Until a few weeks ago there was no air conditioning in my house in Palo Alto. That’s because the weather was mild enough during our time here. Sure, there were always a few days a year when it got too hot to be comfortable, but my wife and I could
Larry Magid (Gary Reyes / Mercury News)
Deal with it by opening a window and turning on a fan. However, this is not the case when forest fires pollute the air and make it unsafe or at least uncomfortable to breathe outside air, especially during sleep.
With the heat increasing, we had an uncomfortable couple of nights last year when the nighttime temperature in our upstairs bedroom rose into the 90s while we closed our windows because of smoke. One afternoon last year it was so smoky and hot that we sat in our garage in our electric Tesla Model 3, left the air conditioning on, and watched Netflix on the screen. Unlike a gasoline car, we were able to run the air conditioning in the garage without the fatal risk of carbon monoxide. Do not do this with a gasoline car.
Portable alternating current
I still don’t see the need to invest thousands of dollars and lots of electricity in central air conditioning, but I bought one for our bedroom. Unfortunately the windows in our bedroom do not offer a window unit so we had to spend a little more on a portable air conditioner. I wanted a “smart” device that I could control via an app or a home speaker, not just because I like technology, but because it allows it to be turned on or off or the temperature to be adjusted from anywhere.
How I learned two hoses are better than one
I first bought a Midea portable smart air conditioner for $ 408. The device, which came with both a remote control and a smartphone app, cooled the room well. Like all portable air conditioners, it had an exhaust hose to vent hot air out of a window, and like most portable air conditioners, there was only a single hose. I knew there were some portable devices on the market that had a second hose to draw in fresh air, but I mistakenly assumed they would introduce smoky air. But after buying the single-hose Midea, I came across a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website called Wildfires and Indoor Air Quality that made it clear to me that I should have bought a two-hose unit. The article warned, “If you have a portable air conditioner with a single hose that is usually vented from a window, don’t use it in smoky conditions as this can cause more smoke to get inside.” Window air conditioners don’t have this problem and, as I’ve learned, two-hose devices.
A blog post from the Missoula City-County’s (MT) Department of Health’s Air Quality Program stated that all air conditioners need air to cool down, but single-hose devices pull that air out of the room, which “could be problematic in a fire.” Season because the process creates negative pressure in your home. “This pressure” pulls outside air into your house through various nooks and crannies, and when it smokes outside it can draw smoke into your house too. “Avoid portable two-hose ACs the vacuum problem by having a hose that is used to draw outside air into the machine to cool the coils.
Fortunately, there was still time to return my device and after doing some research, I learned that some of the top rated double hose ACs were from Whynter. I wanted a smart device, but I was told that one was in development and not yet available. The device was more than powerful enough to cool our bedroom. But the remote had limited functionality and I wasn’t happy that it couldn’t connect to WiFi.
Turn an air conditioning system into an intelligent air conditioning system
With a little more googling, I found Sensibo, which makes a product that can turn almost any air conditioner into a smart air conditioner with a remote control. For about $ 90, I bought the Sensibo Sky, Smart Home Air Conditioner System, which consists of a small piece of hardware with double-sided tape to attach to the air conditioner and a smartphone app that lets you control the air conditioner from anywhere and the Can monitor temperature humidity remotely. It also features geofencing so you can program it to turn on automatically before you arrive or turn off when you leave. There’s also a scheduling tool that lets you turn it on or off anytime, any day of the week, and a feature called “Climate” that controls the device based on room temperature, humidity, or “temperature feel”. “The control of this smart accessory actually exceeds what my now-returned Midea Smart AC could do with its app.
As I unpacked the Sensibo, I was preparing for the too often harrowing installation process, but I was thrilled with how easy it was. The app directed me to point the AC’s remote at the device and press the on button, and the app took it from there. I was ready. I didn’t need tech support, but I emailed them a few tech questions and they got back to me with smart answers within hours. I didn’t intend to review this product but I was so impressed I thought it was worth a mention.
All air conditioners use a lot of energy so we only use our new portable air conditioner when it’s hot and smoky. We haven’t used it yet, but when it gets hot and smoky, we’re ready.
Larry Magid is a tech journalist and internet security activist.