Today we’re looking at the several gadgets that promise relief when nature decides to demonstrate her fire-breathing wrath. These are gadgets designed to help you stay cool this summer.
We'll run the gamut from traditional solutions, to quirky future tech, and even a slightly silly alternative that just might work. Summer is here in Southern California. It made its presence known in a big way with about two straight weeks of local thermometers licking the one hundred degree mark for the first time in a long while. Ninety four degrees at 11pm just isn't cool... literally.
While those privileged few among us reached for the thermostat, not everyone has that option. Relief alludes those in older homes that don't have or can't accommodate central air. Plenty suffer in silence as the 80's turn into the 90's into the 100's. In addition to simply escaping the heat, our country's ever expanding environmental consciousness means that even capable homes are starting to avoid the AC and look for alternatives or supplements to save on rampant energy use. This article is for those poor souls who sat crying as eggs cooked on their sidewalks without realizing that more can be done. Now that the heat has leveled off and we're all settled down, it's time to find a better way.
This article is a roundup of the gadgets and gizmos that seem so tempting during the worst of times but for one reason or another you have a healthy skepticism about pulling the trigger now that your sense is back.
Hurley phantom FUSE 2 Men's Boardshorts:
We start things off with the obvious. Sometimes we search and search for solutions to a problem and we are so preoccupied with the search for the intangible, that one magic end-all solution, that we miss what's right in front of our noses. If your home is unbearably hot, GET OUT OF THERE! Some walk the mall endlessly, see a movie, or even go to church to mooch some primo air conditioning. The only real choice for the cold depraved is to find water and insert your body. Send out a tweet, rent a minivan, gather all of your friends and go to the beach/ pool/ fountain in front of city hall. Even landlocked areas have a YMCA or public pool to offer relief when you're hitchhiking at the intersection of humidity and hellfire. If you're luckily enough to be within reach, the beach awaits. Here in Southern California the smog and the smell can scare away some, but there's plenty of amazing nooks and crannies down the coast that offer relief. It's free (I'll conveniently glance over those parking fees) and it works to cool you down quickly and completely.
Now that you're headed to the beach, ditch the cutoff jeans young man, you're better than that. You're going to be among your friends feeling great, it's probably best to look great as well. You're inner Don Draper needs to shine through if the young guy or gal of your dreams strolls by with the perfect sun-kissed skin and smiles you're way. Born out of 70's Southern California, Hurley started as a surfboard company. Almost immediately the company's founder started to notice the Australian company Billabong and their unique super long style of boardshorts. Of course the late 70's was a time when the answer to, “who wears short shorts?” was ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE! Pictures of your parents are evidence enough, there had to be a better way. Hurley persuaded Billabong and was eventually brought aboard an official US licensee for Billabong's clothing. More than a decade later, experience gained and emerging trends noticed, Hurley decided to not renew their contract with Billabong and The Hurley Brand that you and I know was officially born. A younger generation fueled by the internet meant huge exposure for everything. Surfers were skaters, skaters were snowboarders, snowboarders were BMXers. This was no longer an isolated surfing brand, it needed to be everything to a quickly emerging community of athletes, artists, musicians and enthusiasts. Hurley has worked over the last twenty years to become a clothing brand that's more than a clothing brand. True to it's vision for the future, Hurley is now an everything brand that works closely with pro athletes, artists of all forms, and some of the musicians you love to always expand and improve. Most recently setting up temporary shop at the US Open of surfing in Huntington Beach, California. The Hurley printing press brought artists together to create unique designs inspired by the week's festivities and each artist's unique point of view. The limited edition shirts can know be found for purchase on Hurley's site while they last.
Ultimately, the same attention to consumer needs and drive to be ahead of the curve has lead Hurley to the Phantom Fuse line of boardshorts. These are without question the pinnacle of boardshort. Did you even know that there was a boardshort of the year award? It's no joke either, for five straight years Hurley's Phantom line has been voted tops by retailers, peers, and even competing brands. No matter the potential marketing damage if might do their own causes, the industry can't deny that this is everything and more in under the waist in the water luxury. They move with you and they are just so very light. As Ned Flanders once said, “it feels like you're wearing... nothing at all”
For this review, I saw the Phantom Fuse 2 boardshorts which can be had in black with either cyan or neon orange accents. The shorts are very classy and the design is clean and muted but still very attention getting in just the right way. Metallic embroidery and foil branding catch your eye without being loud. Seams are hard to find and the shorts end up looking and feeling like a single sheet of fabric that just molded to your body. The neoprene-coated waist doesn't slip and stays put where you need it to. On the other side of that coin, the rest of the short is ultra lightweight and water-repellent. That means you dry off in less than half the time of other boardshorts I've known, but more importantly, these shorts won't cling. The days of getting out of the pool and pulling your shorts away before the locals can make out what religion you might be are gone. The shorts stretch and move with you unlike anything else out there. As a result of the stretch though, these do run a little small. It's probably safe to size one up from what you'd normally wear for the best look and fit. To top it all off, the Fuse 2 use a recycled fabric that turns 12 discarded plastic bottles into the last pair of boardshorts you'll ever need. How plastic bottles can be manipulated into the most comfortable pair of boardshorts I've had the pleasure to wear is beyond me. I'll leave the science to Hurley though, because I'm headed back to the beach.
