Price (RRP): $699
Manufacturer: Close Comfort
The Close Comfort Cool Focus personal air-conditioner is just that – a semi-portable indoor air-conditioner that creates a micro-climate zone.
The Close Comfort Cool Focus is an Aussie invention. It started life in 2007 by UWA Professor of Engineering, James Trevelyan and launched in Australia in 2016.
What are the use paradigms we test against for the Close Comfort Cool Focus?
- Cooling (or heating) capacity
- Temperature reduction over ambient
- Water management
- Heat removal
- Energy consumption
- Maintenance and support
- And that ‘Je ne sais quoi’ – Do we like it? Would we buy it?
Regular readers will know that we do not sell anything, nor get affiliate commisisons, or charge for reviews. They are 100% independent, and we are one of the last Australian owned ‘deep-dive’ review sites – that means we test every product claim as well as measure it against use paradigms.
Let’s see how the Close Comfort Cool Focus personal air-conditioner fares
- Website here
- Easy Focus – single pre-set temperature $549
- Cool Focus – variable temperature, three fan speeds, remote control and more $699 (as tested)
- Warranty: 2-years
- From: Close Comfort and selected retailers
Our review uses FAIL, PASS, EXCEED against test paradigms.
Spoiler alert – we face a conundrum.
Out of respect for Aussie inventor James Trevelyan, we discuss this before you read the rest of the review.
If we rate is as a whole-of-room air-conditioner, it will FAIL on cooling capacity, efficiency, noise, heat removal etc. And we know its not that anyway!
If we rate it as a whole-of-room portable air-conditioner against DeLonghi, Rinnai, Dimplex, Omega, Teco etc. it will FAIL on price per BTU (a measurement of cooling) and heat removal.
But it is almost unique as a portable, micro-climate, refrigerated air-conditioner so we will rate it as that, and it PASSES!
The key to this product is to know what it does and does not do. For the most part, the website is accurate, if a little wordsmithed. But then can you blame them for trying to paint the best picture for their product.
First impression – PASSable
We reviewed the superseded Close Comfort PC9+ in February 2018 rating it at 3.8/5, so we knew what to expect. The design is similar (and frankly it is utilitarian, not designer attractive). It is reminiscent of an office water cooler crossed with the flying nun.
So, I want to start with the important takeaway from that review. It is not a room air-conditioner but nor does it claim to be! The website says, ‘cools people, not rooms’. Perhaps that is why it has a $99 Igloo Bed Tent as well (not tested).
It blows air out the top via a focusing baffle and under a hood to send it in a semi-adjustable forward/downwards direction. Close Comfort calls that a near laminar stream of air (that means confined and directional).
It has a remote control with temperature settings from 17-30°, low/med/high fan speed, a timer and auto/sleep functions.
The Close Comfort Cool Focus model reviewed here superseded the PC9+ in 2019.
Portability – PASSable
Claim: Easily portable at 17 kg with four wheels and top front carry ‘indents’. Not to be picky, but it is more like 18kg. It is 270 (W) x 370 (D) x 560 (H) mm. With the front flap extended, it goes to 760mm (H).
Safe Work Australia (OH&S) says the maximum weight men/women should lift is 20/16kg if the item is held closely to the body via well-located lifting handles. OK, it mostly meets that criteria and it is not as if you are going to lug it around all day.
It is not easy to carry up or down stairs. Close Comfort also makes a $25 carry bag that adds a handle to the top. Our advice is that it is a little large to carry around!
It has small casters for ground movement. It is relatively stable but could accidentally tip over if you hit a door sill or snag it in longer pile carpet.
Note that many portable refrigerated air-conditioners are substantially heavier from 30kg.
How it cools
There are not a lot of detailed specifications, but it uses 333g of R-134a refrigerant – an HFC (Tetrofluoroethane). It is non-toxic and non-flammable, mainly used in automotive air-conditioners. But the European Union has completely banned it from 2017 due to its significant global warming contribution. Other countries, including the USA, have followed.
