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Portable Air Con for British Beginners

August 30, 2018

A digression, but I wanted to put something online, as I couldn’t find anything that helpful!

I was a total newcomer to the idea, as are most Brits. Finally decided in April 2018 to “go for it” and was promptly confused by a billion contradictory views online – mostly Americans who don’t understand the British climate or how our homes are built, and who sneer at anything other than built-in systems for regular use.

Luckily, I found a helpful expert at http://www.cooleasy.co.uk to steer me through, so I wanted to share everything I found out while deciding to purchase the particular model – KYR25 that I ended up with.

First and foremost, what everybody wants to know is… is it worth spending £300 on, rather than just buying a £20 fan? Answer: yes. Fans blow hot air around, this actually changes the room temperature in a way you can feel, just like walking into an air-conditioned shop from the street.

In the very hottest 34 degrees of 2018, my 4.5m long, 3m wide, 2.5m high work-space cooled at least 10 degrees in 20 minutes, and stayed that way for 90 minutes or more once the machine was turned off.

Don’t get hung up on exact temperatures. Online reviewers seem to simply quote them to scare you and put you off buying. My rule is that if outside is 34 (Celsius – used throughout this article), provided you feel cool, that’s all that matters. I did, job done. Obviously, your room will feel even cooler if it is slightly cooler outside (at 28 degrees I had to turn the machine off as the room was too cold).

What is important when buying is the BTU output matches your room size. 9000BTU for me was fine; in a bigger room, 14000+ is required, or you will be wasting your money. The cheap 5000BTU machines are not worth it unless you live in a tiny home, apparently.

Second massive question is “venting.” Portable air conditioners need somewhere for the hot air to go, and they have hoses in the back (this one on this model is 15cm wide and 1.7m long) that they push it out through. It is wire and plastic and concertinas up like a Slinky, but holds its shape as required.

It’s tempting to “kink” the hose to go around corners – but you mustn’t, the gradient must be like a drain, straight and gentle as possible (I found a 30 degree slope was fine) to a window…

… yes, a window. A normal, British, side-opening double-glazed window. Aircon companies make a great deal of aircon going out of a sash window and give you a thing to stick between the bottom of the sash window and the sill, to fill the gap. Most of us Brits don’t have those, do we? And it’s all scary and counter-intuitive to open a window on a hot day and leave a gap around the vent hose!

Don’t worry. This machine works just fine. OK, it’s not like a sealed car, where the temperature can drop rapidly with all the windows up; but you still feel perfectly cool even as those outside fry. Air conditioned rooms require air-flow anyway, and that gap provides it. You can buy nets to cover the gap (mostly from insects, I’d guess) but I don’t see the point. And regarding outside noise – well, the machine is pretty loud full-tilt and the “white noise” it puts out more than covers outside sound, I’d say.

If the hose won’t reach a window, this model lets you add an extension to a maximum 4 metres. No more, or it will burn out the compressor.  The extension (bought separately) is pretty easy to add, but won’t always stay in place, as the hose unscrews from the joining device if you move it too often.

You can also put the hose (keeping it straight) to vent into another room rather than outside… BUT… the other room will become a wallpaper-steaming-off swamp in a few minutes, unless you open the window in there. Alternatively, you can get a hole in the wall put in (you get a wall lining collar to allow it) – but that seems extreme, remembering that hole will be there come winter…

So, the machine itself. It resembles R2D2, about 70cm high, 30cm wide, 30cm deep with an extra 30cm hose sticking out behind. Weight is 22kg – the same as a full suitcase, and equally hefty if you want to move it up and down the stairs in your house. Trundles happily over carpet between rooms on the same level on its wheels, though. Be aware of the room needed to store it – the weight means boosting it up a loft ladder is probably out.

Setting up is easy. You have to screw the hose into the back. Stretch a bit of hose out, and turn until it feels firmly in place. Every time you move the machine and concertina the hose up to pack away, give it a turn to stop the hose falling out.

Every 11 days of use (144 hours maximum – 12 hours on / 12 hours off) you need to wash out the filter. That’s quite hard to take out as you have to take off the hose and hose mounting, then pull the filter out. The filter is part of the outer casing and feels flimsy. I am scared of breaking it, so, I hoover the filter instead.

Like a small child, the machine also needs a quick wee every so often. Though the advertising says it doesn’t need emptying, actually it does as the compressor saps some water out of the air. Just unbung the drain hole, tilt it a bit, and a cupful of liquid will come out every 8 hours use or so. No biggie.

There’s a load of choices of settings – I’ve not explored most of them, as I find “fast fan / auto / cool” works for me. Loud on this setting, as in gentle motor-bike idling in the street with your windows closed, but effective. You set the temperature, it reaches the temperature then just goes off and on to maintain it.

In practise, the machine doesn’t seem to feel it has reached its goal and hasn’t gone into that maintenance mode for me even on a cooler day. Doesn’t matter, it’s made my room cold and I’m able to turn off or just ignore it. That’s what counts.

Other small niggles may be the amount of space it takes up with the hose extended correctly to reach a window, and the vents at the front not really staying adjusted at an angle but happier left pointing up or down.

So, I worked without feeling tired right through the heat-wave. The only other real problem is kicking everyone else out of your office, as they find any excuse to drop by and savour the cool.

That’s about it. Oh, and remember to buy from January to April, before it gets hot, prices go up and models you select are out of stock. Air conditioning does make a difference, and I hope this helps somebody else ride out the summer as I did.

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