Renter uses portable AC unit hack to circumvent high electricity bill this summer

@fathervivian/TikTok Axel Bueckert/ShutterStock (Licensed)

‘We are being charged $400 a month’: Renter uses portable AC unit hack to circumvent high electricity bill this summer

‘I found a way to lower some of my day costs.’


Melody Heald


Last week, 76 million Americans were under a heatwave warning and 150 million experienced over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. A Kansas City-based woman revealed how she bought a portable AC unit to combat the heat wave while trying to lower her electricity bill. And now we’re all wondering whether this increasingly common solution is worth the effort.

In a viral video, TikTok user Vivian (@fathervivian) films her boyfriend on the floor of their apartment, leafing through some paper instructions. Then, she flips the camera to unveil the new portable AC unit they purchased: “Buying a $400 portable AC unit because our apartment can’t go under 87 degrees and we are being charged $400 a month for electricity,” she explains in the text overlay. The video wraps up with the content creator rolling her eyes.

Vivian expresses her frustration with her apartment AC in the caption, “This heat wave? Insane. Robbery.” The video racked up over 375,000 views.

Are portable A/C units a viable solution?

They retail via online outlets like Amazon for about $70-$400. Yet Consumer Reports writes that they should be seen as a “last resort” because window units are always a better solution: “While a window AC uses outside air to cool the coils on the outdoor part of the unit, a portable air conditioner uses conditioned air from the room it’s in to cool the mechanicals. That creates negative pressure that can cause warm, unconditioned air from nearby rooms or the outdoors to flow into the room you’re trying to keep cool.”

They’re also not super portable, Consumer Reports adds.

The Reddit consensus is that they work “fine” but the two-hose units are superior.

Why was her apartment so hot to begin with though?

During an interview with the Daily Dot, Vivian said she got to the bottom of the issue. She found it was the apartment building failing to stay cool that was making her place so hot.

“We knew this was an issue because when we moved in, for the first 6 months, our electricity bill was only $100-$140 a month. Now it’s hitting $400,” she revealed via Instagram direct message.

“It was determined it was the apartment causing the problem as we had an investigation with our electric company (Evergy) to come out and check out meters and run some tests,” she added. “It came back perfect and they sent us a form stating that the bill is high due to something interior (the apartment itself, A/C unit). We told the apartment and they sent an electrician and multiple maintenance guys, yet nothing was fixed.”

Because nothing was working and kept staying at 90 degrees, the content creator bought the portable AC and plans to keep it.

“We had numerous emails and calls with the apartment but they kept saying the maintenance people got it, and so many maintenance orders were concluded with ‘fixed. Changed air filter.’ Yet nothing really changed. They would [say] it’s because we’re on the third floor and ‘heat rises,’” she shared.

However, Vivian found ways to deal with the temperature and her bill.

“In May, I found a way to lower some of my day costs. I try and match my set temperature to what was reading inside. If it was 80 degrees, and I originally wanted it to go to 70 degrees, it would NOT go down to 70 which caused my electricity bill to sky rocket. So therefore, I would set the temperature to match 80 so the A/C would turn off as it has ‘matched.’ This helped, but as it got hotter, I couldn’t keep doing it,” she said.

Viewers can relate to these A/C woes

“If you’re going to run the portable ac just turn off the main ac or leave it to Fan Only. That way it’s at least circulating the colder air from the portable ac around your apt,” one viewer said.

“Ac tech here. There’s definitely something wrong with the AC. Either restricted or low on charge. Call maintenance and fight them 24/7,” a second stated.

“Some apartment filters haven’t been replaced or got taken out and coils are full of dirt needs to be cleaned to function more efficiently,” a third commented.

Vivian’s story inspired many to share their A/C woes.

“I’m in LA with no AC or windows I know when I tell people this they don’t believe me,” one user shared.

“This was me last summer and the summer before. Told my husband I could not do another summer in that [expletive]. Moved and it’s so much better,” a second recalled.

In a follow-up video, Vivian provides an update about her situation. Despite the AC unit looking rough, it’s been working well, keeping her apartment cool. In addition, she turned off the apartment AC. Not only has the AC unit kept her apartment cooler but also her electric bill. “Yesterday, when finally turned it off and only use our portable, it was $13 dollars and that is so good,” she said. Furthermore, she divulges about how long this situation has been brewing. “This has been going on since January, guys. Like, it was calls and meetings with our landlord, maintenance people, the energy company,” she shares. “They did tests and said it was the apartment.” So far, nothing has fully solved the problem.

@fathervivian This heat wave? Insane. Robbery. #fyp #apartmenthorrorstory ♬ just a girl – autumnaudios

Because they’ve given up on the problem, she and her boyfriend plan on moving out. “Our moveout date is Aug. 18 but we plan on moving out two weeks or a week from now,” she says. Overall, the fiasco has taken a toll on her. “It’s just so tiring and I hope you guys understand we’ve been doing this. Like, we’ve done anything and everything since January to get better,” she shares. “This place sucks… And they were built in 2010.”

The Daily Dot