The Australian Government also has a statutory phase-out of R-134a from January 2018-2020. It is now illegal to let the gas escape. It must be recovered, returned, and destroyed like any CFC (meaning only a licensed refrigeration mechanic can do it). Regardless if you ever need a gas recharge (and the website says you won’t), there should be alternatives like R-1234y.
It has a cooling capacity of 850-1200W. Digging around we found references to 3000 BTU/hr in dry air and up to 4000 BTU/hr in humid air. There is no CADR (conditioned air delivery rate) but understand that this is around 115-125m3/hour.
Most portable air-conditioners start around 1200W (1.2kW or around 12000BTU), use R-410A gas, have a CADR rate starting at 250m3/hr and should cool a space of about 40m3 (4x4x2.4m). But in Europe and Australia R-410A is on its way out by 2025 and you may see some portables using R-290 (refrigerant grade propane gas that is highly flammable) is only rated as safe for tiny hermetically sealed refrigeration devices with less than 150 g charge. Close Comfort may require a recharge of about 80 g which is well within the safety limit for hermetically sealed refrigeration machines.
Newer split air-conditioners like the Daikin Zena use the latest R-32 which also results in decreased energy use. These generally have a CADR rate of 600+m3/hr.
Temperature Test – PASSable
Using our Kestrel Drop wireless environmental data logger we tested over a week. For most of the test period, the ambient temperature was 22-23° and humidity 79% – we did not need an air-conditioner. So the caveat is that higher ambient temperatures and lower humidity may have provided an even more exhaustive test.
We tested in a home office (3 x 2 x 2.4m – 20m3 with a door), a large bedroom (4.5 x 5x 2.4m – 50m3 door usually closed at night) and a media area (3 x 2.1 x 2.4m or 15m3) as part of a large open plan kitchen/dining/lounge area. Each produced similar results – the open space was slightly better.
We used different temperatures and speeds from the remote control’s 17-30° range. The test uses 17° and low/high fan speeds as the benchmark as that should give maximum cooling capacity. These typically were
- At the vent 14/12°
- One metre 19/17°
- Two metres 22/21°.
- Three metres 22/22° (ambient air temperature)
In our tests, the micro-climate zone is about one metre wide and deep at two metres – we could just feel colder air. There is no effect further away.
But after about 30 minutes in closed rooms, we started to get odd readings. It was heating the room. Heat removal – FAIL
Air-conditioning uses a heat exchange principle to cool air – the temperature at the rear vent reaches 36/38°. That heat must go somewhere.
Some portable air conditioners have flexible ducting to direct heat out a window. So, while it may create a micro-climate in front, it does a great job as a heater for the rest of the room!
While we could still feel cool air blowing over the bed (placed at the foot of the bed), the overall room heat kept rising and gradually overpowered the effect. The igloo tent would have cured this but who wants to sleep in a confined igloo?
The website refers to this issue and suggests that opening a window to allow heat to escape. In a lot of modern homes/apartments that is not always practical.
Energy consumption – PASSable for a portable but a lot more expensive than a modern 2.5kW AC
First the caveat – the unit is not designed to cool a whole of room, so any comparison based on the area or volume is not apples for apples. And as stated earlier these are test results are based April temperature. Actual power over time depends on variety of variables including outside temperature, humidity etc.
It uses a maximum of 240V/1.25A (300W) power on high and around 250W on low. So, at worst that is 300Wh or over eight hours or 2.4kWh. We confirmed this with an EmberPulse IQ meter that accurately charts electricity usage for connected devices.
Energy plans vary but peak (2-8 pm), shoulder (7 am-2 pm and 8-10 pm) and off-peak (other times) is around 59/27/16 cents per kWh.
That means it uses $1.40/.65/.40 per 8-hour period – less if you straddle off-peak and shoulder time.
A 2kW portable uses up to 2000W per hour, but our experience is that they typically use about 1kW average for cooling over 8-hours. That is 8kWh or $4.70/2.00/1.30 – about three times as much, but it cools a larger area.
