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What are the differences between portable, window, and thru-the-wall air conditioners?

As summer weather heats up and temperatures rise, finding the right air conditioning unit for your property can mean the difference between happy or unhappy (and sweaty) guests.  

In this post, we cover the main differences between portable, window, and thru-the-wall ACs, so you can find the right unit for your solution. From installation ease to cooling capacity and energy efficiency, we provide a comprehensive comparison to help you make an informed decision.

Whether you manage a hotel, motel, senior living community, or apartment/condo complex, there is an AC model that meets your operational needs.

Find The Best Air Conditioner For Your Property

Portable Air Conditioners

Portable air conditioners are ideal for renters and those unable to make permanent modifications to their living space.

Portable ACs are mobile and perfect for smaller living spaces and rooms. They’re also incredibly easy to setup and install — simply attach the exhaust hose to a window kit and plug it in. 

GC Vertical Window AC

Window Air Conditioners

Window air conditioners are permanent room cooling units that are found through a room’s window. Window ACs require more effort to install and may necessitate tweaks to the room’s window frame, including mounting and securing. 

24" GC Thru-the-Wall AC

Thru-Wall Air Conditioners

Thru-The-Wall Air Conditioners are permanent cooling units that are ideal for larger living spaces. They’re installed directly into an exterior wall, providing a space-saving cooling solution. Thru-the-wall ACs offer a more customizable experience with built-in programmable settings.

Compare & Contrast Key Features

Portable AC
Window AC
Thru-The-Wall AC
Cooling Mode
Electric Heat
Dehumidify Mode
Handheld Remote
Energy Saver Mode
Safety Tested

1. Installation Process

Portable Air Conditioners

Portables require minimal installation — simply place the unit near a window to vent the exhaust hose, and you’re good to go. This makes them an excellent choice for renters and those looking for a quick cooling solution.

Window Air Conditioners

These AC units are ideal for single-room cooling and are designed to fit within a window frame. Installation can be a bit more involved than their portable counterpart. 

Thru-Wall Air Conditioners

Installed through an external wall, thru-wall ACs are a permanent room cooling solution. Installation can be more complex and often requires professional help, but thru-wall air conditioners are ideal for long-term use in hotels, apartments, and senior living communities.

2. Space Utilization

Portable Air Conditioners

Although portables are ideal for smaller room sizes they can take up valuable floor space (as opposed to their counterparts). They also require a nearby window to vent the hot air, which can limit their placement within a room.

Window Air Conditioners

Since window units are mounted in the window, they don’t take up any floor space. This can be a significant advantage in smaller apartments or rooms with limited space.

Thru-Wall Air Conditioners

Thru-wall units occupy neither window or floor space, offering a clean and unobtrusive cooling solution. They are perfect for rooms where window access is limited or where preserving the view is a priority (like hotels). 

3. Cooling Efficiency

Portable Air Conditioners

While convenient, portable AC units aren’t as efficient as window or wall air conditioners. They’re best suited for smaller spaces or as a supplemental cooling option in larger areas.

Window Air Conditioners

Add more power and customizability with a Window AC.  Perfect for cooling for larger rooms they’re an excellent choice for rooms in apartments and condos. 

Thru-Wall Air Conditioners

By far the best of the bunch, thru-wall ACs offer robust cooling performance that’re suitable for larger spaces and high-demand environments like hotels and motels. They provide consistent and reliable cooling that can be customized to your guests preference.

4. Energy Efficiency

Portable Air Conditioners

Generally less energy-efficient compared to window and wall units, running a portable ac unit results in higher electricity bills, especially if used extensively.

Window Air Conditioners

Often more energy-efficient than portable air conditioners, our window ACs come with energy-saving features and better cooling efficiency to reduce electricity costs.

Thru-Wall Air Conditioners

Known for their energy efficiency, thru-wall ACs feature advanced cooling technologies and programmable settings, which can cut energy costs and put more money in your pocket. 

5. Noise Levels

Portable Air Conditioners

Portables tend to be louder compared to other types of ACs since the entire unit is inside the room.

Window Air Conditioners

Noise can be a factor with window units, but since part of the unit is outside the room, they tend to operate quieter than portable units. However, they can still be louder than wall units.

Thru-Wall Air Conditioners

Noise levels are significantly lower compared to portable and window units because the compressor is housed outside. This makes them a great choice for hotels, motels, and senior living communities which require a more out-of-sight and out-of-mind option for guests. 

6. Flexibility & Mobility

Portable Air Conditioners

Handles and wheels make this unit incredibly easy to move around which is ideal for apartments and condos where permanent installation isn’t possible.

Window Air Conditioners

Window units aren’t designed to be moved once installed. They provide a stable cooling solution for a single room, but lack the mobility of portable units.

Thru-Wall Air Conditioners

Thru-wall air conditioners are also fixed in place and not meant to be moved. They offer a permanent cooling solution that’re ideal for long-term use in fixed locations.

Keeping Canada Cool Since 2011

Browse air conditioners for hotels, motels, and senior living communities

Thru-Wall AC


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A grey vertical window AC against a white backdrop
Vertical Window AC

Vert. Window AC

Portable AC

GC Portable ACs


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When the summer heat arrives, ensuring your property remains cool is essential for maintaining guest and resident satisfaction. Understanding the differences in installation, space utilization, cooling efficiency, energy efficiency, and noise levels of various air conditioning systems can help your business make a more informed decision. Whether you manage a hotel, motel, senior living community, or apartment/condo complex, there is an AC model that meets your operational needs.

Prepare your property for the summer heat—contact us today to book a free consultation and quote for your next unit replacement.

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