If you find that you've fallen in love with the look and idea behind the Phantom Fuse 2, Hurley has brought the same push to innovate to their phantom line of sandals. They've partnered with Nike to provide Hurley style combined with a new natural motion technology called Nike Free that might just change sandals for the better. Check out Phantom + Nike Free here.
After a long day of fun, you'll need to sleep. This next device promises to keep things cool between the sheets...
Bed Fan with Wireless Remote by Brookstone
I wanted this product to be awesome, I really wanted it to be. It's feels a bit silly, but the idea has real promise. My first thought was astronaut suit. I don't know if it's true or not but I heard that an astronaut's space suit is air conditioned. Imagine having your own perfect habitat whatever the surrounding conditions; the idea is exciting. Aside from being cool, you don't have to waste energy cooling an entire large room for just one person at times. The potential of an air conditioned suit is a shared idea with the concept of the Bed Fan. While suffering in your dry hot bedroom, tossing and turning and struggling to sleep, just reach for the wireless remote and a quick tap and turn takes you on an express bus to cool town. Exactly the right cool temperature right between your sheets, instantly. The question is, can execution live up to the promise of a device like the Bed Fan?
Setup is non existent, just snap a few channels together, plug in the fan, and grab the remote. This isn't you're normal remote control either. It's round, it glows blue, and it rotates. It looks like a huge volume control knob from a high end sound system. You can place it anywhere which means no getting out of bed or even sitting up to adjust fan speed. You'll just rotate the knob until you reach the right speed and the soft blue light automatically turns off after 5 seconds. It requires two AA batteries that you'll have to supply and they should last for awhile because the piece only draws power when you need to adjust.
Now that you know controlling the fan isn't a problem, where do you put it? You will need to plug the unit in, so that might guide your placement options, but the base is reversible so ideally you won't have to worry about managing a cord. If you have space under your bed, you can point the base inward and run the cord under your bed towards a back wall. If you have a foot board, you can even weave the fan between the foot board and the mattress to hide it away and keep it stable. The easiest way to do that it do disconnect the base unit and the air channel. You can then just slide the base under your bed, and slip the air channel down between the mattress and click in. I mentioned that this will make things more stable, and you'll want more stability because this thing just isn't designed to stay put. The fan will barely support it's own weight, let alone a kick or bump under the sheets. If you don't find a way to tether this thing down, you'll wake up to an overturned fan every morning. This really feels like a fundamental oversight, a weighted base makes this a much better product instantly and for the price it shouldn't be a concern.
The air channel adjusts up and down simply to fit most bed heights. 26” at it's lowest and 40” at the highest. Once you find the right height, you make your bed as normal. Fitted sheet on the mattress, a loose top sheet that goes OVER the bed fan, and then your comforter, etc. Quick tip: higher thread count sheets are woven tighter and therefore will maintain the air better. That means you could get the temp you need inside the sheets, turn off the fan, and probably stay comfortable long enough to fall asleep in peace without leaving the fan running all night. The machine has a 10 hour auto-shutoff but it would be nice to see a couple more options. Even though the remote is very convenient, a one hour auto shut-off option that would allow you just enough time to fall asleep would be nice.
There are a few unresolved issues with the fan. First and foremost is the previously mentioned tipping factor. I know that adding a weighted base adds costs across the board for the company, but it needs it to be a complete product and as it stands (or doesn't for that matter) it currently isn't complete. Next up is a complication of the fan being made into the bedding. Sheets and blankets get shuffled during the night obviously and at times you'll block the fan or even undo the top sheet. It requires a bit of deliberate sleeping to get the most from the system. The last issue that I experienced makes the fan less usable for me personally. I'm a bit of a sensitive sleeper and the fan's mechanism inside is a bit abrupt. The air comes in waves and it ends up being deliberate enough that the rhythm of it keeps me awake when the fan is running on it's higher speeds. It's pronounced enough to annoy while I'm trying to sleep. At the same time, I'm 6' 5” tall and my feet are near the fan at the foot of my bed. If you're a bit shorter or can sleep a little harder, you might be insulated enough from the fans direct gusts to not be bothered.
The next piece specifically claims that it won't delivering this choppy abrupt air, does it excel where the Bed Fan couldn't?
