Thursday, June 16, 2011

ArticPro Air Conditioners -- Not Free, and Not the Best Choice

It's been several months since I saw an ad in the local papers from the Universal Media Syndicate, but their newest product appears to follow the pattern of their many earlier offers.

Today's Star Tribune contained this full-page ad for an ArcticPro™ portable air conditioner:

Full page ad for ArcticPro air conditioner by Universal Media Syndicate
The UMS designers have outdone themselves in making the ad appear to be a free giveaway. The use of a black reversed box at top left with MINNESOTA DISTRIBUTION NOTICE and the year just above it, I would say, is designed to mimic the look of government notices, such as IRS publications. There's the usual UMS limited availability offer (only 1,573 units!), now embellished with a county-by-county listing that makes the ad look even more official.

Nowhere in the top half of the ad is a price given or the fact that you have to buy the machines even mentioned -- for instance, there's no price called out in larger type with a dollar sign anywhere in the ad, including the call to action box at lower right.

The price is there, though -- written out as "three hundred ninety-eight dollars and shipping" in two spots.

Close up of the ad text, highlighting how the price is written as words instead of numbers
This price-hiding is typical of many UMS ads. I wonder what percent of callers start out expecting a free product, and how many of them order anyway once they hear the price? How does hiding the price help UMS sell products, aside from the chance it gives them to pressure gullible people who call based on false assumptions?

The ad includes many of the usual UMS bits of puffery: "ice cold air," the product is developed at their "highly-secured testing laboratory" even though it is "being called a work of engineering genius from the China coast."

The ad's "expert," Ryan Berry, opines that central air conditioning wastes energy because you cool parts of your home you're not using, and that window units "are even worse because they weigh so much they're nearly impossible to move."

According to Consumer Reports, however, portable air conditioners like the ArcticPro should be a choice of last resort -- they work half as efficiently as window units and don't cool nearly as well (the room used in the CR test was not cooled by a 10,000 BTU portable unit).

Hey, speaking of BTUs, how many does the ArcticPro have? Surprise! That all-important detail is not given in the ad or on the website, as far as I could tell. Other technical details are given in the FAQ, but not the BTUs. However, since the number of watts drawn is listed (900w/7.8a), I used a handy calculator to figure out that ArcticPro is a 3,073 BTU unit -- less than a third the power of the units tested by Consumer Reports, which they found insufficient to cool their test room.

The ad makes the ArcticPro unit look very portable. While it does have wheels, it's not as obvious that it weighs 60 pounds, so if you wanted to take it up a set of stairs, it's not exactly light. And while the ad does mention something about having to vent the unit, I'd bet readers are unlikely to realize they have to run a wide rubber hose from its back to a window, which has to be fitted with a plastic slot thingy that's stuck to your window with "self-adhesive foam."

Close up of the photos in the ad, showing elderly people in easy chairs with no windows visible, a child rolling one of the units, and a woman sleeping with blankets next to a unit near a window
Hmm, no obvious rubber hoses are pictured in the ad -- it looks as though I could just roll it anywhere, anytime --why, even a child could do it! In two of the photos, there's not even a window anywhere nearby: It looks as though the people are sitting in the middle of the room.

The inefficiency of portable air conditioners, according to Consumer Reports, is all about that hose. Because there's only one, the unit has to draw air from the room around it, and that's more inefficient than drawing air from outside. Second, the longer the exhaust hose, the more inefficient it is -- using any hose at all is bad, it sounds like, compared to a window unit that doesn't need one. The ArcticPro instructions say that the hose should run a minimum of 1.5 and a maximum of 5 feet from the window. CR says that half the energy used by these types of units is wasted.

What about noise? Again according to Consumer Reports, these types of portable air conditioners tend to be loud, since all of the noisy bits are right there in the room with you -- not even part of it is hanging outside, as with a window unit.

The ad claims that the units require "about 10¢ an hour of electricity." If it ran 24 hours a day over a month, that would be about $70 a month. As far as I can tell from looking at my electric bills, my central air costs less to run. (I calculated that by comparing a May bill, when the air conditioning is not in use, with an August bill, and the August bill was around $50 more.) Now, neither I nor a person running an ArcticPro would run it 24 hours a day, but you get the idea. It doesn't exactly support the ad's claim that "With all the money you save over central air, these high performance portable air conditioners pay for themselves in just a matter of weeks. After that, they just keep on putting cash in your pocket month after month."

One thing I can say about ArcticPro product is that it doesn't appear to be overpriced the way many of the other products sold in Universal Media Syndicate ads are, in my opinion. At $398, compared to the $650 price mentioned by Consumer Reports for a 10,000 BTU unit, it's a bargain... except that it has a third of the BTUs of the $650 units, so that's about a third less money for two-thirds less cooling. Hmm. Maybe it's not such a deal after all.

