This is a great and simple idea- a small pair of thermostatically-controlled low-voltage fans that go into a duct and help cool or heat a room. We have the perfect room to test this- a living room with only one dedicated vent, right near an outlet. Even though the thermostat is set to about 82F, some of our rooms are chilly and the living room and master bedroom are warm and muggy. Our 70+ year-old house is always tricky to heat or cool properly. If this $60 unit can help, it would be a godsend!
I was sent the AirFlow Technology ‘AirFlow Breeze’ Register Booster Fan in Almond with both the 4×10 and 4×12 vent covers. It is also available in brown and in a couple larger sizes, and a new version is coming out with a remote control.
The package included a packet of instructions and advertising, the two vent covers, a power adaptor (typical wall wart with 6′ cord), and the unit itself. There is not much to look at. There is a central strip of two control dials and a power jack on the top. Under the two grills are a pair of fans that look a lot like what you find in a computer tower. Instructions explain installation and operation. The unit can be mounted in a low wall duct, a high wall duct or ceiling duct (with optional 16′ cord), floor mounted, or mounted by itself. I was going to mount it in a low wall opening.
Set-up is easy enough. You need to…
- Drill the pre-molded holes out of the cover plate. (Which seems odd on a $60 item- I mean if they drilled it, I could do the whole installation with just a screwdriver!)
- Snap the pate securely onto the fan unit, then position in the opening. (Mine just barely fit the duct opening with a little flexing, and the cover is about an inch smaller than the old cover- there are paint scars all around it. The bigger cover size holes do not match up, so that would not help.)
- Replace the old screws from the old cover. (Come on. The old screws have been painted over a couple times and the colors don’t match the new cover. I also missed the second screwhole and stripped the dang screw head!)
- Plug it in and go! (Except… the cord plugs in at the top and the molded cord track goes upwards, which means the cord drapes awkwardly over the front of the unit- even in company photos.)
It was a hot day- 97F outside at 5:oopm. When I had everything ready to go at 7:00pm, the living room was at 80.2F and 29% humidity (I have a handy digital thermometer in the living room because I raise Red-foot Tortoises and the thermometer tells me the temps in their habitat with a remote probe.) Time to fire the Air Flow Breeze up! The top dial has the options of Off, Fan, Heat, and Cool. I selected ‘Cool’. The bottom dial appears to be a thermostat. I set it on maximum cool. I noticed an immediate difference- the room was instantly a lot louder! The unit in use sounds like a slightly muffled vacuum cleaner, and forced me to boost the TV volume 2 notches to compensate.
At 9:00pm, it was significantly cooler outside, and the living room temp, with the Breeze running non-stop and the A/C on about 50% of the time, is… 80.4F! At no point did the temp go lower than 80.1F. I felt absolutely no difference, but that may be because the vent is mounted low and does not blow on me. I gave up and turned on the small fan on top of the entertainment center and immediately felt cooler and the room was so much quieter that I could drop the TV 6 notches. The room thermometer did not register a temperature change, so it must all be evaporative cooling with the air on my skin.
So what happened? For a unit like this to work, it basically steals cool air from the ducting, and our A/C unit is a long way away from the living room duct. When the A/C is not on, it is just a recirculating fan, like the one probably built into your furnace. The fans are low-voltage, which is good for energy use, but not so hot for actual air movement. The 8″120VAC fan I’m using feels like it moves many times the air that the Breeze does even with 2 fans. The company recommends using multiple Breezes to solve a variety of heating and cooling problems, but sucking cold air out of the system faster just means the system has to work harder to make more, or steal it from other parts of the house- which seems like a net increase in energy use.
The ducts in my house are badly set-up for cooling- they are low in the wall and cold air sinks. 70 years ago, this made sense because they only heated the house and hot air rises. What the Breeze would need to do to really help me would be to shoot the air up at an angle so the cool air would ‘rain’ down in the room, like what a ceiling fan does. The unit probably works better in high or floor mounts, but it was not the solution I was hoping for in my case. Maybe I needed more units, but really do not see how that would help.