You can buy a decent small window air conditioner for as little as $140, as we found in our July 2009 report on air conditioning (available to subscribers). Or you can spend more than twice that amount—$298—for the Cool Surge portable air cooler (shown), which promises to cool an average-sized room "up to ten degrees" using the same energy as a 60-watt lightbulb. (Watch our exclusive video, below.)
The Cool Surge might sound appealing when you consider the roughly 500 watts needed to run even a small air conditioner. Ohio-based Fridge Electric LLC, which markets the Cool Surge, has even offered a two-for-one deal in full-page ads in The New York Times and other newspapers. But our tests show that when it comes to cooling a room, the Cool Surge is likely to disappoint you at any price.
The Cool Surge is essentially an evaporative cooler (also known as a swamp cooler) that bases its cooling claims on a concept thousands of years old. The unit's reservoir holds about a gallon of water and two reusable ice packs like the kind that go into lunch boxes and picnic baskets. The chilled water wets a curtain inside, and a fan moves air through it much the way a breeze would blow air through moistened fabric centuries ago. No compressor, no condenser, no refrigerant gas.
Could that ancient principle cut it in today's "average" room? Consumer Reports tested two samples of the Cool Surge in the same lab we use to test air conditioners. At just over 200 square feet, our test room is actually a tad smaller than the roughly 227-square-foot living room in a typical new home, and, therefore, should be easier to cool. We controlled conditions around the room to simulate an 85°F dry summer day with a relative humidity of just 57 percent.
As we found, the phrase "up to" in Cool Surge's cooling claims does some heavy lifting: Our string of sensors showed the device failed to appreciably lower the room's overall temperature during a four-hour test.
We also tested the Cool Surge at an even drier, desertlike setting of 25 percent relative humidity, again, at 85°F. Even in these conditions, which are suitable for an evaporative cooler, we measured a mere 2 degrees of cooling during the four-hour test.
Because of its negligible cooling in our tests, we've given the Cool Surge portable air cooler our Don't Buy: Performance Problem judgment. (The Cool Surge has a built-in heater with a faux fireplace; we didn't test its heater nor did we test this product for safety.)
Confusing pricing policies and complaints about companies associated with Cool Surge also left us cold. The Cool Surge debuted in 2008 and was originally promoted by Universal TechTronics. The same company is a division of Heat Surge, which markets the Heat Surge Roll-n-Glow Electric Fireplace—also known as the Amish heater—and pushed a "free" DTV converter box that ultimately cost nearly $100 when you added in the mandatory warranty and shipping and handling fees.
We ordered the two Cool Surge units that we evaluated online and paid $298 for each, with no shipping charge. But when we later called the Web site's order line anonymously, we were told we'd have to pay $49 per unit for shipping, or nearly $100 if we had opted for the company's two-for-one offer. Another call using a different number listed in a Cool Surge newspaper ad yielded yet another price of $148 per unit—plus $49 shipping—for versions with "slight cosmetic damages." The two-for-one offer had apparently ended.
The Better Business Bureau warned consumers about Universal TechTronics' "misleading advertising campaign" for the DTV converter and gave the company an unsatisfactory rating based on its pattern of complaints. While the BBB says it has no complaints against Fridge Electric LLC, that company shares the same Canton, Ohio, address as Heat Surge.
A label on the Cool Surge units we evaluated referred to both Universal TechTronics and Heat Surge (shown). And when we checked the box, it listed all three names: Universal TechTronics, Heat Surge—and Fridge Electric.
We found no problems with the Amish heater in our evaluations earlier this year. But our research found that the Ohio Attorney General's Office had 55 complaints against Heat Surge that included the product and its marketer.
Bottom line: Buy an effective air conditioner if you want to cool a room; click here for the latest Ratings (available to subscribers). Or consider a fan if you want to save energy and feel cool from the blowing breeze; 20-inch models cost as little as $20 and use roughly 80 watts on their low setting—barely more than the 73 watts we measured for the Cool Surge on high.—Bob Markovich and Tod Marks | e-mail | Twitter | Forums | Facebook
I live in the desert where rooftop swamp coolers are practically standard equipment on many older homes and use only about 25% of the electricity of a whole-house air conditioning system, but even those very large cumbersome units have their drawbacks.
A humidity rate as low as 15% in the desert is very humid for us when the weather is hot causing swamp coolers to become ineffective. So they're testing it using a relative humidity rating of "just 57%"?
Swamp coolers require extremely dry air and an air source such as a cracked window or door in order to work properly.
I don't feel the little portable unit tested was given a fair chance. It's in the dry, desert heat is where a swamp cooler is most effective. They're not designed for humid conditions whatsoever.
Based on the conditions described in the article, the unit was destined to fail the test before the test even started.