The thing to remember is this, in the final words of the Consumer Reports article: "We suggest you consider a portable unit only if having a window unit is out of the question and a split ductless system is not viable because of cost or installation concerns. If you do decide to buy a portable unit, choose a model that has two hoses and evaporates the condensed water."


Jbest said...

Your report on the Arctic Pro was very informative. Love the small marketing slight-of-hand exposures you picked up on.
One important item that glared out to me was the lack of manufacture location. In our current recession gutted/unemployment-ridden America, the morning newspaper has a full-page ad for U Media Syndicate (Arctic Pro) with the lead photo 4.5" x 7.5" deceptively implying American manufacture. Note the flag on the guy's hat and the sleeve of the guy in the background. Is this supposed to imply assembly here, or Canton Ohio? The pic tag line implies National Distribution Center of "Fridge Electric" Wow, seems like ole home week for American manufacturing...... er maybe they're just loading boxes from a Chinese ship container into a decorated stateside semitrailer? How much is enough? Reminds me of a circus side show ruse !

Daughter Number Three said...

Good point about the "factory" picture. Thanks for adding that to the analysis.

Old Ned said...

Thank you very much for this posting. Today the company ran essentially the same ad in the Chicago area (along with copy stating they would begin taking orders at 8:30 am and that there is a 48 hour deadline of some kind) and, while on my morning commute, I fell for the offer and called the company to place an order. Fortunately, I did come to my senses a few hours later and decided to do a little online research, bringing me to this blog entry. To make a long story short, I just called the company and cancelled the order. Thanks for saving me $400.

Chris X. Moloney said...

GREAT summary. I saw an ad and almost bought some for an office that has no window at work and cannot get cool. THANKS for saving me from a bad purchase. The ad was in USA TODAY and a full page. They must sell at ton.

Richard said...

Great post. Today 7/30/11 they have an add in the LA Times that there are 156 ArticPro units available for the state of CA. That works out to 3 units per county listed! Are these guys nuts?

Richard said...

Today 7/30/11 they are offering 156 units for the entire state of CA. That's 3 units per county! Better call right now so I can nab one of these.



PhoenixPhun said...

Ad was run in Arizona on 08/04/12. My 87 yr old Father was going to buy this. Told him I'd check it out. Ad states it's released by County. The Counties have nothing to do with this. It's not an A/C, it's an EVAP System. I was told it was 7,000 BTU's when it's actually 3,000. I was told no venting is necessary. I was told "it covers 235CFM which is equivelant to an 18x18 room". I was told it holds 1.8 liters of water.
Home Depot has a Champion, 350CFM, holds 6 gal for $205. Home Depot also has a Champion, 700CFM for $249.
I wonder how many Senior Citizens were ripped off by this ad. I'm sending a copy to our Atty General.

Daughter Number Three said...

Good luck with your attorney general, PhoenixPhun!

Barb said...

Actually, I bought two. One for myself and one for my sister. We both LOVE them. They serve their purpose for the price I paid.

No complaints from this consumer.

You don't need the hose if you use it in the interior parts of the room ... as long as it does not abut a wall and has "ventilation." It has a remote which is convenient and you can position the louvers for maximum focus.

Daughter Number Three said...

Barb, I don't know what it means for the unit to have "ventilation" if it's not being vented outside the room or the house. Otherwise it's just an expensive fan.

Villager said...

You are making a mistake (just like I did) in thinking that an air conditioner can't pump more heat out of the room than the energy it takes to run the compressor and fans. This particular unit has an EER or about 8. It's calculated in a screwy way by dividing the BTUs of cooling by the watts of power consumption. A better way to think about it is that it pumps 7000 BTU of heat energy from the room into the hose and out the window. The hot air coming out the back contains the 7000 BTU from the front plus the 3000 BTU of waste heat from the conversion. 7000 BTUs get sucked out the room and 10000 BTUs get exhausted through the hose. Hope that makes sense.

I ordered one of these on Ebay for $200 including free Fedex shipping. I think that's a good price. Here's the item number 230807930801 - they have more available. I'm not associated with this outfit except by buying a unit from them.

I'm buying mine to act as a spot cooler for my easy chair and my work area. I ordered a separate 16' 6" diameter exhaust extension hose that I will trim to size. The hose on the back of the AC is 5" so it will be easy enough to shove it into the larger hose and seal it off with a couple of old socks.

If the additional hose length poses a problem I will add one of those little exhaust fans that look like a section of 6" ducting pipe. It adds 35 watts of power consumption but I suspect it will increase the efficiency of the AC by over ten percent.

These are total ripoffs at $400 but I think they offer good value for spot applications at $200.