A quiet and beautiful portable air conditioner EvaLight (from $180), a portable personal air cooler that uses only 10 watts of power, is perfect for cooling, say, a desk or bedside area without the need for energy-gulping air conditioning. It also really works: one day when the temperature at my desk was 28°C, the EvaLight’s well-designed LED dashboard showed it was wafting a wide stream of nicely humidified air at 21°C towards me. Losing 7°C with minimal power consumption is quite a feat. The 17cm cube works by forcing air through a waterlogged filter. It’s not a new principle; I have a cheap Chinese gadget that does the same thing, as does, roughly, a wet cloth over a fan. But the EvaLight does it better – and stylishly. Although plastic, it looks rather beautiful in action. It’s also quiet and lasts a good couple of hours before needing a water fill-up. evapolar.com.
A smart room-by-room “health” monitor The Healthy Home Coach (£90), from Paris internet-of-things artistes Netatmo, promises to monitor several rooms in your home, with one unit per room, for a quartet of indicators of an unhealthy environment. It keeps tabs on temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide level and sound level, alerting you via a phone or iPad app to anything that needs attention. I was surprised it doesn’t sense carbon monoxide or smoke, but realised that’s logical: what home doesn’t already have smoke and CO2 alarms? I set the device up on my office desk and waited for something to happen. But all it would say, boringly, was everything is fine. I would touch the button on top, see a green or blue light – oh, and then get a phone notification that I’d checked. No idea why it does that. But I succumbed wholly to the Healthy Home Coach when I was in my office one evening with the window closed. Within minutes, I got a buzz and a notification that the CO2 level was abnormal. And, yes, it was stuffy and slightly unpleasant. “Open a window”, the app suggested. I did, the level went back to good – and I was sold. netatmo.com.
A Cloud-based, “remote” air-conditioning control system I consider air conditioning to be one of the greatest modern inventions, yet it is scorchingly expensive and unenvironmental to run. I find AC remotes universally unfathomable and normally just turn the cooling to max, then wait for the place to feel like a fridge, thus wasting more energy. I was deeply impressed, however, by Ambi Climate 2nd Edition ($129 per room unit), an advanced control system for almost any number of AC units in a home or office. It works through an app (it can also be used through Alexa) and at its simplest is a superb remote, usable from anywhere. The founder developed it initially to keep his husky comfortable at home while he was at work, avoiding the need to leave the AC on full blast. I tested it when my apartment was like an indoor rainforest with the AC off. Each day, five minutes before arriving home, I selected the desired temperature and found the place chilled to perfection. Other testers have used Ambi Climate to switch off the AC in their distant holiday home when guests have forgotten to. Ambi Climate’s engine room is in the Cloud, where algorithms work out the best level of cooling for your personal comfort. Each room sensor tracks temperature, humidity, sunlight and motion in the room and asks you to rate on the app how comfortable you feel over several days. It takes around seven days to “learn you”, whereafter you start to feel just right all the time. ambiclimate.com.
An air-quality monitor that picks up on dust There is a growing body of opinion that indoor air quality is a major factor in health. A study of 6,000 people at Norway’s University of Bergen showed that regular exposure to cleaning products, and the VoCs (volatile organic compounds) therein, significantly affects lung function. All power, then, to the recent proliferation of home gadgets to monitor indoor air quality. As well as keeping tabs on VoCs, CO2, temperature and humidity, the Awair (£179.99 from Selfridges) monitors airborne dust, which I always find is worst in bedrooms. In addition, it happens to look pretty and restful, with a calming digital display that can be configured as a clock as well as a pollution readout. Awair also has an informative app. The more information you get on this aspect of your home the better, I think. getawair.co.uk.
A stylish air ioniser The Bellaria (£849) is Italian company Falmec’s upmarket take on one of the least spectacular pieces of domestic technology, the air ioniser, which for decades people have used to pull pollutants out of the air and inject a constant stream of mood-enhancing negative ions into a room. I’ve tried cheap ionisers and they always end up dirty and uncleanable with all the grime they’ve extracted. The Bellaria may be considerably more expensive than most ionisers on the market, but it is a thing of substance and beauty that doubles as a subtle, dimmable room light made from Murano glass – just because, being based near Murano, Falmec can. Falmec has a patented ioniser technology it calls E.Ion, which doesn’t just clean the air, but provides a running commentary by way of coloured lights on the purity of your atmosphere. Falmec also claims that tests found a reduction of 85 per cent in bacteria in the air when the unit is operating – I can affirm that the air where I’ve had it quietly whirring away (it is motor-assisted, unusual in an ioniser) certainly smells delightful. It also collects the grime in its replaceable filters, so unlike with other ionisers, the outer casing doesn’t seem to get filthy. falmec.co.uk.