The unit may have been "destined to fail" given the conditions used in the lab, but the companies' advertising doesn't say that swamp coolers do absolutely nothing in 90% of the country because the humidity levels are ALWAYS too high.
This is just another shady product, with deceptive marketing, from a company with serious customer service problems.
That might be (and it certainly seems to be the case), but as it's basically a portable swamp cooler, it would've been good to see how it would preform in favorable conditions (e.g. 5-10% relative humidity, about average for the southwest desert)
the fact that this product was not called the SCAM makes me wonder the lack of power CR has on issues...
Patricia, please read more carefully: they tested the unit in conditions with 25% humidity, and found it lowered the room temp only two degrees. And as Dean pointed out, the marketers don't tell the customers that their unit works only in arid settings.
Listen folks... any... repeat ANY TIME you see on a label: "MADE IN CHINA" Do not expect it to be worthwhile. (The only thing worse is "MADE IN FRANCE"). The company - Universal TechTronics, has been shown over and over as making worthless and lisleading claims.
As for Patricia's claim that the unit would only work in a desert condition, that would be like marking a heater to everyone in the US, but it only works in Antarctica!
I agree the unit is misadvertized and cost too much for what it does. Correct me if I am wrong, but I thouht swamp coolers, in addition to being useful only in a dry climate, did not really cool the air as much as they make an individual "feel" cooler by water vapor evaporating from the skin. If this is the case, it should be mentioned in the CR report. The frozem ice packs I assume would be the one feature that would actually cool the air, but apparently very little. I am appreciative CR evaluated this device, as I have been in the market for something similar. This is not the one!
Living in very humid Western Kentucky I found the CR report very informative. From the newspaper ad I didn't realize this was basically a "swamp cooler." Yes, I have lived in the desert before and evaporative coolers work very well in the right environment. I'm glad I looked up the CR article before putting my money down. I won't buy it.
On June 1, 2008 I purchased a 17,600 btu Samsung air conditioner from Lowe's. It "blew up" with smoke exiting inside and out on May 30, 2009, two days before the year warranty. It had worked and been looked after perfectly until that time.. The local repair shop commissioned to fix the unit ordered the parts from Samsung on June 2, 2009. They took the unit into their shop at that time, and were told by Samsung there would be a two week delay back-order for parts. I have tried contacting Samsung three times since (they have a recording...then no one replies for over 30 minutes). I have been without my air conditioner for a full month now in very hot weather. The local repair company has been as helpful as possible, but Samsung could have commissioned a custom part to be made in one month's time. I am fed up with using two fans in 90 degree weather. I wish Samsung to replace (i.e. bring in a free NEW unit of my choosing and reinstall in place). The new unit cannot be found at Lowe's. I also wish this to be a notice to Samsung that All of its products should be inspected as to honoring within reason EACH of its WARRANTIES! There should be a penalty for such practices!
It has nothing to do w China FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!! They make what the customer orders.
This company is about as worthless as it gets. They ARE China in that they find other people's products and try to knock them off/copy them. The guy that made this is from another company that makes the air-cooler-plus, which actually does work in all of the country because it doesn't use water, but high density ice packs. CR, perhaps you should test that one and see how it rates. They say it lowers the temperature 20 degrees on their website: www.waterlessaircooler.com.
Why don't we have a rating system for heaters and central air conditioners? Prices help too. We've donated our money and time so we won't get JAZZED and you guys fell short. The reports you give are peoples hit or miss product information which isn't very reliable. Let's get on the stick Consumer Reports. Home major appliances are just as important as cars. don't you think?
I called the company this morning, and found the dimensions of the "glacier ice blocks" are each 3" x 5" x 1". Two of them are about the size of a tray of ice cubes. He said they would last 8 hours each. WHen was the last time you put a tray of ice cubes on the counter in a hot room and found them still cold (much less frozen) 8 hours later?
In addition, the helpful phone salesman pointed out that "lots" of people are just putting ice cubes into the evaporative water tray instead of water, to get "better performance".
What a total scam.
Let us not forget that the two sets of reusable glacier ice blocks don't provide ice for free. It takes btu's (i.e. kw of electricity) to run the compressor for the freezer that makes these ice blocks. Go buy a room fan and place it behind some hanging wet towels that have water dripping on them from a faucet and you'll get the equivalent of what this rinky dink device provides.
So, in effect does that mean that we shouldn't buy 'any' portable evaporative coolers or just this particular brand? I ask this question because a very close friend of mine had a portable cooler for 'many' years in her home, which worked "wonderful" (good enough to cool off 1 1/2 rooms ) until the day her 'ex' took off with it, because it worked so good.