Modern split-system air-conditioners like the Daikin Zena set to 23°/Auto use about 150W or 1.2kW over kilowatts over 8-hours – half the Close Comfort Cool Focus use. And they blow the air up and over to cool/heat the whole room, or you can direct a gentle ‘wave’ towards you.
A Dyson Pure Hot/Cool Fan uses a maximum of 25 watts per hour on top speed fan (a few cents per hour) but it does not cool.
Close Comfort claims massive energy savings, but that is for an area of 2-3m3. On a watt per m3 basis, it is less inefficient. It has a nice long power cord.
Noise – FAIL
On low/high (regardless of temperature chosen) at one metre it produces 52/60dB and at two metres 47.5/55.2dB. This is loud – too loud for comfortable sleep. It was tolerable on low for home office use.
One night we woke to an awful racket – the unit had developed a very annoying 65dB vibration that only a good thump could stop. The vibration often returned – so much so that we were glad to end the test.
By comparison, the Daikin Zena is less than 40dB at 2 meters. It is comparable to portable air-conditioners.
Water management – PASS
It has an internal slide out water tank (capacity 2.6 litres). During some 40 hours of testing at 70+% humidity, it did not have one drop in it. The water it collects helps cool the heat exchange coils and is blown out the back with the hot air.
Many portable brands now recycle condensed water and in high humidity, like the Close Comfort Cool Focus, may need the reservoir emptied.
Maintenance and support – PASSable
It has three mesh filters – front, rear and at the air delivery. It is not an air purifier (and does not claim to be).
The recommendation is to inspect and clean every two weeks – although we know you won’t do this. Surprisingly, it collected quite an amount of dust during the test, although we did not check that the filters were clean to start when we received it.
As it is not user-serviceable, warranty issues may require its return to the manufacturer or reseller. We are concerned that its warranty conditions may not be entirely ACL compliant in relation to returns, e.g.
You, the original purchaser, are responsible for transporting the product to the repair location with appropriate insurance. We will arrange to send you a replacement product, or arrange repairs at a mutually convenient location.
Freight charges (including insurance) incurred by the owner in returning the unit to Close Comfort Australia or an authorised repair centre, dealer or agent. As it is not really easy to move that is a strongly debatable point!
GadgetGuy’s take – Close Comfort Cool Focus has not improved over its predecessor
At the end of the review, we pawed over every other review we could find to see if we were wrong or overly harsh in any criticism. Most so-called reviews were simply regurgitations of press releases. Many were affiliate marketers or resellers trying to get you to buy.
We could not find any that tested real temperature and energy usage, so we believe this to be a fair test/review.
Our take – It is too noisy, not as energy-efficient (per m3), and the micro-climate zone is far too small for all but a bed or a two-seater lounge. You must be no more than a metre or so from it to feel any difference.
Now in deference to the esteemed inventor, Professor of Engineering James Trevelyan, who I am sure put his heart and soul into this, it needs to come into the 21st century.
Perhaps the good Professor needs to meet fellow engineer Sir James Dyson – a marriage made in heaven! Their prodigy would be smaller, lighter, purify the air, even more energy-efficient, look vastly better and cost three times as much?.
And that ‘Je ne sais quoi’ – Do we like it? Would we buy it?
Given its noise, poor closed room heat dispersal and limited micro-climate zone – no. Its dated looks are obvious compared to other portables.
Given our recent experience with the 2.5kW Daikin Zena (yes, at $2000 installed) I would prefer to use a split-system for a bedroom or study and recoup the added capital cost ($1301) in well under a year (at our electricity rate!)
PS – that does not apply to a typical split-system that can use two to three times the power. Not to power guzzling portables!
We also spoke to a motorhome owner who, based on energy use claims, had bought an earlier Close Comfort model. He took it back after trying to use it in the motorhome. Do not try and use it in a smaller closed space.
But if you are happy with a 2-3m3 micro-climate zone compared to whole-of room cooling, then with the caveats outlined, it appears to be one of the better devices.