Window air conditioning units are a pain but a necessity for many urban dwellers and for those with homes that don’t have central air conditioning. Everything about a window air conditioner is a pain. Installation is difficult and sometimes dangerous (particularly if you’re installing it at a high-res city building). Storing them after summer is a nuisance, where do you store a 60-pound heap of metal? There is also the fact that most window AC are aesthetically a complete buzzkill. They look hideous.
Enter New York City-based startup The Air Lab Inc, founded by Michael Mayer and Ryan Figlia in 2020. This direct-to-consumer brand aims to revolutionize cooling and its first product — Windmill Air — aims to be the iPhone of air conditioners.
- Super sleek, beautiful design
- LED auto-dims so it won’t ruin ambience
- Easy and fast shipping
- Can’t control airflow
- Only works for smaller rooms
Does Windmill Air succeed? Yes, the average consumer will love the fun AC unit Air Lab Inc has created. Why? Because all window ACs cool the room the same way and with similar energy efficiency so your choice in terms of effectiveness is relatively arbitrary. Trying to find the most technically efficient and powerful window AC unit is a fool’s errand, or more accurately, only for the most dedicated technical enthusiasts.
So, why is Windmill Air a good decision? Simply because it looks better than other units, has a few thoughtful design touches that make it less intrusive in your home, and the price is reasonable. It also has smart home features that can be useful and eco-friendly and that normal consumers might actually use, like the ability to turn on your AC with your phone before you get home.
Lastly, if there is any item you want to buy online, it’s window AC units. Do you really want to pick up a 60-pound box at a physical store and lug it all the way home? This is one of those items where online purchasing is a godsend and when we bought our unit in the summer of 2021, it arrived in less than 48 hours.
Windmill Air is clearly one of the best looking AC units on the market. Another company started in 2020 (the same year Windmill Air launched) called July.AC also has beautiful unit that comes in a variety of colors, and some of the higher-end versions of the Frigidaire Gallery conditioner are rather beautiful as well. Whether you prefer the design of Windmill Air, July, or Frigidaire, though, is just a matter of personal preference; what remains somewhat objective is the mere fact these three brands are the main contenders in the design category.
Mike Mayer, the CEO of Windmill Air, explained in an interview with Fortune that the reason most air conditioners are so ugly is because they’re all made in the same region of China by the same manufacturing companies. Thus whatever you brand you buy, you’re basically buying the same unit, just with inconsequential design changes and branding modifications. For the Windmill AC unit, they worked with a differnet manufacturer and designed something from scratch. Mayer says the unit took over 9,000 hours of prototyping to get it where it is today. That said, the Windmill AC unit is still made in China.
However they got there, Windmill Air is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful AC units out there and since all of these products are technically similar you can’t go wrong with it.
All portable and window air conditioners are a hassle to install. No startup will solve this problem any time soon. It’s the nature of any product that weighs over 50 pounds and needs to be carefully lodged into your window without falling out. That’s just not something most people will like doing or are even equipped to do. Still, you need to give Windmill Air credit for trying to make this annoying process just a little less annoying. Consider all the items included in the box:
- Windmill AC with pre-assembled install kit
- Antimicrobial-protected mesh filter (reusable)
- Free activated carbon filter (lasts 3 months)
- Cosmetic double-insulating side panels
- Remote control
- Adhesive & non-adhesive window insulation foam (1x each)
- Window sash lock
- Rubber screw hole plug
Yes — you read that right, included in your package are scissors. Scissors? Yes! Obviously Windmill AC wants to minimize the hassle as much as possible, and that even anticipates the person trying to install it in their chic, so minimalist Brooklyn apartment they don’t even own scissors. The other actually practical installation feature is that the power cord is especially long so you don’t need to run out and get an extension cord if it won’t make it to the plug , which is actually quite a common problem with many AC units.
When we installed the unit in our lab for our test, we did not use any of the provided tools or directions. It took about five minutes, which is how long it takes to install most AC window units. If you’re scared to install it yourself, hire a TaskRabbit or find a friend that knows what’s up.
Naturally as a 2020s startup, Windmill AC has an extensive eco-friendly marketing campaign designed to ease concerns about climate change. For their carbon offset program they have partnered with Pachama to protect old growth trees, which we concur is more important than planting new trees — planting new trees is useful only insofar as they live long and healthy lives.
Windmill AC also uses R32 refrigerant, which without going into too much technical detail, is simply the most eco-friendly and energy efficient refrigerant available to the public. Most new AC models should use R32 refrigerant.
Perhaps the reason Windmill AC unit is the most environmentally-friendly (and best for your electrical bill) is simply the app. Say you forget to turn off your unit before you leave for work for the day; not a problem, you can turn it off with the app. Or if it’s a very hot day, you can conserve energy by turning it on before you get home and have it slowly cool the room. The old option was you get home and it’s so hot so you put it on full blast, which consumes more energy.
One of the cooler and less talked about features of the Windmill AC is the activated carbon filters. Generally, air filters in the context of residential homes can be suspicious. Do they really work? How do you purify air with a small little system inside a massively porous residence? Yet, activated carbon is an age-old method for removing impurities and we admire the simplicity of the approach Windmill makes here. If the filters are properly switched out, they should help remove smoke, odors, and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from your home.
Aside from design, here are the main features and functionality of the Windmill AC.
- It is still hard to install, but easier to install than the competition.
- It has an auto-dimming LED display so it minimizes blue light.
- The app and voice control works well.
- It comes with a traditional remote, too, so if you get frustrated with the “smart” features, you can use it the old school way.
- It has 3 fan speeds and is relatively quiet.
- It has the easiest to switch filter we’ve ever seen, thanks to a magnetic removal feature.
Our favorite feature? It’s the auto-dimming LED display. Most units project small light 24/7 and this can be particularly annoying in a bedroom while you’re trying to sleep. The lights on the Windmill AC automatically fade after 60 seconds, which is a small feature that goes a long way.
As far as the cooling capacity, it’s the same as you would get with any other air conditioner with one exception. The Windmill AC does not allow you to control airflow, instead all the air blows up, which is supposedly more efficient because it cools from above. So people that like to control the air and put it right on their face might not want to buy this unit.
Windmill Air Reviews Reviewed
The general consensus from customer reviews and press outlets is that the Windmill AC is a good unit, and worth every penny. Cosmopolitan calls it a “sexy lil A/C” and PC Mag highly recommends it, writing: “…good looks, great cooling power, and quiet operation are all strong reasons to consider the Windmill AC for your next in-window air conditioner.”
We registered a 70 db at the most aggressive setting, which some users might found loud, and others quiet.
Meanwhile Wired magazine is not as enthusiastic, writing: “Windmill AC isn’t nearly as quiet or innovative as other air conditioners we’ve tested” but still recommend buying it for eco-friendly reasons as well as looks. Ironically, Architectural Digest says it’s the quietest AC they’ve ever tried. From our perspective, the unit is certainly not the most quiet (that award goes to this unit made by Midea) — but we don’t think the average consumer will find it loud. We also don’t think most consumers are looking for the most “innovative” AC unit, just the simplest.
While most online reviews on Amazon and Home Depot are overwhelming positive, one ambivalent customer on Amazon says: “I cannot recommend it over any others that I own”, which is a fair enough point, it’s just an AC unit, but if you’re unhappy with your current system or on the market for your first air conditioner, the Windmill AC is the easiest and one of the best options out there.