Summer weather is slowly creeping in on the Newegg Southern California offices, and although we still have some time left before the official start of the season, a few days of 90° plus temperatures are foreshadowing another sweltering one. Unfortunately for me, my end of the building gets the least love from the air conditioning system.
Fortunately, Evapolar sent over their unique all-in-one desktop air conditioner/humidifier/air purifier to save me from a sweaty meltdown.
Making their debut on Indiegogo in 2015 and crushing their debut with $1.2 million in funding from early customers, Evapolar hit 259% of their goal and began shipping this past December on Newegg. The Evapolar unit is designed to be a portable, low-power personal cooling solution that adds moisture to the air in a natural way, while filtering out contaminants. The aesthetically pleasing 6.7” cube comes in 3 colors, white, black, or blue, with a fully adjustable RGB-lit water tank on one side. Add it to the list of glowing peripherals on my desk. The lighting isn’t necessary, but it’s definitely fun to look at.
Since I’m in a cube farm with others nearby, having a device that isn’t icing down all my neighbors when I get overheated is a good thing, and since the Evapolar cools a max of 3m2 I don’t have to worry about that. On the note of being a good neighbor, the sound output from the cool cube is very reasonable, so shouldn’t be distracting. Up to about half power the sound is virtually lost amongst the keystrokes and regular office sounds while still producing a substantial cooling breeze. Above half speed it does become a bit more noticeable; it’s similar to if you were to turn a standing fan on a higher setting.
Speaking to the portability of the device, Evapolar decided to use a Micro USB to USB 5V 2A (with a 120V outlet adapter included) cable for power, which means that aside from powering it with my laptop I could also use a power bank if I decide to take it remote. Since the unit is low power, this isn’t a gimmicky marketing line but a pretty practical feature.
On more than one occasion I’ve done some summer camping and ended up in a sweltering tent at night, where this little guy could really come in handy (assuming you have a source of power at our campsite). The unit does have a “Night Mode”, so you can turn off the flashy LEDs and display while you get some shuteye.
Personal cooling technology
The Evapolar unit isn’t a traditional air conditioner, as that would be virtually impossible at this size and price. The technology used is evaporative cooling, which essentially makes this a micro swamp cooler, with the added benefit of an air filter. Evaporative cooling isn’t by any means new technology, and works by blowing hot surrounding air through a filter that has soaked up water (in this case from the tank) and evaporating it off into the passing air. The end result is cooler, more humidified air.
One of the keys to getting the personal cooler to be so efficient is the air filter. The compact filter in the Evapolar uses a super-porous nanomaterial with basalt fibers, which can absorb water up to 700% of its own weight. The ease of absorption into the path of the warm air means that no energy or space is wasted on a pump, and the 10W power requirement produces a cooling power equivalent of 100-350W, or 350-1,200 BTU/hr.
As an air filtration system, the filter itself can remove particles down to .6 microns, and is bio, chemo, and thermo resistant.
One nice thing about not being an actual air conditioner is that the unit doesn’t need Freon, which is considered environmentally un-friendly. Many home air conditioners now provide a non-Freon option at a higher cost, but it is still widely in use.
Does Evapolar perform?
The Evapolar has a 1” circular LCD screen atop the unit, which displays all the menu options as well as the temperature. The air temperature is measured at the intake and after the output, with both numbers displayed so you can see what the cooling effect is. In my use, the temperature at the intake was on average 75° and at the output was around 62°, which provided a very comfortable stream of cool air to work in.
Without any water in the tank, the temperature difference is minimal, only about a degree or so, however it does still operate as a normal fan would. When you do load up the side water tank the output air does feel moister, but isn’t visibly hydrated like the diffusers that pump a mini plume of water vapor into the air.
Similar to full-size evaporative coolers, the technology works best in warmer, drier weather where the hot air can evaporate the water more quickly from the surface of the filter. Another note is that unlike air conditioners, there is no hot exhaust caused by the cooling process. This means you won’t be pumping hot air out to overheat the rest of your desk space outside the cool airstream.
Cooler heads prevail
Despite being the size of a large tissue box and not taking up much footprint space on the desk, I was pretty impressed with the cooling capabilities of the Evapolar cooler. You definitely won’t be using this to cool down a full room, or to take the place of a large portable unit, but for desktop cooling or taking out on the porch or camping this is a solid little gadget. Since their first successful campaign, Evapolar has been mass producing on their own and even launched a second version of the model with the crowdfunding platform.
As with many plastic products, this one had a distinct plastic-y smell to the air when first putting it through the paces. I would recommend thoroughly washing the tank and running it away from close quarters to let it air out at first, especially if you are sensitive to smells.
For a small form fan it isn’t exactly cheap, but when the summer heat comes rolling in and I’m plugging away my laptop, forearms sticking to the desk and wishing the guardians of the thermostats would show mercy I’ll be glad Evapolar has this little cool box. I can only hope it doesn’t wander off before then.
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