A smart aircon which you can command from afar, Kogan's portable AC units let you heat or cool your home with a word. In terms of energy bills, portable AC units aren't necessarily the most cost-effective way to heat or cool your abode. Even so, they can make a lot of sense if you're renting, or if you're a homeowner whose budget doesn't stretch to a central air system.
Keep your cool
Kogan offers two portable reverse cycle units, a $899 4.1kW model designed to cover 30 square metres, and the more powerful $999 5.2kW model which ups this 35 square metres. Keep in mind these are the recommended prices but the Kogan site currently lists them at $300 less.
They're both on wheels but the term "portable" is a bit of a stretch when these AC units tip the scales at 29 and 44kg respectively. You certainly don't want to be lugging the big one up and down stairs.
Their bulk is due to the fact they're refrigerative coolers, with the option to switch to evaporative mode if you fill their water reservoir. It's not a fully self-evaporative model, so there will be times when you need to empty the water.
Evaporative mode saves power and keeps the noise down, as the compressor doesn't need to run, but it's not as effective. Evaporative cooling might be enough to get you through some hot days, but at the peak of summer you'll be grateful for true refrigerative cooling.
Hot and bothered
The trade-off is that when refrigerative mode kicks in the compressor starts pumping hot air out the back, which means you need to run the exhaust vent to the nearest window, also limiting the unit's portability.
Rather than leave the window wide open, you can use the supplied window kit to seal the gap, but it's only designed for windows which slide open. If your windows wind out on an angle then you'll need to jerry rig some way to plug that gap so your precious cool air doesn't escape.
The compressor is also quite loud if you're used to living with a split system where the noisy unit is outside. The 5.2kW unit is louder than a noisy dishwasher but certainly not up there with a vacuum cleaner; you need to crack up the television to hear the dialogue but that's a price you might be prepared to pay on a stinking hot day.
Stay in control
While these aircon units come with a standard infrared remote, you can also control them using Kogan's Smarter Home app for iOS and Android. You've access to all the aircon's features, letting you control it from the other side of the room or the other side of town.
The same app works with all of Kogan's Wi-Fi-enabled smart home gear, from light bulbs and door bells to heaters and coolers, which lets you create Scenes that mix and match different Kogan devices.
For example, you can create a Scene called Good Morning which turns on the aircon and adjusts the temperature while also switching on Kogan light bulbs and controlling other gear around your home.
In a step towards true home automation, these Scenes can be triggered by the Kogan devices around your home; such as automatically dimming the lights when the aircon switches to sleep mode. The app can also check the conditions in your location and control your smart devices according to the weather forecast, temperature, humidity or sunrise/sunset time.
Thankfully Kogan's Smarter Home ecosystem can also link to Google Assistant and Alexa so you can boss around your Kogan appliances via a smart speaker. You don't have same level of control as using the app, but you can ask a smart speaker to turn the unit on and off as well as adjust the temperature. If you want more control, you can tell your smart assistant to activate one of the Kogan Scenes.
So what's the verdict?
With a budget brand like Kogan you might be expecting a rather spartan ecosystem but Smarter Home's advanced automation features do an impressive job of tying together the smart home.
Smart features aside, a portable AC unit is a serious investment, so it's worth weighing up your options. Keep in mind 35 square metres is only the size of one decent room and these units aren't as portable as you might like – especially if you'll use refrigerative mode and need to attach the vent to the window.
Give some thought as to how you'll put your portable AC unit to work before you take the plunge this summer.