Portable air conditioners with heaters are a great choice as they usually don’t cost too much more than cooling-only units and offer year-round climate control. Among the newer combination heating/cooling units on the market right now is the Frigidaire FRA12EPT1, which in our view has some very serious shortcomings that you should know about before considering a purchase. Please continue reading our candid, in-depth review of this model.
The Frigidaire FRA12EPT1 produces a total of 12000 BTUs of cooling power that is sufficient for a space up to 550 square feet under fairly ideal conditions, meaning no big sunny windows, high ceilings, heat generating equipment in the room, etc. This model also comes with a 1,250 watt heater that produces 4,1000 BTUs of heat; however, note that this is not a “heat pump,” but rather more like the type of heating element you’d find in a space heater.
Exhaust Hose Design
This is a single exhaust hose model, which as we discussed before is less optimal than a dual hose system. A single hose necessarily pulls and vents some indoor (cooled) air to cool off the compressor, and in the process creates a very weak negative pressure that causes outdoor air to infiltrate the room via cracks, gaps and openings that makes the unit work harder compared to a dual hose unit that uses a separate exhaust loop. Nevertheless, single hose systems can be very effective and still relatively efficient overall, depending on their Energy Efficiency Ratio (“EER”) which we will discuss in more detail below.
Condensate Drain System
We were surprised to learn that the FRA12EPT1 does not have an auto-evaporation system for condensate removal, a feature which is common in most modern portable air conditioners on the market. This means that condensate must be drained manually. Moreover, because this model does not have an internal collection bucket, you must connect a drain hose to allow the condensate to leak out. While this may be fine for some consumers, keep in mind that because this is a simple gravity drain, the drain outlet must be located beneath the unit. As such, unless you have a floor drain nearby, some people may find themselves needing to elevate the unit in order to drain this model properly.
Size & Portability
The FRA12EPT1 also does not win any awards for size/portability. It’s definitely on the larger and heavier side compared to many 12000 BTU air conditioners we’ve reviewed lately, weighing in at 79 pounds and measuring 20 inches wide, by 32 inches high, by 16.75 inches deep.
As we said above, single hose systems are inherently less efficient than comparable dual hose models; however, sometimes a single hose unit can overcome this with a high Energy Efficiency Ratio (“EER”). EERs are derived simply by dividing BTUs by total wattage, which means that a higher number is better, since you are getting more cooling power per watt of energy consumed. EERs for most portable models range from about 8.5 to 10.8, with the average falling around 9-9.5 or so. A score of 10 is very good and anything much above that is excellent.
Unfortunately, the FRA12EPT1 has a relatively poor EER of 8.7, which on it’s own is disappointing but when combined with it’s single hose exhaust only adds additional inefficiency onto the system.
With a noise rating of 56 decibels on high, the FRA12EPT1 is pretty average, and most users should find it’s operating noise tolerable. Of course, people differ wildly on what is “tolerable,” so we always expect some noise complaints, even for the quietest units out there.
- dehumidifies as it cools
- 3 fan speeds
- low power start
- touch button controls
- full function remote control
- sleep mode
- 24 hour timer
- anti-microbial mesh filter with maintenance alert
- rolling casters
- window kit
Frigidaire FRA12EPT1 Reviews
To date, this model’s satisfaction rating is averaging 3.9 out of 5 stars based on 14 reviews on amazon.com. This is actually a much better score than we’d have guessed after reading this model’s “mixed” reviews carefully – here are some actual comments that pretty well capture their mood:
- “This unit has kept my kitchen down to 77 with its thermostat set on 72 during the summer’s first 90-plus days here.”
- “The fan never goes off no matter what setting it is on (the compressor does go off, but not the fan).”
- “The unit works very well…but the product is fairly loud.”
- “… it does cool the room reasonably well, but I was expecting a heat pump….not so—-according to the documentation received with the machine, there is an auxiliary heater, NOT a heat pump.”
- “the heat leaves something to be desired….it blows barely warm air. The setting seems to be stuck on low when set to heat with no way of raising it. If you’re looking for something to work all year round. Seek it elsewhere.”
- “Produces a ton of water via the drain. It took no time to fill up a five gallon bucket.”
- “The air exhaust hose does just love to come loose.”
Based on our reading of the reviews so far, most users seem to find the cooling aspect acceptable, but there were repeated complaints about the unit’s manual drain (some users had to put the unit on a table or otherwise elevate it); the exhaust hose’s tendency to come off; and their disappointment with the heating feature.
Price & Value
This model currently has a list (MSRP) price of $580 and sale price (as of this moment) of $519. Compared to other 12000 BTU models, this is pricey in our opinion, particularly when you consider the lack of an auto-evaporation feature, the single-hose system and low energy efficiency.
Pros & Cons
- Cools reasonably well
- Comes with very good electronic controls
- Modern user interface with easy push button selections
- Single hose model
- Poor efficiency (low EER of 8.7)
- No auto-evaporation features so condensate must be drained manually
- Gravity condensate draining makes it difficult to find drain outlet
- Uses heating element rather than more efficient heat pump
- Bulkier and heavier than many other 12K units
Concluding Thoughts & Opinions
Although it has very good modern controls and is otherwise well-built, we are quite disappointed with the Frigidaire FRA12EPT1. Despite coming from a well-known and respected manufacturer, this model simply lacks basic features that we’d expect even in the more economy-minded units (which it is not!). Perhaps the biggest failing is the lack of auto-evaporation (sometimes called self-evaporating) feature, which is prevalent in more than 90 percent of the newer models we see on the market. Further, because there is no internal collection bucket, consumers are left with a gravity-draining system that is difficult and cumbersome to use. And lifting the unit onto a table or chair to drain it properly is an unacceptable fix in our opinion – and also a perilous endeavor given how big and heavy this model is.
Also problematic but not as apparent is its poor efficiency. It’s already somewhat handicapped because the single hose exhaust, but this inherent inefficiency is compounded by its low EER of 8.7. Consequently, in addition to it’s relatively stiff purchase price, you will be paying a premium to operate this air conditioner as well.
In our opinion, if you want a 12000 BTU portable unit that is much more efficient, relatively compact and lightweight, and comes with a real heat pump and condensate auto-evaporation, check out the NewAir AC12000H and other heater units with our Comparison Guide.
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