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Believe the universally subpar reviews.

Northern Chill Mini Air Cooler (Various)

Personal “air coolers” seem to be a thing now. And why not? They take the proven idea of a personal fan, and add an element of air conditioning to it. Who hasn’t been let down by a fan blowing around hot air on a hot day when their A/C goes out? I see a lot of hands raised, so there is clearly a market for such a product.

And that’s probably why there are a million different ones available from a million different manufacturers. Well, actually, it looks like there are only a handful of different designs, but a million different companies selling them. Seems like a private label thing going on here…

At any rate, I got my hands on one to try one out. Even better? We didn’t even have to spend a single dime. My wife’s grandparents – who we were caretaking for while her grandfather recovered from pneumonia – had one set up in our room. I don’t know where it came from – we had stayed a few nights not even a full week prior and it wasn’t there – but we were grateful. They’re the prototypical old people who are always cold no matter what the temperature is, so their A/C is consistently set to 75 (or higher). That made bedtime pretty darn uncomfortable on some nights, when I’d wake up drenched in sweat. This was definitely a welcome addition.

Like I said, I’m pretty sure all of these are basically the same, but our unit had three settings: fan, humidifier, and “air cooler”. The first two are pretty self explanatory: The fan blows around air, while the humidifier puts moisture into it, via a 400mL water tank. But the last setting is where it’s at: To cool things down, add ice water to the tank instead, and voila! Instant air conditioning! Or so they claim…

A Northern Chill Mini Air Cooler, outside of its packaging
It’s portable…at least that claim wasn’t exaggerated.

Honestly, the negative reviews are right: They don’t work. Well, the “air cooler” aspect doesn’t work, anyway…it does still qualify as a fan because it does blow around air. Adding ice water to the water tank did not increase cold air flow whatsoever; at least, not to a noticeable degree (pun intended). And I’m not one of those people who had high (read: unrealistic) expectations, like this would cool down an entire 3000 square foot room. I had it sitting directly on me for about half an hour, from about ten feet away. It might not be the most scientific way to test a hypothesis, but I was hot before I turned this on, and I was still hot afterwards. Maybe I was technically one or two degrees cooler, but I didn’t feel any better. So, in other words, these are pretty much junk.

However, there are two other redeeming qualities that prevent this from being complete garbage: The noise, and the built-in LED light. My grandparents-in-laws’ house gets uncomfortably silent at night, and we found this was the perfect frequency to cut through it. That alone helped us sleep a little bit, even if we were still hot once we’d wake up in the middle of the night. And while we didn’t have a need for it, the LED light function could be helpful as a night light. Or it could just be used as mood lighting – or just to look cool – as the light can be changed to one of seven different colors.

If you are looking for a fan, a light and a white noise machine, you have all of it here in one compact package. If, however, you’re looking for a personal air cooler, you’re going to be disappointed. I suppose if you’re still on the fence and want to test it out for yourselves, these are cheap enough that they won’t break the bank. But let’s just say they all have lackluster reviews for a reason.

Overall: 3/10. These are pretty worthless for their intended use. Even after adding ice water to the tray, we noticed no noticeable difference after 30 minutes. And it was sitting directly on us from about 10 feet away. However, they do serve some sort of purpose, which prevents them from being totally worthless: There’s a built-in, color-changing LED light, and the fan itself functions well as white noise. It’s a shame the “air cooler” component doesn’t work, because there’s definitely a market for something much less expensive than an air conditioner.

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