Dyson unveils a new portable heater

25 Mar
The Dyson Hot + Cold represents a complete rethink in portable heater technology.

The Dyson Hot + Cold represents a complete rethink in portable heater technology.

On hearing the word “Dyson,” one tends to think about vacuum cleaners.

I was surprised but intrigued then, when a Dyson rep invited me recently to test drive the AM05, their new forced-air heater (and cooling fan) also known as the Hot + Cold. I readily agreed, having seen some advance advertising for the device, which is every bit as bold as the vacuum cleaner in its industrial design.

The fan motor is contained in a cylindrical base about 6 inches in diameter. Mounted on top is the attention-getter, the fan assembly, though “fan” is not the word I’d use. The warm air emanates from what looks like a mirror without the glass – an elongated oval-shaped assembly with no visible moving parts. Indeed, this is how a teleportation machine will look, when they finally invent one.

Like the Dyson vacuum and its root cyclone technology, the Hot + Cold purports to offer innovation in the form of “Air Multiplier” technology and a motor engineered for greater airflow.

According to press materials, the Hot + Cold draws in “28 litres of air per second via a mixed flow impeller. Air friction is reduced using nine asymmetrically aligned fins, with rows of tiny holes. This helps maintain constant smooth airflow.”

In plain language, I think this means they borrow a little from the propulsion technology in the vacuum cleaner, which is indeed impressive. The air is warmed by blowing it across two heated ceramic plates on their way to the exit, at the back edge of the large oval. Here’s some more science talk:

“The air is then accelerated through a tiny aperture set within the loop amplifier. This creates a jet of air which passes over an airfoil-shaped ramp angled at 5 degrees. Creating an area of low pressure behind the fan, air is drawn in through a process known as inducement. Surrounding air is drawn into the airflow in a process called entrainment.”

What all that means, I think, is that if you blow air in a donut shape, the air in the centre of the donut is going to be pulled along by the force of the air around it. And fair enough. But does it work?

I’ve been using the Hot + Cold for close to a month now, through some spells of bitterly cold weather, so I’ve really put it through the paces.

The Hot + Cold seems more advanced than other portable heaters with an internal thermostat that cuts out when the room reaches the desired temperature, which you control with a wireless remote. You can set the fan speed, from a gentle breeze to a strong wind, and there is an oscillating option as well. But its strongest selling point is increased efficiency: the Hot + Cold is rated at 1500 watts but claims to use 30 percent less power to heat a room. I have no way of measuring this in the near term but it does ring true, because the fan doesn’t seem to consume as much power on the heating side, seemingly using increased air circulation to distribute the heat more efficiently and effectively.

The Hot + Cold did not immediately impress me. On the first use I placed the heater, perhaps too ambitiously, in my open concept living room/dining room/kitchen/hallway, which has an area of more than 700 square feet (and more when the bedroom doors are open). The fan was overwhelmed, I fear, by this large area. It was bitterly cold outdoors (about 20 below, with wind chill) and the house was uncomfortably cold that morning when I set the Hot + Cold at 18 degrees C. It was still working to reach that temperature six hours later, though the room had warmed noticeably.

Next, I tried it in a bedroom with the door shut. Within an hour it cut out, having reached 18 degrees. It switched on and off several times over the next few hours, keeping the room comfortably warm. I had similar results in my home office, also a compact space.

It was time for a major challenge. There are two large family rooms in my downstairs, including one that is seldom used and never heated, with an area of about 350 square feet. It adjoins the cold, unfinished basement and is fully open to the split entrance where warm air constantly rises, so it’s just not efficient to keep the room heated. Besides, who wants to exercise in a warm room?

If the fan could heat that room, well, I’d be impressed. I set the Hot + Cold at 18 and went about my business. Three hours later, the entire room was warm, and the heater was cutting in and out intermittently, totally in control of the situation. My son came in the front door and said “Wow, it’s warm on the landing! What’s up with that?”

If I can keep that room warm with one portable heater, rather than the power-sucking baseboards along the wall, it will be much easier to heat the rest of the house. The Hot + Cold rose to that challenge, so I decided to try it again in the open living area upstairs.

This time, it was just below freezing outdoors, and the space was still morning-cold. I set the Hot + Cold at 18 and within three hours, the room was toasty warm and the heater had cut out, mission accomplished.

The device also works as a room-cooling fan in the summertime, but has no refrigerant properties – it just moves the air around. However, Dyson clams that the fan can lower energy bills by 20 percent, when used with air conditioning.

As with other Dyson technology, the Hot + Cold does not come cheap, retailing for $450. At that price, it’s going to take a while to pay for itself in energy savings. But if you are looking for an effective and reliable portable heater, it does fill the bill. It would also be a good home heating backup in the event of a power failure, if you have a 1500-watt generator.

Bottom line: the Dyson Hot + Cold represents a complete rethink in portable heater technology, and is worth owning if you can handle the hefty price tag.

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