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EcoFlow WAVE 2 portable air

Oct 09, 2023Oct 09, 2023

In the past, reverse-cycle air-conditioners have not been known for their portability. However, the advances in lithium-ion battery technology have allowed EcoFlow to develop one that works just as well on a boat as it does in a tent or caravan.

This new-found portability was news to us, so when we heard about the Australian arrival of the EcoFlow WAVE 2 – a trick “smart” appliance touted as the world's most powerful and compact portable air-conditioner with heater – we requested a review unit and put it to the test.

The WAVE 2 is one of the latest off-grid appliances from relative newcomer EcoFlow. Over six years it has evolved to offer a range of portable power solutions including the GLACIER, described as the “world’s first 3-in-1 portable fridge, freezer, and ice maker”.

While the WAVE 2 isn't the only off-grid portable air-conditioner you can buy, EcoFlow says it boasts the most grunt for its size, with 5100BTU (1500W) cooling as well as 6100BTU (1800W) heating in a package not much bigger than a cooler box.

To put its output into perspective, a typical rooftop air-conditioner fitted to a large caravan puts out around 8800BTU cooling and 8200BTU heating, or about the same as one of the smaller wall-mounted home units. On boats, fixed 240-volt air-con systems typically range from around 4000BTU right up to 120,000BTU.

Similar to fixed, plugged-in air-conditioners, you can run the WAVE 2 off 240V mains power, but its party trick is an optional 1159Wh rechargeable lithium-ion battery that slots onto the bottom of the unit and can run it for up to eight hours on a single charge.

We tested the battery-powered WAVE 2 inside a fixed-roof 20ft caravan; heating up an enclosed area measuring about 21 cubic metres, slightly more than the maximum space recommended by EcoFlow.

The unit is pretty easy to set up and comes with all the plugs and attachments to get it going, including two mandatory exhaust ducts and their clip-on attachments.

There’s also a pre-cut foam vent board to make it easier to run the ducts out through a nearby window (or tent flap), and a drainpipe for condensation collected while using the heater (there’s a flash distillation feature to eliminate any condensation when cooling).

The stretchy exhaust ducts pull out to around two metres long, which was sufficient to vent the exhaust air through a nearby window considering there needs to be some space around the unit for it to ‘breathe’.

We used towels and tape to fill the gap left in the opened window next to the vent board, but there would be better DIY solutions.

There is a display panel and some buttons on top of the unit, but EcoFlow’s smartphone app that connects to the unit via Bluetooth is far more clear and user-friendly, and makes it child’s play to both operate and monitor all the functions.

With the outside temperature sitting at a chilly 5.0 degrees (and getting colder by the minute), we switched on the heating and cranked it up in ‘Max’ mode.

According to the app, the WAVE 2 went from using 50W to pump out 11.0-degree air to 350W at 31.0 degrees ( the unit’s maximum heating capacity is rated at 700W) with the unit sounding like a kitchen rangehood at initial start-up.

According to the app, in high-output mode, the unit had three hours of battery life.

The van’s temperature rose to 17 degrees within a few minutes, so the WAVE 2 was switched to its ‘Eco’ mode.

According to EcoFlow, noise levels in the less energy-intense mode range from 44-56dB, or about the same as a home air-con unit.

On test, at times it sounded a bit louder with noise such as trickling water coming from the built-in compressor.

After playing around with a few other settings and modes, 30 minutes later we noted the WAVE 2 had settled to using 172W to maintain the 17.0 degrees inside temperature, with 5.5 hours or 75 per cent battery charge remaining.

In theory, the WAVE 2 could have run for most of the night in ‘Sleep’ mode, although later on it automatically switched to manual mode with full fan and no heater.

This might have been caused by the icey outside conditions as the EcoFlow says the WAVE 2 works best between 5.0 and 50.0 degrees, while the battery has an optimal operating temperature of 20-40 degrees.

A way to override this, according to Eco Flow’s troubleshooting guide, is to switch the unit off for five minutes – not ideal if you’re sleeping.

However, it’s a common issue with other air-conditioners, with the heat pump in the caravan’s roof-mounted Telair unit not working as effectively below 4.0 degrees.

As far as cooling goes, we’ve done some preliminary testing at home inside a small 9m2 room that had been pre-heated to 26 degrees, with the WAVE 2 taking six minutes to get the temperature down to 20 degrees in Manual mode.

Similar to many of the latest lithium-ion battery-powered products, pricing is a deterrent for buyers.

The WAVE 2 is priced at $1999 on the EcoFlow webstore or $2999 with the add-on battery, which is about what you pay for a house or RV air-con, before installation.

However, the WAVE 2 is a bit more versatile in that as well as mains power, solar panels or a 12V car socket can be used to recharge its battery.

It took about two hours to fully charge the WAVE 2’s battery when plugged into the wall at home.

EcoFlow says the WAVE 2 battery will run on a single charge for as little as two hours in extreme conditions, so if you’re off grid for an extended time, another option is to carry extra batteries.

There’s a timer on the app so you could stretch it out over a few days if you only ran it for a short time when going to bed each night, for example.

Lugging the WAVE 2 around with its two top grips also requires a bit of muscle, as with the battery attached it weighs a hefty 22.3kg. The all-in-one packaging also takes up a chunk of valuable storage space.

As mentioned, it’s also a bit noisier at times than bigger fixed units. There’s the option to place the unit outside and run a duct inside, although that’s not ideal as the plastic-covered WAVE 2 isn’t water or dustproof, nor particularly robust.

You also have to remember to either periodically drain the condensation collected in the unit when running the heater, or run the supplied drain pipe to a nearby container to prevent automatic shut-down when over-full.

Although we’re yet to try it out in all conditions – a longer trip in hot conditions is on the cards later this year – the WAVE 2 shapes up as a well-designed and user-friendly unit that’s also relatively quiet and efficient, and pretty quick in heating up or cooling down smaller enclosed spaces.

For some boaters, though, the weight penalty may be more than offset by the comfort this unit can provide, particularly below decks where getting enough natural airflow is always going to be a problem.

It’s also a good solution to the threat of burning fuel to generate warmth. Carbon monoxide poisoning is something that has claimed a number of lives on the water in recent years.

The EcoFlow Wave 2’s add-on battery also comes with USB-A and USB-C charging ports.

The WAVE 2 is also designed to integrate with other EcoFlow products such as full power kits including solar, portable 240V inverters and even dual-fuel gensets if you want to fully embrace the off-grid movement.

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