Gizmos to guarantee a Cool Summer Night

Chili pad 1
Chili pad 1
Posted: July 18, 2012

ARE YOU DEPRAVED on account of being deprived? Walking around groggy and grumpy 'cause you didn't get a good night's sleep?

Brothers and sisters, you need to chill.

Even in optimal climatic conditions, most American adults experience some sleep deprivation, whispers the National Sleep Foundation. Tack on a summer heat wave, boiling our skin, drenching us in sweat. Now there's no way in hell (and yeah it feels like that) we're gonna sleep easy.

Yes, there's always the "crank-up-the-air-conditioning-to-11" solution — if you're lucky to have it and can stomach the cost to run it. Many's the AC user who counts coins dropping into the electric-company coffers instead of sheep.

That's where the Gizmo Guy aims to help today, with a passel of products to chill you out — or at least lay a pretty good breeze on — in a more environmentally friendly, efficient and thus affordable fashion.

Todd Youngblood was born to the cause of a better night's sleep. His uncle Charles Hall created the modern water bed — adding a thermostat-controlled heater to that undulating pod of pleasure.

Youngblood and his wife Tara's first claim to slumber fame was the inflatable EZ Bed. Now they're saving marriages and sanity with the Chili Pad — a high-tech, temperature-controlled replacement for a traditional mattress cover that helps keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

The Chili Pad ?has hidden channels of soft silicon tubing filled with circulating water. The water is pumped through a small temperature-modifying box that sits on the floor — best at the foot, I've found. Turn that thing on (either on the box or with the wireless remote) and a glowing LED screen shows the current temperature of the bed — say 75. Tap the down arrow and enter buttons to change the temp to, say, 69 or 70 degrees (my ideal). Four minutes later, it's properly chilled. Even after 98.6 degrees of you climb into bed, the system holds the pad temp without breaking a sweat or pumping its fan faster than a pleasant whir.

Marketers at Chili Technology suggest pad users can raise the room AC temperature several degrees without distress, saving a lot in energy consumption. There's also a timer to turn off the Chili Pad after you're in Snoozeville. But be warned: Once you're spoiled by this climate-changer, it's not fun to wake up prematurely because the switched-off pad temp has shot to 84.

The best two-zone/two-control box models for queen ($899) and king ($999) beds allow both occupants to control their own sides of the bed independently. In the Brookstone catalog, we also found a "half Queen, single remote" Chili Pad for $399 and "half King single remote" for $499. These let one bed-occupant adjust the temp on his/her side while the other party lives with the bed temp "as is." If one bed-sitter has more comfort issues in the summer and the other in winter, you could flip the Chili Pad and share its climate-shifting seasonally. And unlike traditional heating blankets, there's no scary electrical circuitry running through a winterized, now water-warmed Chili Pad.

Can we be blunt? When living alone, it's no big deal to sprawl naked on a single sheet with a big old box or rotating fan blowing air on your skin. But appearances count more when you've got a mate and kids running into the bedroom. And truthfully, many of us need a top sheet on even in the wretched heat, or we can't sink psychologically into sleep mode.

The Brookstone Bed Fan with Wireless Remote might be your ideal solution. And at $99.99, it's a relative steal compared with a Chili Pad.

Looking like a modern periscope, the Bed Fan's floor-sitting base hides two fans that draw in cooler air from under the bed and push the air up a slim, adjustable chute with a curved top that you tuck between the sheets, preferably from the bottom of the bed (where the gizmo's easiest to hide). A wireless rotating-knob remote control helps adjust the breeze to taste — from just toe-tingling to full body-blowing. But be forewarned: When cranked to max, the air flow can billow up untucked sheets, and fan noise becomes unavoidable.

Improved appearance and peace of mind also count for a lot with two new? room fans ?Gizmo Guy's been testing.

The floor-standing, cylindrical Holmes 32-inch Oscillating Tower Fan ($40 at Target) isn't tall enough to blow air onto your bed — unless you sleep on a tatami. But this slim-line circulator is terrific for improving cool-air flow through a house, pushing its breeze at least 25 feet across a room or down a hall when set at top speed and in full-on mode. (There's also a curious Breeze option, which blows for 12 to 14 seconds, then goes into a lull for about four seconds). You'll also appreciate the Holmes Tower's low noise level, small footprint and hidden blade placement.

The Dyson AM01 Air Multiplier looks like a table fan that wasn't properly put together. There's a big, rotating circular ring frame but no visible blade (the fan's hiding in the base). Air is magically drawn up and amplified through that ring — inspired by the cowling of an airplane's jet engine — to push a good volume of breeze as far as 20 feet. So this "bladeless" air mover is super-safe for use around children. The innovative Dyson also eliminates "buffeting" (uneven air flutter) but is not especially quiet. The snazzy industrial design also makes quite the statement — aesthetically and on the credit card — costing $299.

Went to a very hot (95-degree) afternoon party at our friends Jane and John's house to meet their newborn. So did a dozen other pals. We also got to meet their new climate-control buddy — one of those curious portable air conditioners that are inside the house and easily rolled from room to room. Extracted hot air is blown out a fat, plastic tube attached to an adjustable frame that fits snugly (and quickly) into almost any window, including casements. Originally designed for Japanese homes, where window units won't fit, the Chinese-made, off-brand 9,000 BTU chilling machine handled the party crowd and climate well, keeping a 900-square-foot living space at around 75 degrees. Adding to the comfort — a "bucketless self-evaporative condensate system" blows humidity out the tube as well as heat. AC portables are generally noisy, though, and sometimes leave a bit of water in a condensate pail that must be emptied periodically. Big-box stores now carry these things. Friedrich and LG are prominent makers. Expect to pay $370-$425 for a 9,000-9,300 BTU version.

The Nest ($249) has been called "the Apple of smart, programmable home thermostats." In part that's because it's as intuitive to use as an iPhone and also because the round thermostat's been designed (beautifully) by a guy who helped develop that iconic smartphone. The magic of the Nest is that you don't have to formally program it for maximum efficiency. Just twist the dial to adjust the temp up and down as you would on a standard thermostat every day. After a couple of weeks, Nest has learned your patterns and thereafter does the adjusting for you automatically. Alter your habits — stay home one weekday or go away for the weekend — and Nest senses your presence or absence and adjusts for that.

It will alter the AC temp from, say, 70 to 80, after you've left for a couple of hours, saving beaucoup bucks in energy use. As the Nest is Wi-Fi enabled, you can signal it to adjust the house temp on your way home via custom Nest apps for iOS and Android smartphones. Or you can go on a computer to make changes and program extra-detailed patterns of temperature/time shifts for each day of the week.

Contact Jonathan Takiff at 215-854-5960 or takiffj@phillynews.com. Read his blog at philly.com/gizmoguy.

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