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Outdoor Air Conditioners: Cool Breezes for Patios, Decks, and More!

Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: there are no outdoor air conditioners. Yes, you read that correctly. An air conditioner, according to the laws of thermodynamics, requires two isolated spaces to exchange...

Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: there are no outdoor air conditioners. Yes, you read that correctly. An air conditioner, according to the laws of thermodynamics, requires two isolated spaces to exchange heat. Outdoors, however, is just one big open space. But don't fret! If you're in the market for something to cool down your patio, deck, or porch, there are excellent alternatives available. Allow me to introduce you to the world of outdoor evaporative coolers!

outdoor air conditioner on the patio Outdoor AC units are not air conditioners at all. Rather, they are known as ‘evaporative coolers’ or ‘swamp coolers’.

These evaporative coolers serve as substitutes for traditional air conditioners when used outdoors. By utilizing the natural process of water evaporation, they generate a refreshing cool breeze. Picture yourself enjoying a chilly patio or simply getting a breath of fresh air while outdoors. That's precisely what these outdoor air conditioners offer.

The most critical specification to consider when selecting an outdoor air conditioner is the output airflow, measured in CFM (cubic feet per minute). It's essential to understand how the cooling capacity is expressed for indoor and outdoor units:

  • Indoor air conditioners use BTUs or tons to express their cooling capacity.
  • Outdoor air conditioners, on the other hand, use CFMs.

how do outdoor air conditioners work Outdoor air conditioners (evaporative coolers) create and blow out a cool breeze.

The size of the outdoor air conditioner you need depends on the area you want to cool. Another crucial consideration is the tank capacity. These outdoor AC units, or evaporative coolers, come with built-in water tanks. The larger the tank, the longer the cooling effect will last before requiring a refill.

Based on these key specifications, we have compiled a list of the best outdoor air conditioners currently available. What's interesting is that two brands dominate the market: Hessaire and Honeywell. Hessaire specializes in producing powerful outdoor evaporative coolers, while Honeywell offers portable outdoor air conditioners alongside their HVAC products.

Now, let's dive deeper into how these "outdoor air conditioners" operate, the importance of CFMs and cooling coverage, and the significance of water tank size.

How Do Outdoor Air Conditioners Work?

Imagine a regular air conditioner. It utilizes refrigerant and a compressor to transfer heat outdoors, maintaining a cool indoor temperature. However, this only works if all the windows are closed. Opening the windows would allow the hot outdoor air to infiltrate the cooled environment.

heat exchange facilitated by an air conditioner A regular air conditioner uses heat exchange facilitated by a refrigerant fluid and a compressor. Evaporative coolers use water evaporation instead.

Outdoors, it's a different story. All the windows are essentially open, preventing the use of regular air conditioners. Instead, we rely on evaporative coolers. These coolers employ a water evaporation process to lower the temperature of the incoming air and produce cooler air as output. This cooling effect is precisely what we desire when trying to cool down a patio with these AC-like units.

Water evaporation is an endothermic process, meaning it requires energy to occur. This energy is derived from the hot input air, resulting in two things: the evaporation of water and the cooling of the air. The cooled air is precisely what we seek when attempting to lower the temperature of an outdoor space using these AC alternatives.

Picking the Best Outdoor AC Units: CFMs and Cooling Coverage

When comparing outdoor portable AC units, the first specification to consider is the maximum airflow, measured in CFMs. Airflow represents the amount of cool air an evaporative unit can blow out, and higher airflow means more efficient cooling.

porch air conditioner for outdoors The bigger the patio, the more airflow (CFM) we need.

Smaller units with CFMs below 500 are suitable for indoor use, where the cooled air doesn't have to contend with large amounts of hot outdoor air. However, when it comes to outdoor air conditioners, high airflow is crucial. The best units for outdoor use generate airflow of 1,000 CFM or more, ensuring effective cooling for even the most expansive patios.

The cooling coverage provided by an outdoor AC unit depends directly on its airflow. The correlation between airflow and coverage is non-linear. Here are some rough estimates of the recommended airflow for cooling various square footages:

  • 500 CFM: Cooling coverage of approximately 300 sq ft
  • 1,000 CFM: Cooling coverage of around 600 sq ft
  • 3,000 CFM: Cooling coverage of approximately 900 sq ft
  • 5,000 CFM: Cooling coverage of about 1,550 sq ft

Does that mean you can't use a 5,000 CFM outdoor AC unit in a small 500 sq ft patio? Not at all! In fact, if you want a comfortably cool patio experience, it's recommended to opt for a higher CFM unit. This ensures that the patio will be adequately cooled, and you can always adjust the cooling intensity if necessary. Remember, it's better to have more cooling power than to be left with an undersized unit that can't keep up.

Bigger Water Tanks Are Better (Last Longer)

Operating outdoor AC units is a breeze. Simply plug them into an outlet, press 'On,' and enjoy the cooling effect. Most units run on standard 110/120V power and draw less than 500W of electricity. However, there is one crucial aspect that requires continuous attention: water.

outdoor AC unit with water tank Outdoor AC units rely on water evaporation to create a cooling effect.

Evaporative coolers cannot function without water. Electricity and water work together to generate the desired cooling effect outdoors. That's why every portable outdoor air conditioner comes equipped with a water tank.

Larger units with higher CFMs deplete water more quickly than smaller units, which is why they come with larger water tanks. Regardless of their size, it's advisable to choose a unit with the largest water tank possible. A bigger tank means less frequent refilling, allowing you to enjoy the cooling effect for extended periods without interruption.

