Published on August 27th, 2011 | by Greg0
Hot? Cool? Solve Both With The Portable DeLonghi PAC 130HPE
One weird thing about San Francisco- despite the complaints of Mark Twain and many others, it’s generally pretty nice around these parts. Sure, we’re based in the Mission, the sunniest of the local microclimates. And yes, the South Bay and East Bay are probably even nicer. But we don’t strain into the high temperatures that plague much of the country, and while we might need some heating to stay cozy every now and then, it won’t be snowing or even getting frosty but on the rarest of occasions.
These mean that we don’t have much need for constantly running air conditioners, nor do we have the sort of heating issues that you might find in the Midwest or the East Coast. But that doesn’t mean that we never need a unit- it’s just hard to know which one we will need, and the only thing for certain is that Bay Area residents won’t need much of either type of temperature adjustment for long until the weather swings the other direction. We recently needed a decent-sized unit for our offices, which were utterly unequipped for climate control, but we wanted a portable unit that could hide unobtrusively and handle both heating and cooling duties. We wanted, in short, the DeLonghi PAC 130HPE.
A product big enough to have not one but two sites to itself deserves some technical examination. The most important measure, as always, is the BTU count- and this air-to-air unit offers up 13000 of them. During colder times, it can also crank up to 3800 watts of heating power. We mostly have been using the A/C function, but did test the heating elements a bit. Setup was pretty easy, once the unit was unpacked and out of the box, and hauled into place. An exhaust hose and window bracket are included, though our particular location required a bit of extra work we have primarily swing-out windows. After some worrying, we found a way to vent through a smaller window. We liked that there was no drip tray to worry about, or really much condensation at all- the unit recycles moisture and handled it pretty well.
One of the most frustrating parts of any air conditioner is the noise- and unfortunately, the PAC 130HPE (part of their Pinguino line) isn’t quiet. Three modes are available, offering a trio of fan speeds, but none that allowed us to fall asleep nearby the unit easily. It certainly wasn’t a grating noise- just a consistent hum. We liked the power of this unit- it is rated to handle a 450 square foot room- and though we weren’t trying to overcome Southwest sunshine, we managed a comfortable five-degree drop without waiting too long, in a room about 400 square feet. The unit’s instruction manual seemed to chide us a bit- suggesting that we turn off heat sources and block out the sun to help prevent heat. We took the advice, and primarily used the Smart function to let the unit decide what was best for us.
What was good for the room, though, wasn’t great for our backs. Despite the built-in handles, and the decent wheels (which can lock), the unit still weighed over 70 pounds. ‘Portable’, we suppose, but definitely not something you want to move around all that often. Getting it up a flight of stairs proved to be a brutal task, requiring us to call in folks from beyond our writer’s pool- most of us aren’t exactly bulky. And once in place, we were saddened that the vent cannot be redirected- it blows air in a fixed direction. The remote control was handy if not attractive, as was the on-board LCD screen with a 24-hour timer that allows you to setup your desired hours of operation.
Heating operation wasn’t as impressive as the size might suggest, but that’s perhaps because it didn’t seem directed for the best efficiency. A small space heater can get closer to you, and point directly at you, so if you aren’t trying to heat or cool a larger area, then you might be better off with one of those. The same was true to a lesser extent of the dehumidifier function- other special-purpose models that we’ve tested have done a better job, in a smaller and cheaper package. But there was no question that this unit could handle it well (and relatively quietly). One function that it didn’t offer was an interesting omission- air purification, something that is often missing from A/C units but would be handy.
Overall, this unit might be overkill for some folks, and not enough for others. It suffers a bit from trying to do several things, but that’s a good part of why we liked it- for our purposes, it was perfect, offering a blend of heating and cooling in the right place at the right time. If you’re suffering from a heat wave and 100 degree plus temperatures, this isn’t the unit for you (and we suggest moving here). The same is true if you are freezing. If you are trying to leave it in one place for good, consider a more permanent solution; the same if you want something truly portable to take around regularly. But for the folks in between, with an apartment or good-size room that could just use some extra heating or cooling and who like the ability to shift the location or easily hide it in a closet, the DeLonghi PAC-130HPE. At $600 or so including shipping, we can’t suggest it for everyone. But it so far has held up well, and though it won’t be giving the Rabbit Air any competition in looks, it gets multiple jobs done nicely.