Turning down the hot
May 1, 2006 11:31 PM   Subscribe

What can I do to make my portable air conditioner actually cool?

I just purchased a Wintair portable air conditioner off Craigslist. The problem is that it's not cooling my room, but rather blows slightly cooler than room-temperature air. It didn't come with a manual, and I have searched for any advice on this brand, and didn't get much, not even a company Web site.

It's getting warm here in Sacramento, and I'm living in a loft, which warms up pretty quickly because of the rising hot air. What's wrong with my machine? Short of selling it again, what should I do?
posted by i8ny3x to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
Response by poster: I thought air conditioners should have a frosty, freon-feel to them, like in cars and huge malls. Right now it just blows air, which my fan can do better.
posted by i8ny3x at 11:39 PM on May 1, 2006

It may actually need coolant (IIRC, actual Freon isn't the most common in modern air conditioners, though it's still common in refrigerators)--if so, a local A/C repairman may be able to charge it cheaply (how cheaply depends on what sort of refrigerant it needs).
posted by Cricket at 11:53 PM on May 1, 2006

I'm not sure what kind of product you have, but it doesn't sound like a real air conditioner, but more like a souped up dehumidifier. The essential question is, does this vent hot air somewhere, like outside a window? If it just sits there in the room with no vent then it is not a real air conditioner, and it will never have a "frosty, freon-feel."

All real air conditioners are heat pumps -- they move heat from one place to another. If this thing just sits in the room with no means of exhausting air outside the room then it's never going to really be able to cool much of anything, at least not in the way you are expecting of a real air conditioner. At most it's probably just removing water from the air to make it feel cooler to your skin. If you took one of those big honking traditional window air conditioners that make you shiver and just sat it in the middle of a room without venting it to the outside it wouldn't do a damn thing, other than make a lot of noise (it would actually probably make the room warmer.)
posted by Rhomboid at 1:05 AM on May 2, 2006

Response by poster: Oh yes, I am venting it out. It's just not making much of a difference.
posted by i8ny3x at 1:24 AM on May 2, 2006

If you can find your unit's model number, you may find a product manual online here (found by Googling the search string "Wintair air conditioner" and clicking the seventh link down).

Before going nuts with trying to get the unit recharged, I'd first take the front grill and all covers off the unit, and get busy with a vacuum cleaner. Clogged filters will reduce air flow to the point the coils can ice up, which, while it may seem counter-intuitive, will actually stop the cooling cycle dead. There shouldn't be any ice at all on a properly functioning unit's coils.

Make sure the drain hole for condensate water isn't blocked, and that water can drip to the outside, unobstructed. If water is building up in the bottom of the unit, it won't dehumidify properly, and will ice up readily.

Check to make sure that the thermocouple for the cycle controller is properly attached to the front grill, if the unit is so equipped. If the tube has been bent or dislodged in moving the controller can shut down the compressor function as an overload safety feature, since the controller expects the cooling coil to be much colder than the unit's temperature set point, if the unit is cooling properly.
posted by paulsc at 2:19 AM on May 2, 2006

My window unit had a similar problem, and after removing the cover I found lots of lint, cat hair, and other crap. After removing this, it worked perfectly - so listen to paulsc!
posted by sluggo at 4:06 AM on May 2, 2006

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