Portable Cooling: Not Just for Emergencies

Aug. 5, 2015

Facility managers can benefit from understanding how to choose portable air conditioning or “spot cooling” for a wide range of applications, both temporary and permanent.  Sunbelt Rentals Climate Control Services, which now offers North America’s largest fleet of mobile cooling and heating equipment, provides guidelines on selecting the right portable air conditioner.

When summer heat waves arrive, portable air conditioners are in wide demand to provide relief in all types of buildings. But contrary to common belief, portable cooling is not just for emergencies or tented weddings.

This article provides a basic yet timely review of what building owners and managers need to know about portable cooling.


In addition to emergency and event use, portable coolers are also used for temporary cooling during shutdown of primary HVAC systems for service or renovation, and for building site cooling during construction or renovation. What’s more, the word portable need not be synonymous with temporary.

Portable equipment is often installed on a permanent basis to cool special areas with heavy heat loads such as computer server rooms, or to deliver supplemental cooling to growing businesses where the primary HVAC system is no longer adequate. It can also provide targeted cooling to server rooms, office suites or other areas during nighttime and weekend setback of the building thermostat, saving energy by delivering cooling only when and where it is needed. It also offers a more flexible option for customers who rent space or move or renovate frequently.

Choosing a portable air conditioner

  • Types of portable equipment available: There are three primary types to choose from: Air-cooled units, the most common type on the market; water-cooled units, which are very efficient but require an external water source; and evaporative coolers, which provide a simple, low-cost cooling option for some applications. The most popular portable air conditioners offer 1-5 tons of cooling capacity, but mobile cooling units with various capacities up to 80 tons are also available.
  • Proper system sizing: Sizing of portable equipment is very important but is too often left to guesswork. If you guess low, the unit will not be able to keep up with demand. If you guess high, the unit will cycle on and off frequently, resulting in inefficient performance. Basic mathematical formulas may be used to size portable coolers for general applications and for server rooms, but heat load factors unique to the application must also be taken into account.

Additional selection factors

  • Power supply: Every model of portable air conditioner is designed for use with a particular type of electric circuitry. After you have sized the equipment, the available power supply might dictate your final equipment selection. It might also influence whether you opt to use a single larger portable cooler or multiple smaller units.
  • Location of spot cooler: Will the unit be located inside or outside the space to be cooled? This will have an impact on ducting and return air considerations. From there, you will also need to determine whether to use a single- or dual-duct system.  This will depend on whether the room is receiving additional cooling from a central A/C system vs. a space to be cooled independently using a closed-loop system.  A portable cooling specialist can help you evaluate the full range of installation and ducting scenarios.
  • Water removal: The cooling process creates condensate water, so you will need to determine how to dispose of this water. Disposal methods include a condensate tank or bucket that comes with the cooler, or running a condensate link from the unit and pumping water to an external drain.

Sunbelt Climate Control

Sunbelt Rentals recently expanded its Climate Control Services division to offer the largest fleet of mobile air conditioning and heating equipment in North America. The company now has nearly 50 dedicated Climate Control locations, supported by an additional 500+ general and specialty locations across the U.S. and Canada.

In addition to cooling and heating solutions, customers can come to Sunbelt for one-stop shopping for broad offerings ranging from aerial lifts to hand tools. The company’s national network of locations and $4.0+ billion fleet includes general construction equipment, industrial tools, pumps and power generation equipment, trench shoring, scaffolding, remediation and restoration equipment, and more.

For further information on Sunbelt Rentals Climate Control Services, call 1-800-892-8677 or visit the website at www.sunbeltrentals.com.

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