AM03 Pedestal Fan by Dyson
Dyson is pushing the boundaries of home appliances. From the beginning many have been cautious of the company's marketing approach. Many Americans see a European man speaking technically about a common product and they just shut off thinking that a fan or a vacuum doesn't need to be that “FANCY” I can honestly say that before Dyson I'd never heard the word buffeting and the idea of calling a house fan an “AIR MULTIPLIER” would make me giggle just a bit. Now that I've put actual hands on some of Dyson's product, I can tell you there's something to the fuss. On one side of the coin, this is the nicest and most well designed house fan that I've ever seen. On the other side, is it just a house fan, it won't walk your dog, do your taxes or balance your checkbook. Many of us have become comfortable with the idea that something like a house fan shouldn't cost more than say $50. If companies know we have a perceived value for a certain product, they have no problem giving us a $40 house fan. As an added benefit, when the product inevitably breaks or performs poorly, most will say to themselves or others, “What did you expect for $40 dollars” Luckily, that wasn't good enough for Dyson. With the AM03 Pedestal Fan, they've made a product that looks as great as it functions. You'll spend more initially, but you'll get a product that you'll actually use for years.
Dyson talks about traditional electric fans causing uncomfortable buffeting when they chop the air. Most of us are hearty enough to not complain about a fan being too rough, but this is really one of those instances where you don't know what you're missing until you see the other side. Dyson claims that the fan draws in air and amplifies it 18 times. The new supercharged air is delivered in a smooth uninterrupted stream of air. Here's a little bit of official speech from Dyson:
“Air is drawn in by an energy efficient, brushless motor. A combination of the technologies used in turbochargers and jet engines generates powerful airflow, which is accelerated through an annular aperture. Airflow passes over an airfoil shaped ramp, causing it to draw in and amplify air from around and behind the machine.”
That's a bit too much for me to process but again, something actually happens. As far as I can gather, the fan is in the base. It generates the air and shoots it upwards and the air is delivered through the channels on the inside edge of the main circle on top. Of course there are no blades on this bladeless fan and they advertise that cleaning is a breeze. Cleaning of the exposed elements is obviously simple, just wipe clean with a cloth and it's as good as new, I wonder about the inside though over time. The device comes with a 2 year limited warranty though and I get the impression that Dyson stands by their work. Try to get a $40 fan serviced and become familiar with the intricacies of customer service psychological warfare. Long hold times, press 5 for Portuguese, my supervisor isn't here right now. It's enough to make you through the piece out the window and learn a hard lesson. A company like Dyson protects it's name. You can't convince people to spend hundreds on a house fan without giving them a name to trust.
Assembly is simple, the pieces ship with decals that show the simple click and turn process step by step. I was assembled and working out of the box in under five minutes while taking my time. The base is strong and weighted well and the top of the unit is very lightweight, this thing stays put. Another space age buzz word, a “constant force tensator spring” resists gravity and allows you to adjust the fans height quickly using just a couple of fingers. Angle is just as easy to adjust. Grasp the support pole and push or pull the top to adjust through a 20 degree range of motion. The fan also oscillates 90 degrees to spread air through the room. It's a fairly concentrated flow of air and not as wide as say a box fan but the within reach it's a great unit. Air flow is a good word to look at here. No matter how great a fan is, it is just a way to move around the hot air already in your room. The way you get relief is when a fan can move air quicker than others. Just picture a paper fan. If you lazily wave it at your face you'll feel a little relief but to get any effect you have to wave hard and fast until your shoulder says quit. This is the Dyson's shining moment, it moves air quick and quiet. It's not silent at the highest setting, but it's not as bad as traditional options.
There is still room to improve. As I've mentioned before, charging a premium for a traditionally less expensive product is an invitation to the consumer to search long and hard for issues. If you're spending hundreds on a fan, don't feel bad for nitpicking. While the fan does include on device controls they are basically wasted here. Most will use this as a floor fan, that means the controls will literally be at floor level. I'm 6'5” and I won't be getting on my hands and knees to operate a fan. Luckily, Dyson integrated their magnetic remote control into the top of the fan. It's a standard feature across their line of fans and it's very well done. The few buttons are simple and straightforward and the magnetic mounting point is strong enough to “find” the remote as long as you place it near the right spot. The worst part of the design though, is that the remote control needs line of sight with the fan's base to function. I'd placed the fan beyond the base of my bed during testing and that meant that once I'd laid down for the evening, I was stuck with what I'd selected within the fan's settings. It would complicate assembly and make the fan a bit less lightweight on top but Dyson really should have found a way to include a signal receiver in the top of the fan. For the money that you'll spend, it's a bit ridiculous to want for something like this. Finally, an auto-shutoff/timer function is a want and not a need, but for the premium price why not throw something in Dyson?
This next piece revisits the idea of cooling down just your own bed to the exact right temperature for you. Did it fair any better than the Bed Fan?
Thank you again to the companies above for supplying their product for this review.
ENJOY YOUR GADGETS!