The history of modern air conditioning dates back to 1902. As with computers, at the dawn of the “air conditioning era,” the ancestors of modern-day cooling units were big, clunky behemoths. Over time and with technological innovation, those first ice-age dinosaurs were eventually pared down in proportion; however, while traditional window air conditioners have long been recognized as powerful beasts, until recently, they weren’t considered “sexy beasts.” With the introduction of Kapsul Air’s sleek, distinctively styled W5 cooling units, both the perception and the reality have changed.
Kapsul Air co-founder and CEO Kurt Swanson — who earned a degree in mechanical engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, and had long been fascinated by a specific subset of engineering called thermodynamics and heat transfer — was responsible for much of the original prototype design. “I actually have a design patent on a font for a thermostat of all things,” he quips.
In his postgraduate days, Swanson embarked on a productive career in the aerospace sector with Boeing, but after a six-plus-year stint, he had something of a personal wake-up call. Not content to remain a “lifer” with a single company, he decided to strike out on his own, launching a business consultancy firm with several other like-minded engineers.
After getting some amazing projects under their collective belts, the group eventually decided to expand their horizons — while at the same time, keeping a focus on things that truly inspired them. Swanson recalls, “Our thinking was, ‘Is there something that we can do together with our unique skill set and my particular passion for thermodynamics? Is there a product that fixes everything about something that’s unloved and really needs improvement?’”
Scouting the consumer landscape, Swanson had an epiphany. He noticed that while pretty much every other product — from electronics to appliances to automobiles — had been evolving over time, and not only keeping pace with market trends but often setting them, the same could not be said for window air conditioners.
“Someone made a great point when they were looking at our products,” Swanson recalls. “They said, ‘Why does it feel like every other air conditioner was made in the Soviet Union in the 1970s?’
“Every other appliance and product that we use, whether it’s phones or cars, even washers and dryers, are nice-looking now. Why wasn’t that the case with air conditioning?” Recognizing a niche, Kapsul Air was born.
A Merging of Form and Function
When initially picturing his revolutionary new slot-and-oval concept, Swanson envisioned a long, slender silhouette. The current Kapsul Air W5 iteration stands a compact 7 inches tall. At 20 inches wide by 22 inches deep, it easily slides and locks into a purpose-built adjustable housing frame that accommodates windows measuring from 22 to 36 inches.
As much as Kapsul Air’s revolutionary external design (it’s the slimmest on the market) has been a game changer, aesthetics are far from this air conditioner’s only innovations.
Making the Move From Airport Runway to White Noise
“We spent a lot of time making the Kapsul Air as quiet as possible,” says Swanson, “so we’ve done a lot of work to optimize that part of the experience.” However, he notes while the team was still at the drawing board, they had more than just reducing decibel levels on their minds.
Swanson (who likens the din some legacy window units make over the course of the cooling cycle to the racket of an airplane takeoff) notes one of the most important noise-related considerations the team wanted to address from the get-go was getting rid of what he calls the “jarring factor.”
In response, the Kapsul team came up with the “Low-T” system, a sound-engineering solution that eradicates any residual airport-runway ambience. “It’s not simply a switch,” Swanson explains. “It’s not like it just turns on and leaps into your room at 1 a.m.” Instead, Kapsul Air units are designed to come on slowly. This allows the condensers and fans to ramp up over time and they are thus able to maintain a maximum noise output of 50 decibels — even at the highest setting.
Swanson describes the sound Kapsul Air units emit as “a gentle white noise … It’s not like the annoying whinehum you hear with some other products,” he says, citing the use of specially selected motor and fan components. “We’ve done our best to make sure it’s not disruptive in any way.”
At the Forefront of Energy Efficiency
The current Kapsul Air W5 packs a 5,000 Btu punch that simultaneously cools and dehumidifies a 150-square-foot space with an impressive energy efficiency rating (EER) of 11.4. On or above par with bulky legacy window units, when compared to stand-alone portable air conditioners, Kapsul Air is generally about 50% more energy efficient than its rolling, window-vented counterparts while still offering the convenience of portability plus the added value of out-of-sight storage when not in use.
Kapsul Air Offers Safe, Easy Installation
According to Swanson, the pair of centrally located handles, which make for much easier lifting and carrying, came about during an early brainstorming session with the design team. The lightweight but durable window frame adapter was created with one-person installation in mind. Once in place and properly affixed, the frame eliminates the worry of accidentally tipping your air conditioner over the windowsill and having it drop into the street, as can happen with traditional models.
“It weighs about 48 pounds, which is about the weight of a small childheavy,” Swanson concedes, so not every consumer will be able to install it single-handed, “but with the two handles, it really makes it a lot easier for most people to pick up and install. You’re just picking it up for a moment. You lift it into place, you slide it into the window frame adapter, and you lock it in place. Then you’re done.” (In fact, if you check out the W5 introduction and installation video, you’ll see Swanson’s petite wife is well up to the task.)
Kapsul Air Smart Technology Is the Icing on the Cake
In addition to all its other advances and advantages, the current Kapsul Air W5 model comes complete with Google Home-, Alexa-, and Nest-friendly software already installed so users can adjust room temperature and turn the unit on or off from any smart device.
As a harmonious marriage between eye-pleasing form and enhanced function that includes energy efficiency, integrated ergonomics, advances in noise reduction, and smart technology, it’s safe to say, Kapsul Air is a lot more than just a pretty face — although having a pretty face doesn’t hurt.
“I’m still in love with the way it looks,” Swanson admits. “It’s modern and it fits right in. I’m really proud every time I see it.”