Is the Aros really a cooler air conditioner?

Aros and phone
© Aros

Hello, did someone stick Dieter Rams' pocket radio in the window? No, it's a new air conditioner from GE and Quirky called the Aros. David at LifeEdited calls out its features:

© This is not an air conditioner. Dieter Rams Pocket Radio T3, 1958, MoMA collection

Beyond its good looks, what make the Aros unique is that it’s hooked up to the internet and can be controlled on your phone via an iOS or Android app. The app gives your phone full remote control of the AC and you can easily set timers for various times of the day for set schedules. It also hooks up with your GPS to switch off when it detects you’re away from your AC.

Quirky/Screen capture

The specs don't tell us much, other than it takes a lot of power at 15 amps, a Frigidaire Energy Star air conditioner for fifty bucks less draws 7.4 amps.(I actually don't believe that 15 amps figure, they must mean the outlet needed. If it's really the power needed then nobody should touch this thing) , It says it will cool 350 square feet, but much depends on exposure, size of windows, wall construction, but then people who buy window shakers don't usually do heat gain analyses. They just pull out those leaky wings and stick it in the wall, if the landlord or the condo board says they can. None of the key data, like noise levels or energy efficiency ratio, are published. There's no new AC tech like GE's new magnetic cooling fridge.

But you can control it from your smart phone!

Introducing Aros from Quirky on Vimeo.

This is good. It does save energy turning the AC off during the day instead of leaving it on all the time; they work best going full speed, instead of turning on and off, and the bigger the DeltaT, the difference in temperature between the coil and the air, the more efficiently they work and the better they humidify. It tracks your usage so that you can save on energy costs.

A smart air conditioner would be part of a smart grid.

© Aros via Amazon

But it doesn't connect to the smart meters that most houses now have, so when everyone is coming home at the same time and everybody's Aros click on at once, the load on the grid spikes like mad. Washing machines and water heaters are smart enough to do this, so that the utility can control it and slice some peak load off the top. It's the single most important thing that a smart air conditioner should be able to do, and it doesn't.

It blocks a window opening.

© Comfort zone chart Victor Olyay

As Edward Olgyay noted fifty years ago, there are three factors that determine comfort, and temperature is only one; air movement and humidity matter too. There are many times of the year that one might just open the window to get cool; a breeze, a particularly nice dry day. A window shaker air conditioner reduces or eliminates the possibility of cross ventilation; the window is essentially sealed from any other use, so it gets used more.

Killer air conditoner/Screen capture

Is this a better air conditioner?

For sure, it is a better window shaker. The air flow is clever. The fact that it turns itself on and off according to occupancy is great. But it is still a window shaker, and they are still ugly outside, ruining the look of houses and buildings, blocking up windows and sometimes falling out and killing people. And as Wlliam Saletan noted in The Deluded World of Air Conditioning,

Air conditioning takes indoor heat and pushes it outdoors. To do this, it uses energy, which increases production of greenhouse gases, which warm the atmosphere. We're cooking our planet to refrigerate the diminishing part that's still habitable.

That's the fundamental problem. We have to design these things so that the need to use them is minimized; plugging up a window with a smarter shaker means we use it more. The pretty perfs and and handy apps don't solve that one.

Tags: Air Conditioning | Designers