In my opinion, it sure would have been nice if Consumer Reports would have given some 'extra' information on the portable coolers 'that do' work, for those persons who are interested in them as well. Good job though as usual helping us consumers.
my parents bought this machine as 2 for 1 bargain..they kept one and gave the other to me.i live in a fairly small studio apartment the dallas area(texas)..the coolsurge actually works very well in my case.the apartment complex doesn't allow residents to install box air conditioners into the apartment windows ..it's amazing how well this unit works for me..but what's really great is the heater..it's been the coldest winter that dallas has had in several years..into the teens with wind chills below zero.the heater part of the coolsurge literally heats mt entire apartment in a matter of about 15-20 minutes and from then on it remains very warm and i sometimes have to switch the unit off for a while because it gets so hot..i've been using the unit for three months now..my electric bill dropped only a few dollars the first month i used the system..the last two months my bill dropped 10 dollars as i used the heater in the apartment(central system) off and on..i'm anxious to find out if it will continue to drop as i've now totally quit using the central heating here in the apartment and am just using the coolsurge./according to the other posts here,my case is probably rare as the coolsurge works real well for me.but the manner in which my apartment is built has alot to do with it.it's a studio,800 sq feet./400 sq feet downstairs and 400 upstairs.
i keep an electric fan blowing upstairs to distribute the heat from the coolsurge as i use it (the coolsurge)downstairs of course.as a heater,it's much more effective than any space heater that i've used before and i've had some really nice ones in the past/.
heater works great. and not every place you want to use this has windows like sheds etc i live in fl. we do not have furnaces only heat coils on the air system. expensive to heat during cold snaps. this heater serves it purpose. ,my parents sent me mine. it has wheels so i can move it around where i am. and by the way try buying any kind of portable heater in fl. limited supply. like generators in a hurricane -- heaters in a cold snap are -- SOLD OUT .
Any info on MIRA-COOL air conditioners by same company
Fridge Electric ?
What can you tell me about the Mira-Cool new miracle portable air conditioner that is now being sold is it anything like this
Cool Surge unit.
Live here in the Dallas/Ft Worth area and saw an ad today about this particular prouduct called MIRA-COOL and looks just like Cool Surge. To make this long story short, a full page ad says, the first 11,337 orders of MIRA-COOL in the 48hr order deadline will receive the second MIRA-COOL free. Pretty much its a buy 1 get 1 free, a steal at $298 not including shipping cost. Go to there website www.mira-cool.com. The product looks the same as Cool Surge, just more updated style look to it and no heater function, made by Fridge Electric... Coincidence, I think not. 11,337 units x $298 = $3,378,426
I'm also inquiring about the MIRA-COOL. (It's a air cooling unit).
Can anybody tell me if it actually works? I have one room in my house that gets the afternoon sun and it gets warmer than the rest of the house. Could anyone recommend something. I do not want a air-conditioner or vent in my window, because it interfers with the alarm system. Thanks!!!
y husband purchased 2 of these air coolers. I don't understand they sell a product without sending any manual. instruction.In the demonstration on the internet they don't say where to put the ice packs. Must the ice packs be placed in the refridgator for 2 hours and then put along in the water chamber below. Please let me know as the product is in the house I want to test it out. I don't like any products manufactured in China, because they don't do the job as it promises and breaks fast.
Evaporative coolers are with a healthy flow of air that is with without damage to the ozone so it is also very friendly with the environment. An evaporative cooler adapts a very natural way of cooling the home. It also has much more tenancy of fighting dust and pollen. Evaporative technology will work better as it is hotter outside.
I've had my Cool Surge just over a year now. I did the 2-for-one deal and I must say it worked well last summer and winter here in arid Colorado in my small apartment. Today however, I went to use the cooler and the pump is dead. Now all I have is an over-sized fan, and no parts available on their website! Save your money and go with American made products!
Well thank you CR for your report and saving me over $300. I was in the market as my air conditioner just died last night and the fact that I didn't have to vent like other portable air conditioners drew me to this cooler. Living in the Northeast all we have is high humidity. I would have been wasting my money. Thank you again!
So a Dallas ad ran June 9th for a Mira-Cool 2 for 1 deal for the first 11,337 readers. Here in Houston, seems like to same ad ran Sunday, July 11th with the same deal: 48-hours and first 11,337 readers to respond will get the 2 for 1 deal. Well, that really seems suspect to me!!!!
A few comments. . .
Evaporative coolers don't work just by cooling off the human. That's what a fan does. In arid Salt Lake City on a 90-degree day, my single swamp cooler can bring the house's temperature down to the low 70s. I constantly complain to my wife that I'm too cold.
In addition the the hidden monetary cost of freezing the Cool Surge's ice packs, there's an additional heat cost. When the freezer extracts the heat from the ice packs, guess where it goes? That's right, kids, it goes into your house. So you heat the house, then the packs re-absorb the heat as they're used, meaning you're paying energy for. . .nothing.
