Climate Wizard CW-3 Indirect Evaporative Cooler – My Experience

I moved house a bit over a year ago – a bigger, newer house but with an older evaporative air conditioner. Before even moving in I wanted a new air conditioner sorted as I’m rather ‘heat intolerant’. My online research into air conditioning options stumbled across something new – not refridgerated, but an evaporative cooler that didn’t make the air humid. It was the Seeley International Climate Wizard CW-3, and it was only available in South Australia while they were piloting a smaller model for home use. The technology has been around for a while used in businesses (such as McDonalds), and claimed somewhere between 60-80% energy savings compared to ducted refrigerated cooling.

The unit also has an option of connecting a gas heater to it, but I already had ducted gas heating in the house that worked, so didn’t take that option.

It seemed like an obvious choice – better for the environment, and providing as good cooling as any other option out there. I spent considerable time with a reseller of the product, getting my head around this expensive decision that I’d have to live with. Beyond having to have extra reinforcement in the ceiling/roof due to the weight of the unit, there didn’t seem to be much else to worry about, so I went ahead with the install.

Once installed, I realised one component I overlooked – zoning. I had just assumed this had controls for rooms so I could turn rooms off/on, or focus the cooling in a certain area. It doesn’t do that. It also flushes at least daily, which comes out of a black hose on the roof. This is just resting up there and overfills the gutters, pouring off the house. This is probably easily fixed by working out a better location for the hose, but I’ve also realised when turning on the A/C or when it decides to take water, it will affect water pressure in the rest of the house. A bit annoying, but I can live with this.

Also, the A/C is still an evaporative unit. It either needs doors/windows open to work, or an inlet inside the house (not an option I was presented with, but their documentation indicates

What I can’t live with however, is the lack of actual coolness the A/C unit provides. If it’s not that hot outside, it actually works quite well. I had a problem where it would actually cool too much at night, and without zoning I had to turn the entire unit off even if some rooms were warmer than others. Worse than this though, is when it’s warm (roughly above 32oC), I can’t get the indoor temperature below 23oC. The hotter it gets, the worse the unit performs. Below is an example of the unit showing 33oC outside the house. Rather than setting a cooling temperature to aim for, I’ve set the speed to 10 – as high as it goes (there’s no 11 sorry). You can see the unit shows the indoor temperature as 25oC.

After the first year of having the unit, I had real doubts that I’d raised with the installers but weren’t addressed. To protect my family, I ended up installing three split systems in the bedrooms over winter, in case it became hot. When the above happened, I checked the temperatures they reported:

This is just way too hot. For the second summer I raised my issues again, and had multiple technicians out. When a Seeley technician came out and I showed them the above, they said they didn’t know how the temperature worked on another manufacturer’s units or how accurate it was.

The company hasn’t been great in responding, as getting someone out in the afternoon on a hot day seems to be a challenge. I’m waiting for the next hot day (and we’re not seeing many of those now) to have a team look at the entire setup. I just want the unit gone, and use a ducted refrigerated unit. I know those work, and I have solar on the house so plenty of ‘free energy’ to use during the day.

The owner manual is available here if you want to have a read. I found the unit performed even worse on humid days – which doesn’t happen much in South Australia – and the manual ‘covers’ this buy saying it just doesn’t reduce the temperature as much as on drier days. Great.

I also looked back at their case study on McDonalds and found one key phrase. They use this technology in conjunction with the refrigerated cooling system.

At this stage I’m still waiting for Seeley to come good – they want to see the unit not working for themselves, but I don’t know how they can resolve this as I’m struggling to see how it’s a fit for purpose unit by itself. Maybe there’s something special about my environment and unit, and others are having an amazing experience; I hope so.

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