Convair Magicool air cooler

This review is the results of my own research when needing to get an air conditioning unit for a medium-sized room. It was hard to track down decent advice, so I hope what I found out will save you some time!

It turns out that when most of us say we want an air conditioner for the home or office, we don't realise that a true air conditioning unit is a complex device which uses needs a hose venting to outside, costs many hundreds of pounds and can be equally expensive to run. If you were envisaging something a bit more portable, which is more like a fan, what you're actually after is an air cooler.

Which? Magazine reviewed air conditioners in its May 2007 issue and its "Best Buy" was a model costing £636. Although pleasingly compact, like all true air conditioners, it needs a hose running out of an open window and just seemed a little too complex for me. I wanted something as simple as the fan I have, but which would produce cool, pleasant air and not redistribute all the paperwork around. It turned out that an air cooler fitted the bill admirably.

Thanks to the efforts of the Chinese economy, I located some units as cheap as £99, but they looked flimsy and I couldn't find a decent review - or even mention - of any of them online. These are the sort of unbranded units you see as "reader offers" in newspapers and magazines. One manufacturer's name did come up in my research on several occasions however, and that was Australian brand Convair. The company's best-selling model in the UK, the Convair Magicool, seemed to be exactly what I needed, and at £199 it was in the right price range. I believe it's reduced in price in the past few weeks too (isn't it always the way?).

Convair Magicool air cooler box Convair Magicool air cooler controls

I didn't know much about the main online supplier I found for this unit, but it was selling at the same price through Amazon UK, which gave me the reassurance I like when buying on the web. A couple of clicks (and two days) later, the package arrived, as you can see to the left.

There wasn't much to it: the air cooler itself, a perfectly adequate short instruction manual, and a CD-Rom with a demonstration in a nice Aussie twang. I wouldn't worry about this too much, the manual is fine. All it really reinforces is that the machine works best if it has an open door or window behind it, and another the other side of the room. This is so it can take air from outside, freshen it up, and force the old air in the room out of the other side. This makes sense.

So what does it do? It's very simple. Inside the Convair Magicool is a damp filter, through which the air is passed. This is enough to produce the pleasant, cool air you're after - a bit like a sea breeze. Remember, a fan does not cool a room down. It simply cools you down by blowing on your body and helping the skin's evaporation process. A fan in an empty room is useless. An air cooler, on the other hand, changes the nature of the air, which is why it's better than a fan.

The filter requires just one thing: water. Quite a lot of water, some 13 litres, to be exact. You fill the tank up at the back, but a full tank will last for a long time. If the water runs out, it's not a problem, but the air cooler will just be acting as a fan. So make sure you have a bucket with a pouring lip, or at least a decent-sized jug! When I have the Convair Magicool upstarirs in our house, I can wheel it to the bathroom (it's very light when empty) and fill it with the shower attachment we have on our bath. When full, the unit is quite heavy though.

One final advantage which an air cooler has over a full-scale air conditioning unit is that it's relatively environmentally-friendly. The electricity used is low, and there are no refrigerants involved.

Where should I buy one? My experience of buying a Convair Magicool online was painless - I bought it through Amazon, which delivered through a third party in a couple of days. There's a link to the product page below. If it's available at around £199, then it's time to reach for the credit card. Five stars. CR

Check price of Convair Magicool at Amazon UK