And for those defenders who point out that the product is viable since it barely works in dry locales, I should point out that the ads I've seen consider the entire contiguous U.S. to be their target market.
I've learned that when a full-page or two-page ad says the same thing over and over and over, without telling you how the product works is very likely a farce. I turn the page quickly.
I was doing some research on Mira-Cool after I saw their ad in USA Today. I found this helpful article in consumer reports and it helped me realize that Cool Surge and Mira-Cool are misleading their potential customers. Here is the blog I wrote on the topic:
If you really dont want to buy a window AC unit, then just get a fan and a spray bottle of water. You'll save $270!
These ads are running again here in Jackson Mississippi, where the humidity in the summer is above 50%. As I am a mechanical engineer, I immediately caught on to the principle of operation and also to the fact that it is useless in our climate. One factor that improves its performance is the chilled water using the ice packs (as opposed to using warmer tap water), but no one mentions the cost of freezing the ice packs continuously on a 6-hour cycle. According to the instructions, one pair of ice packs is in the freezer while the other pair is in the unit and they are changed out every 6 hours, so there is significant cost associated with running your freezer as it constantly refreezes your ice packs.
These types of coolers are effective in climates where relative humidity during the warmest hours of the day is 15% or less; they become less effective at higher RH. The addition of the ice packs makes an improvement but at additional cost. It's also important to circulate outside air through the house so the moisture introduced by the cooler can be expelled and replaced by dry air, otherwise the moisture buildup in the house will make the cooler ineffective.
Bottom line, if you live humid climates, this can't work - its not any more effective than a fan but costs a lot more.
MIRA-COOL appears to be just a repackaged version of the Cool Surge. I'm looking at a magazine advertisement for MIRA-COOL and low and behold... the company address is in Canton, OH. I'm beginning to think CANTON is an acronym for Con Artists aNd Thieves Of Nigeria.
I called the company and asked the customer service rep how it works. She said like the cooling system in the car. I reminded her she told me there was no coolant or compressor in the cooler. She agreed with me that she did say that. I had to explain to her that a car air conditioner in the car has coolant and a compressor. She really did not know how it worked or she was intentionally trained to deceive people because no person in their right mind is going to pay 600 dollars for a couple of units which blow air over ice cooled water you have to constantly restock with ice from your freezer. Oh, by the way, they got the scam going on here in Ohio as well. 498.00 for 2 with 97.00 dollars for shipping.
Hey Dad! Here is some unfortunate info about this air cooler!
People will say anything to hock AC units. Just ask professional which ones are best for you and your home.
My dad just bought 4 of the Mira Cool units. He gave me to of them and said I owed him around $400.00. I got the units home, opened up the boxes and was ready to use them. WHERE are the instructions? Do they not come with any? I put it together like I figured it goes and well, it works. But not like an air conditioner. As long as you are pretty close to it you can feel the cooler air. Cold no. I have had it on all day in the living room. It is 92 degres outside with 21% humidity. My thermometer in the living room says 82 degrees. Ugh. I really don't want the units and don't want to pay $400 for a glorified fans. There is no paper work at all in the boxes. How do I go about sending them back and getting the money back? Bummed
In your study you did not take in to account that evaporative coolers such as the Cool Surge need adequate ventilation, not a closed-in test room. You should try the Cool Surge again under the correct conditions.
Did you forget to mention that they only work in very arid environments? The Miracools are being pushed throughout the Southeast, hardly an arid environment.
Yes, I bought this unit but decided to cancel it because I could not afford it. After all is said and done, it was in shipment when I canceled it, they have kept $98 of my money.
They have returned 208.02 and I gave them $306.02.
I have made an online complaint with the Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The money was on my credit card and I was hoping I wouldn't have to pay a balance that included that debit later this month. I am quite upset that I will have to be paying that $98 to Bank of America on the 21st of this month.
They are hard sell, I let that go, but ripping me off like this is unforgivable.
It is called Mira Cool in Florida.
Please don't make the mistake that I made and buy a Mira Cool. This thing actually made my bedroom hotter!!! The warming unit worked maybe two or three times in the winter...then it started to fall apart! I feel so ripped off !
I purchased the two for one option for my senior parents mainly for the heating, but my Dad tested it out and reported back that no warm air was emitted. When I called to get my return authorization, the rep said that "the heat does'nt appear to be working well", but he was able to assist others and had also received some positive feedback. When I declined assistance, he gladly transferred me to another dept for the return. She offered to extend my trial period to troubleshoot but I again declined. I was told that I should expect return labels in 7 - 14 days and can schedule a fed ex pick up. Refund would be less S&H. Here's the rub - when I originally ordered the rep told me there was a money back guarantee including the shipping, however upon return I was told only the return shipping - so now I'm out $98 for the original shipping. I won't make that mistake again...CAVEAT EMPTOR!