If your summer plans say air conditioner but your wallet says no, the Princess Smart Air Cooler provides a budget-friendly alternative that’ll make a big difference to your comfort on hot, sticky days. But you’ll need to be prepared for a bit of maintenance.
If you struggled while working from home during the sweltering days of last summer or suffered through unpleasantly hot nights, you may well be looking for a way to make this year a bit more bearable.
There are plenty of solutions available. A fan will help to keep you comfortable but it won’t actually lower the temperature of the room. An air conditioner will – but it’s pricey to buy and run.
Enter the Princess Smart Air Cooler from Dutch heating and cooling brand Princess. It’s an evaporative cooler that uses water (and ice) to chill the air. You can also control it via your smartphone.
Not only is it a much more budget-friendly buy than an air conditioner, it’s a lot cheaper to run. It’s a 70W appliance, so (using my tariff to calculate), it’ll cost around 3p an hour to run. When we tested the Midea Comfee 9000 BTU air conditioner, we found that its running cost was around 36p an hour.
Design and build
Light, portable and compact
On-appliance controls, remote and app
Short power cable
The Princess Smart Air Cooler is a white, column-shaped fan with vents across much of the front of its body, meaning plenty of airflow. It has a small footprint at 22cm x 27cm and stands approximately 75cm tall.
It’s not a design-led appliance like the Princess Smart Heating and Cooling Tower – or any Dyson cooling fan – but it’s compact and unobtrusive.
It’s light enough to carry comfortably and it has a handle on the side, so it’s easy to move around to your desired location but bear in mind that once it’s set up, it’ll have water in the open-topped tank in the base, so you’ll need to be careful not to slosh it around.
One thing to bear in mind is that although the power lead is over 150cm, it’s attached to the top of the appliance, so you lose around 70cm just reaching back down to the floor.
On top, at the front of the appliance, is a touchscreen control panel and display.
Emma Rowley / Foundry
Using the control panel, you can switch the appliance on and off, change the mode and fan speed, set the timer, turn the oscillation on and off, and turn on the cool mode. You can also control it in the same way using the included remote control.
Emma Rowley / Foundry
Easy to use smart features
Scheduling and scenes via app
We had issues using with Alexa
But as it’s a smart appliance, you also have the option of doing all of this via the Princess app on your smartphone, as well as creating scenes. You could, for example, set it to come on whenever the temperature rises above 25°C or schedule it to come on at the same time every day.
The app is free to download and use and available for Android and iOS. It’s simply designed and simple to use as well.
Via the app, you can also link it to your Alexa or Google Assistant smart speaker so you can switch it on and off with a voice command and add it to scenes.
I tested it with Alexa and although enabling the skill was a straightforward business, nothing else worked. Alexa was able to find the Princess skill but not the appliance itself. Instead, I had a frustrating time trying to find the appliance via the Alexa app and then several fun conversations with Alexa about other things I might want to switch on instead.
The Princess Smart Air Cooler is easy to set up (Alexa issues aside). If you want, you can just switch it on and use it as a standard fan.
But using the cooling function isn’t difficult. In the base is a large, 3.5 litre water tank. You can fill it in situ (ideally with a jug of water from the fridge) but if you need to remove the tank it’s a bit of a faff as you have to reach in and unclip the pump from its base.
Emma Rowley / Foundry
For extra cooling, you can fill and freeze the included ice packs and drop them into the tank. They take around an hour in the freezer.
Emma Rowley / Foundry
There’s a window in the front of the appliance so you can see the water level at a glance but if you don’t notice that it has emptied, there’s also a water sensor. You’ll see the cool icon on the display flash as a reminder, and there will be an in-app alert.
Switch on the cooling setting and you’ll notice a huge difference to the temperature of the air blown out. You’ll really appreciate it on a sticky summer day.
But there are a couple of downsides to using it. The first is that it makes a constant trickling sound in operation. It’s not unpleasant but it is noticeable.
Second, it’s not a child-friendly appliance. The water tank does not have a lid and just sits in the bottom of the appliance. It would be all too easy for a toddler to access.
There’s also the fact that when you add water to an electric appliance, there’s always a slight risk. The smart air cooler isn’t easy to knock over (I tried it) but never say never when pets or kids are around.
And finally, it’s another thing you’re bringing into your home that you’ll need to remember to clean. The manual recommends that you empty and clean the tank every three days. And you really should – it’s not a great idea to let bacteria multiply and then blow them all around your home.
But to clean the tank, you need to remove it from the cooler, and that’s a bit of a fiddly job.
Still, we reckon it’s worth it.
There are three fan speed settings. Choose the first and you’ll be able to drift off to sleep with it on. The second fan setting is a bit harder to ignore but you can still work while it’s on and you’ll be glad of it on a roasting day.
The powerful third setting is accompanied by an escalation in machine noise that means you’ll be unlikely to want to use it.
As well as oscillating, the fan has three modes: normal, natural and sleep. I don’t know anyone who enjoys the random natural setting on fans but the start-stop functioning of this one is particularly distracting.
The scheduling feature is great, allowing you to choose specific days of the week, so if you use it in a home office, you could set it to switch off every weekday evening at 5.30 and never have to remember to turn it off when you finish work.
There’s also a timer that’ll allow you to switch it off up to 24 hours in advance, in increments of an hour.
Price and availability
The Princess Smart Air Cooler is not available in the US.
In the UK, you can buy it from Amazon, B&Q, Wickes and Toolstation. At the time of writing, there’s no price advantage to buying from any retailer.
We think this is a really well-priced appliance that’s only a little bit more than a good quality standing fan – and less than some. To see the alternatives we’d recommend, have a look at our round-up of the best fans we’ve tested.
We really like the Princess Smart Air Cooler. It’s a clever concept that’s easy to use and highly effective. However, it’s not the quietest fan in use. And, because it has a water tank that’s difficult to remove but which does need regular cleaning, you’ll need to spend a little longer taking care of it than you would a regular fan.
If you’re considering an air conditioner, we’ve reviewed two smaller, portable options: the Midea Comfee and the Russell Hobbs 9000BTU.