Personal ‘coolers’ are a hot topic now with January among the hottest on record and February set to follow.
West Australian company CloseComfort has released the PC9+Plus personal air conditioner using Aussie patented air delivery technology.
The company claims that the 17kg refrigerated unit consumes 300W and saves up to 75% on power as it creates a micro-climate around you instead of trying to cool a whole room. To use, plug it into a powerpoint and place it 1.5 metres from you.
Before we review it let’s review ‘Personal Cooling 101.’
What all these devices (be they fans, evaporative coolers, or refrigerant based air conditioners like this PC9+Plus) mean by the word ‘personal’ relates to the cubic square metres or litres volume of air they can move and/or cool.
A typical small three-metre square bedroom is about 27m2 and would require a 5-8,000 BTU unit to cool it.
These devices create a small personal cooling zone ranging from about one cubic metre (1 x 1 x 1 metre – good on the work desk) and to perhaps between two and three cubic metres. Each cubic metre contains 1000 litres of air – some brands quote air velocity as litres per second.
Fans don’t cool. They circulate the air at whatever temperature it is. However, the air flow can help to redistribute pockets of cooler air (heat rises and cold falls) and helps to increase the evaporation of body perspiration which gives a limited personal cooling sensation.
Evaporative coolers run water over a membrane causing a heat exchange that converts some of it into cooler water vapour which gives a limited cooling effect. It is most effective in low humidity areas.
Air conditioners use gas or solid-state refrigerant to chill a radiator style of grill. As air passes through the grill, humidity is partially converted into water, so you get colder, drier air.
All personal coolers have a fan. The bigger the fan, the more air it moves and unfortunately the more noise it makes in the process. The fan size must also match the cooling power (BTU) or otherwise all it moves is partially cooled room temperature air.
It is a refrigerated (R134a, 333g), portable floor standing air conditioner on castors – 550 (h), 273 (w) and 385mm (d) weighing 17.4kg.
Setup is easy – there are no external vents or water drainage pipes required. A 2.6-litre water tank collects moisture extracted from the air.
Apart from a hernia-inducing weight, it meets portable definitions.
It is designed to micro-cool an area up to 1.5 metres from the unit. The company claims that it produces about 2500 BTU/hr and up to 3500 BTU/hr in high humidity. The cold air flow is 125 cubic metres per hour hence the term micro-cooling.