Electrolux portable air conditioner (EXP09HN1WI) review

Summer might be all but over, and that might lead you to ask why we're publishing an air conditioner review on this date. Well, there are a couple of reasons, which will become obvious as we progress. But, let's just say that an air conditioner is for life, not just summer. And that's where this Electrolux fits in.

The Electrolux - complete with its roll-off-the-tongue "EXP09HN1WI" name - is designed to cool a single room, up to a modestly-sized one. Most British homes should be fine, unless you've got a big open-plan space.

But it's not just about cooling, and here's where all year round use comes into play. The Electrolux is also designed to heat, extract moisture from air and filter air should you suffer from allergies. It's fair to say it's an all-in-one solution. But is it any good?

Portable, yet not

Despite being pitched as a portable unit, complete with wheels to assist when moving it, the Electrolux isn't really all that portable. The unit itself is big, standing at 760mm tall, and while it isn't massively deep, it does have vents and piping at the rear that add to its overall footprint.

But the main reason it's not portable is down to the way it deals with waste.

As you no doubt know, air conditioners create a great deal of heat, partly this is the warmth they extract from the room, and partly it's from the electronics and machinery within. That heat has to go somewhere, or it will destroy the purpose of having air conditioning. So you get an exhaust pipe which you need to route outside. That's fine if you are happy to drill a hole in your wall, or if there's a window you can open nearby, but if you can't use these options, you're scuppered. Which is what we mean about it not really being portable.

And, of course, as part of cooling a room involves removing the moisture - and thus reducing the humidity, that's why you'll get dry lips if sleeping in air-conditioned rooms night after night - you also need to pipe the water out somewhere. We thought "oh, there won't be that much water". We were dead wrong. There is a hell of a lot of water. At first we just stuck the hose in a pint glass, but that ended badly, and very quickly. In the end we used an empty squash bottle, but still kept forgetting to empty it and then ended up with moist floors. Oops.

The ideal solution is to pipe both hot air and water outside and deal with them properly. But, as this is a portable unit, we didn't really see that as appropriate. If you wanted a fixed air conditioner, surely you'd just get one with a wall mount?

Design simplicity

Once set up, the Electrolux's straightforward design makes for easy use. On the top of the unit you'll find the controls which are really simple and well laid out. We've seen other air conditioners that went out of their way to be as confusing as possible. Not so here - everything is easy to understand. There are fan speed controls, temperature, mode selector buttons with lights to make it clear what's selected and a timer button.

A remote control is supplied too, which is incredibly handy if you're too hot to move, or just too lazy, and want to flick the Electrolux to a higher power or turn on the baffle that changes how the air is blown into the room.

Make hot rooms cool

Pretty much everyone knows that air conditioners can cool a room down. And, in all likelihood, if you're buying an air conditioner, rather than a heater, you're probably most interested on how the Electrolux performs in the cool department. Or you want to avoid the significant cost of a gas or electric heater and its hot-to-touch panels.

Once you switch it on, you hear the internals of the Electrolux fire up. This is not an enormously quiet machine as there's quite a bit going on here - a number of fans that make it work produce a pretty loud blowing sound when it's activated.

At the top of the machine there's a rising flap cover that you can either have fixed, or able to move. We used the moving position to get the air circulating more around the toom, and it seemed to work well.

The first thing you'll notice about air conditioners though, is that they're not like fans; they aren't designed to instantly cool you, they need time to work. We noticed that on a hot day you shouldn't turn the unit off because its effect is cumulative: it needs time to cool the air in the room, and it needs to be allowed to continue to work once it's on. When we tried to turn it on and off to balance out its results it ended in us never feeling that happy. Best leave the Electrolux to do its thing.

The lowest temperature that the machine claims to deliver, is 17 degrees Celsius. That's a nice room temperature in the summer to come inside and cool down to.

Make moist rooms dry

If you have a lot of moisture in your house, and, perhaps, a lot of mould, then the Electrolux's dehumidifying feature will be useful. You can, of course, buy a separate dehumidifier, but they're often big and bulky, and cost a fair bit in themselves, so having a one-box solution makes sense.

You can set the air condition unit to "dry" and it will merrily go about its work sucking the water out of the surrounding air. It will pump this out the back, as we detailed before, and you'll need to deal with that waste water as you do with the exhaust and water when the air conditioner is on.

If you have some parts of your house that are cold and wet, this feature will probably cheer you up no end - so long as there's somewhere for the waste to go.

Make cool rooms hot

Once the British summer is over - which, based on looking outside at the time of writing, is around about now - then the Electrolux is more than happy to heat your room too. We've tested this on those chilly days, and again it works well. You still have access to the usual air conditioner functionality too. You can, for example, extract the moisture from the air, although this will give you dry heat, which might not be ideal. But it's great if you work in a room which has some damp.

It's also worth noting that in all modes the Electrolux filters air too, so if you have allergies this could help make the air in your room a little more tolerable. We don't suffer from such allergies though, so we can't tell you if it makes a difference from our point of view.

Verdict

We rather like the Electrolux air conditioner. It's a good machine that does its job if you treat it as a permenant rather than portable fixture in our view.

Don't overload it with a big room, or by leaving doors open. It's also worth remembering that it needs to be run continuously, rather than switched on and off, for best effect - it works best when maintaining the temperature rather than trying to cool a very hot room like a fan. That's just the way air con is.

The problem for us is, for home users, or those in small offices, that the Electrolux requires plumbing to get the most out of it with the least faff. Although it's billed as being somewhat portable, it's really designed to put somewhere and left. While the kit is supplied for venting through a window, this is still a less than optimal solution. Also, Electrolux only provides a mount for sash windows, those with normal open outwards type glazing are not well catered for, and that means a lot of external air can get in, and that you're paying to cool down the rest of the planet too.

Summers in the UK are nothing if not changeable, but for those who need something that cools, dehumidifies and warms, then this is a great choice. At £350 it's not cheap, but when those hot summer days roll around, we're quite sure you'll be thrilled to have it around, as will your friends and family.