During Calif.’s late July, 2006 record-breaking heat wave, I searched in vain for a local appliance store who had portable a/cs in stock. They were selling them as fast as they got them in and I was sweltering day and night with nothing but a box fan blowing 80f+ air on me. In this part of town, NO ONE rents apartments with air conditioning. “Oh, you get cool ocean breezes here” the building managers say. Yeah, sure, except during the Summer or heat waves.

Haier Portable Air Conditioner reviewMy apartment’s living room where I spend a lot of time has tall sliding glass windows so it’s impossible (and not allowed) to install a window unit. It had to be a portable like this, and until a few years ago these kinds of a/cs couldn’t be had for much under $1000.00. A friend surprised me and ordered one of these Haiers as a gift (nice friend!) with UPS Blue second day shipping from J&R in NYC. UPS screwed up and missed the delivery by a day so my generous friend got the nearly $100.00 shipping cost refunded.

Once I received the unit and saw the condition of the outer carton, smashed in on all eight corners, I feared it’d be damaged. Luckily, Haier uses huge styrofoam caps around the a/c inside the carton so the a/c came out of the box in flawless condition.

Setup took about an hour as I read the badly-worded instruction manual and assembled the exhaust hose / window vent system which consists of a bunch of plastic pieces, some of which have to be screwed together, and a length of five inch diameter rubberized wire-reinforced hose that will stretch and bend to just about any angle or position you need it to go. The plastic panel that goes into the window and receives the exhaust hose only extends to about four feet high (or wide) – it’s really designed more for casement windows than vertical sliding windows, so I have about four feet by five inches of screened, open window above it. Eventually I’ll get a clear plastic panel cut at a hardware store to fill that gap but Haier could be more generous with the plastic hose mounting panel and realize some people have tall vertical sliding glass windows, not casement windows.

Haier Portable Air Conditioner hose ventAfter sweating (literally) through the installation (the a/c itself needs no assembly; it’s ready to plug in and go, once you get those exhaust hose assembly parts put together), I fired her up and learned the controls, which are simple and straight-forward. Freon-based a/c with three fan speeds, fan only with three speeds and dehumidify with cooling with one fan speed.

Everything is controlled by soft touch push buttons (no dials whatsoever)¬†which beep when pressed and a digital display shows the temperature you’ve set for 15 seconds, then reverts to displaying room temperature. I don’t know where the unit’s room temperature sensor is – front? back? bottom? The manual doesn’t say.

It has auto turn on and shut off timer functions which increment in full hours but I haven’t used those. I stored my old box fan in another room and when I’m not using the Haier in a/c (cooling) mode I just switch it to fan-only mode.
You can control air flow through the “smile” shaped vents side to side only, but not up and down. There are fancier units like this on the market that have remote controls and motorized louvers. At $300.00, this one lacks those features, so if you want or need to change modes, you have to get up off your couch potato rear and walk over to it and press the buttons.

Haier Portable Air Conditioner reviewOverall, I’d give this unit four out of five stars. It’s a little on the noisy side when the a/c compressor kicks in, (no more so than a window unit though) but quite quiet in fan-only mode. During the heat wave, I had it running basically 24/7 for about a week and did not see its internal humidity-removal water level warning light come on once, nor have I had to pull the drain plug on the bottom of the rear side to drain excess water, so unlike another reviewer, I’d have to disagree and say this unit DOES perform its self-evaporation function as advertised. If you’re going to buy a portable a/c, get one with auto-evaporation like this one unless you want to tediously empty a drain pan every hour or two. This unit has NO drain pan at all, thank goodness.

Haier Portable Air Conditioner reviewIn dehumidify mode, the air coming out the vents feels as cool to my hands as it does in cooling mode. I bought a pencil thermometer at an auto supply store (the kind you shove into your car’s a/c vent) and it reads 45¬†degrees when the Haier’s a/c compressor is on, so that’s the temperature of the air as it exits the vents.

I would have bought one of these portables years ago were it not for the high cost. Now that they’re down at the $300.00 level, they’re affordable.

You should not expect to cool an entire house with a 7000 BTU unit like this, but it does a fine job in a single room, (even one over 300 sq. ft.) and if your situation prevents installing a window unit, a portable like this makes a good alternative. Only time will tell how long it’ll work “like new” but I’m pleased with it and unless you need a fancier unit with a remote control and motorized louvers, go for this one. J&R’s customer service is top notch. And a bit of advice–don’t buy a used one even if it saves you a few bucks. An a/c with electronic controls is a complex unit.

Buying a used one is buying a pig in a poke.

With a used unit, you have no idea how many hours of use it’s seen, or how it was used or abused. Make sure the one you buy is brand new. I’ll come back and add to or modify this review if the unit has any problems in the future, but after a week of use, I’d give it a (cool) thumbs up.