105 degrees.
In true "poor timing" fashion, my heat pump went out. Yup, after 32 years of service it chose now to give up the ghost. The repairman has been out twice, but apparently not only the heat pump, but also the lines and core, needs to be replaced in order to keep up with the current building codes for the newer machines. You can imagine how busy all the air conditioning places are at the moment, so the soonest it could be replaced the unit is Friday, two days after the record highs.
My partner and I decided to purchase an air conditioning unit and decided a portable unit would suit our needs best. My home is 1440 square feet of open floor plan for the living space, so getting the right BTUs to cool the living area is a bear and would require some re-wiring. Instead, we sealed off any rooms we could and decided on a 12,000 BTU unit by Royal Sovereign, model ARP-1200 DE, which also acts as a heater. Retail cost is anywhere from $499 to $799 and it has an Energy Efficiency Rating (EER) of 10. Most other units I looked at hovered somewhere between 7 and 9 for the EER.
All portable units need to be vented somehow, either through a window, the wall or floor. The option that worked for us was venting through the window. This is the only complaint I have of this machine. They provide you with a venting panel and hose, but the system has some issues. First off, the seal between the venting portion and the window insert leaves open cracks. Also, the portion that goes into the unit doesn't sit quite tight enough and will vent back into the room hot air that it is sucking from the environment. Obviously any hot air venting back into a room you are trying to cool defeats the purpose. This was easily fixed with good old duct tape.
The second issue is that the window insert piece itself is made for a two part sash window, or those that open top to bottom. My windows all slide side to side and are large. They are 52" high and although the insert slides and is adjustable, it would not reach to the top of the window. I had to cut a piece of plywood and duct tape it inside the insert to fill the window space. I can honestly say that it's true: You CAN fix anything with duct tape and bailing wire. I made the seal tight using duct tape around the edges and simple window foam from a can. This worked like a charm, creating a nice tight seal in all the right places.
The unit has an easy to understand and read digital panel where you can set temperature, auto (for hot and cold like a heat pump), cool, heat, and timers like a sleep timer and an auto off ranging from 1 hour to 12 hours. It clearly shows the ambient room temperature as well. It comes with a remote for those who want to adjust it from a distance.
The unit might look like a friend of R2D2, or a super large bread maker, but don't let its odd look deceive you. This is a powerhouse. According to BTU conversions, a 12,000 BTU air conditioner like this one should effectively cool up to 550 square feet. I might love my open floor plan for the living space, but it means that after closing all "non-essential" doors the space is still over 900 square feet.
All my neighbors with central air or heat pumps said their systems were lagging by about 5 to 10 degrees. This means that if they set their AC to 72, the temperate continuously hovered around 77 to 82 degrees. Setting up a complex series of fans to distribute the cool air throughout the living area, this little portable hovered at about 10-15 degrees over the set temperature. That's pretty impressive considering it was trying to cool a space twice the recommended size it was made for.
So far, so good. I can honestly say that this little unit saved our lives, and that of our pets. If there were only people and my dog living here, we could have jumped into the car and gone elsewhere. However, we also have 3 adult cats and a litter of 5. That means we would somehow need to schlep 9 animals with us, then find someplace with to take us in.
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this unit, and the price for the BTUs is very good. Don't be fooled by cheaper models. When it comes to cooling in a heat wave, you want to know you have the best.