In general, it's best to avoid units with tanks below 5 gallons. Instead, opt for patio coolers with tanks of 10 gallons or more. With a large tank, you can spend more time enjoying the cool breeze and less time worrying about refilling.

Taking all these factors into consideration, let's take a closer look at the best outdoor air conditioners currently on the market.

Best Portable Outdoor Air Conditioners (Comparison)

1. Best Overall Outdoor Air Conditioner: Hessaire MC61M (5,300 CFM; Perfect for Patios)

Among all the outdoor AC manufacturers, Hessaire is the industry leader, known for producing powerful evaporative coolers that effectively cool down entire patios. The best outdoor air conditioner they offer, and the one most widely regarded as the best overall, is the Hessaire MC61M.

The Hessaire MC61M is a powerhouse cooler designed specifically for outdoor environments. It far exceeds the capabilities of your average 1,000 CFM cooler. With an impressive total airflow output of 5,300 CFM, it stands as one of the most potent outdoor AC units available.

With its remarkable 5,300 CFM, you can cool outdoor spaces of up to 1,600 sq ft. Imagine the possibilities - you can even use it to cool down a vast 40 ft x 40 ft patio! In practice, most people find it perfect for cooling 20 x 20 ft patios or BBQ areas.

To accommodate its massive airflow, the Hessaire MC61M boasts one of the largest tank capacities on the market. With a total capacity of 14 gallons, it ensures a full day of cool breeze, even in more extensive patios.

It's worth mentioning that achieving the massive 5,300 CFM airflow does require 430 watts of power. This is slightly higher compared to other units, which typically require around 250 watts. However, when it comes to cooling larger patios, the power consumption is justified, as the Hessaire MC61M guarantees optimal performance.

In summary, the Hessaire MC61M is the ultimate evaporative cooler, delivering exceptional cooling power to any outdoor patio.

2. Top-Rated Popular Outside AC Unit: Hessaire MC37M (3,100 CFM)

The Hessaire MC37M is the smaller yet still formidable cousin of the Hessaire MC61M. It is best suited for various outdoor activities, such as grilling, sunbathing, and cooling down smaller or standard-sized patios.

With a total airflow output of 3,100 CFM, the Hessaire MC37M may seem less impressive than its larger counterpart. However, it surpasses the regular 1,000 CFM outdoor AC units offered by other brands.

The maximum cooling coverage of the Hessaire MC37M is 950 sq ft. Keep in mind that this doesn't mean you can't place it near your pool area and enjoy its cooling breeze in a smaller space, such as a 300 sq ft area.

Featuring a substantial 10.3-gallon tank capacity, the Hessaire MC37M ensures less frequent refilling with water.

One of the main advantages of the Hessaire MC37M is its affordability. It provides ample cooling for a very reasonable price, making it a highly sought-after outdoor AC unit.

3. Best Honeywell Outdoor Air Conditioner: Honeywell CO48PM (1,062 CFM)

Honeywell, a well-known brand in the HVAC industry, not only offers a wide range of products but also produces exceptional evaporative coolers for outdoor use. The best Honeywell outdoor air conditioner available is the Honeywell CO48PM.

With a respectable airflow of 1,062 CFM, the Honeywell CO48PM offers a cooling coverage of 610 sq ft. This makes it perfect for cooling down patios, decks, and BBQ areas. Simply evaluate the size of your desired space, and you can determine if the Honeywell CO48PM is the ideal choice for you.

One standout feature of the Honeywell CO48PM is the correlation between its airflow and tank capacity. Its tank can hold up to 10.6 gallons of water, which is quite generous. Typically, outdoor AC units with around 3,000 CFM have tanks of 10 gallons or more. The oversized tank capacity ensures a continuous cooling effect throughout the day, reducing the need for frequent refills.

All things considered, the Honeywell CO48PM is the top choice among Honeywell outdoor AC units. With its oversized tank, 1,000+ CFM cooling output, and reasonable price, it offers an excellent cooling solution.

4. Best Outdoor Air Conditioner for Sunbathing: Honeywell CO25AE (694 CFM)

The Honeywell CO25AE is the best compact outdoor air conditioner available. With a cooling airflow of 694 CFM, it may not be suitable for cooling down extensive patios. However, it's an excellent option for sunbathing or grilling outdoors.

Weighing just over 25 lbs, the Honeywell CO25AE is the most portable outdoor air conditioner you can find. Its compact size allows for easy mobility, whether you want to move it from the pool area to the grill or anywhere else in your yard.

The Honeywell CO25AE's 6.6-gallon tank capacity, though smaller, is still quite substantial considering its 694 CFM output. The key benefit here is the ability to move the unit, even when the tank is full.

It does require 235 watts to operate and isn't the most energy-efficient option available. Nevertheless, its convenience and ease of use make it a popular choice for those seeking a small and portable outdoor air conditioner.

To sum it up, the Honeywell CO25AE is the ultimate solution when it comes to a compact portable outdoor air conditioner. Although too small for patios, it serves perfectly for grilling or enjoying the sun outdoors.

In conclusion, outdoor air conditioners, or rather, evaporative coolers, provide a refreshing cool breeze when we're enjoying the great outdoors. Whether you're looking to cool down a patio, deck, porch, or any outdoor space, these units offer an effective and energy-efficient alternative to traditional air conditioners. So, sit back, relax, and let the cool breeze wash over you as you make the most of your outdoor oasis.