Innovative Air Conditioner Is Quieter and Uses Less Energy

(p. B5) There is nothing cool about window air conditioners.

They’re clunky, ugly and tend to be way too loud. Most of them are more or less identical and have been for a long time: same temperature, same efficiency, same fear of falling out the window during installation.

“There was no meaningful performance difference from unit to unit,” said Liam McCabe, a seasoned window-AC product reviewer. “Everything was a rectangular heavy box.”

At least until a sleeker, quieter, U-shaped AC came along that looked and sounded unlike any that had ever been made. It also produced less noise and required less energy, which solved the biggest problems of window air conditioners. These machines work if you turn them on and never have to think about them again. This one worked so well that it had the opposite effect. It made people completely obsessed with their air conditioning.

. . .

They had reasons to be cynical when they heard about a company disrupting window ACs, which had become commoditized in the century since the first one was patented. But when they tried it out, they found themselves blown away. Wired and Wirecutter both picked the U-shaped AC as the best on the market, and it defied everything McCabe thought he knew about window air conditioners. His years of reviewing the same old boring products turned out to be useful preparation for recognizing one that was totally different and entirely new.

“It fried my brain a bit,” he told me. “I remember thinking: This is too good to be true.”

. . .

There wasn’t much innovation or investment in ACs, said Kurt Jovais, Midea America’s president. His company would come to believe that the window AC had been undervalued.

“We know there’s a better way,” he recalled thinking. “We’re going to make sure we find what that better way is.”

That was Adam Schultz’s job. Midea America’s project manager for residential air conditioning was responsible for turning concepts into a product that wasn’t an eyesore. The quest for a less noisy, more efficient unit inspired his team to design a prototype in the shape of a U. Instead of squeezing a noise dampener inside the box to muffle noise, they essentially split the box in two and stuck the annoying clanks and thunks outside.

That is, the secret to making a better window air conditioner was taking advantage of the window.

The clever engineering solution wasn’t just effective. It was intuitive. All you had to do was look at the U shape and you would see why this AC sounds like a library.

“The window is a sound barrier,” Schultz said.

That wasn’t the only benefit of the unorthodox design. The variable-speed inverter compressor uses less energy, which means you can keep it cranking without having to worry about utility bills. You can also open your window for unconditioned fresh air, rather than bolting it down to a giant box during installation.

For the full commentary, see:

Ben Cohen. “SCIENCE OF SUCCESS; The Ingenuity Behind This Air Conditioner Will Blow U Away.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, June 17, 2023): B5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date June 15, 2023, and has the title “SCIENCE OF SUCCESS; How Did the World’s Coolest Air Conditioner Get So Hot?”)

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