A pint-sized personal air conditioner that isn’t power hungry, the Evapolar evaLIGHTplus can help you keep your cool this summer.
As Australia braces for another potentially brutal summer, it’s time to think about smart ways to cool off. Of course, our brutal summers are in part due to climate change – something to keep in mind when you’re weighing up air conditioning options which can be expensive to buy, expensive to run and potentially bad for the environment.
If, like me, you have solar panels on the roof then at least you know you’re doing your part for the environment by using renewable energy to run your air conditioning on a hot day. But there are other factors to consider.
There are two main kinds of air conditioners: evaporative and refrigerated. The latter is more effective, but it’s also more expensive to buy and run, plus it relies on coolant gases which are bad for the environment. Evaporative is the more environmentally sound choice, cooling the air by evaporating water.
The trade-off is that evaporative cooling struggles when faced with high humidity. Once it gets above 70% humidity in the room it stops cooling, which is why it’s best to leave a window open. Even then, it’s not the best choice for the tropics.
Rather than cool an entire house or even an entire room, the Evapolar evaLIGHTplus is a “personal air conditioner” which is really designed to blow cool air onto just one person. It does a surprisingly good job, assuming you’re happy to stay in one spot rather than move around the room.
Thanks to a compact design, it’s easy to sit the Evapolar evaLIGHTplus beside you on a flat surface. Rather than rest it on the floor, you want it high enough to blow cool air on your torso. A manually adjustable vent on the front moves up and down, but not side-to-side.
Keep in mind, there’s a removable 1-litre water tank on the side, so you don’t want to knock the unit over. On the plus side, unlike a fan, there are no exposed blades so it’s safe for little fingers and paws. The air conditioner is powered via USB-C and comes with a 5 volt, 2 amp AC adaptor, but you could also run it off a portable battery or even a computer’s USB port.
The evaLIGHTplus does an excellent job of pumping out cool air, but remember it’s not designed to cool an entire room. As such, it’s best-suited to when you’re staying put – such as working, reading or watching TV – rather than when you’re moving around.
You can turn the fan down quite low and still get a reasonable breeze, as long as you’re not doing much to heat yourself up. That makes it great for a desk, dining room table or coffee table. It’s not much use in the corner of the bedroom at night, it would need to sit on the bedside table to be effective.
The evaLIGHTplus’ compact design and low power needs mean it might also be good for camping, or travelling if your accommodation lacks aircon. Unlike some cooling units, you don’t need an exhaust hose to pump hot air out of the room.
Considering you need to sit so close, the unit is surprisingly quiet. That’s helped by the fact that there’s no need to turn the fan above 50 per cent when you’re sitting right next to it. Crank it right up and you can feel the cool air 3 metres away, at which point the fan is still not too loud to talk over.
On first use the unit has a rather strong smell, but this fades quickly. A slight smell persists, which tends to be common with all evaporative coolers (using pure water rather than tap water is supposed to help). The 1-litre water tank lasts between 3 and 8 hours, depending on the air temperature and humidity.
Looking to the top of the unit, a display and dial control reveals the temperature of the incoming and outgoing air, along with the fan speed.
I tested the $229 Evapolar evaLIGHTplus, which features LED mood lighting on the side and consumes 10 watts. You can adjust the colour and brightness of the light, as well as set sleep timers and night mode.
Turning the light off sees the fan noise drop slightly, as does putting it into night mode which also dims the display.
Meanwhile, the $149 Evapolar evaCHILL seems to offer better value. It’s cheaper and draws less power at 7.5 watts, partly due to the lack of a light. In return you get a fraction less cooling power and airflow than the evaLIGHTplus.
There’s also the high-end $299 Evapolar evaSMART, which offers the same cooling power and airflow as the evaLIGHTplus, but can be controlled via an app or voice commands. This seems pointless when you’re always within arm’s reach of the unit. There’s no point in turning it on from afar when it won’t cool the room before you get home.
Performance and running costs
Evapolar’s evaBREEZE technology offers impressive cooling thanks to a unique nano-fibre material, based on basalt derived from volcanic lava. It absorbs a significant amount of water and creates a large surface area for water evaporation to produce a powerful cooling effect.
Put to the test, when sucking in 30 degree Celsius air, the unit pumps out a perfectly chilled 20-degrees breeze. When the mercury rises to 40 degrees, it still manages to keep the output in the high 20s. You could also use the units as a humidifier, if your heating or cooling tends to dry out the air.
Keep in mind, these results are at fairly low humidity of around 40 per cent – in the middle of a heat wave it’s not likely to be as effective. For every 10% increase in humidity, expect the temperature of the outgoing air to rise by about 2 degrees.
Another trade-off is that you need to replace the $59 filter cartridge every three to six months. While that seems expensive, keep in mind the unit’s low price tag and running costs compared to most coolers. At 10 watts, the unit only cost you a few cents per hour to run.
The Evapolar evaLIGHTplus does a great job of cooling without breaking the bank. Whether or not it’s right for you all depends on how you’ll use it. For around the same price you can get entry-level evaporative coolers designed to cool a small room. They feature larger water tanks and a much higher airflow, but also higher running costs. Whether they’re as good at cooling as Evapolar’s technology is hard to say.
If you’re absolutely sure that you only need to cool yourself, then the Evapolar evaLIGHTplus might be a sensible option. But if your loved one/s also expect a cool breeze, then a larger unit might be a wiser investment. In the bedroom, also weigh up a personal air conditioner against a ceiling fan.
Would I buy it?
Yes, if I was absolutely sure that I only needed to cool myself while sitting still.
Evapolar evaLIGHTplus personal air conditioner – keep your cool (review)
Great for cooling just one person, the Evapolar evaLIGHTplus personal air conditioner could be the answer to your summertime blues.