Thermo Ventilator is an emerging electrical appliance which can keep bathroom warm in winter and combines functions like ventilation, air circulation and clothes drying. It particularly suits the tiny living space in Hong Kong. However, consumers have to pay attention to energy efficiency of the product. For instance, the clothes drying time of different models may vary by nearly 3 times.
In the test conducted by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) and the Consumer Council on safety and performance respectively for 10 models of thermo ventilators, some samples failed to fully pass the safety test and 5 were found to have minor deficiency in construction. The price difference of the models was more than a double but the score for the most expensive one is similar to that of the cheapest model.
The tested samples include 3 ceiling type models, 5 multiple mount models and 2 window type models. A sample was rated on a 5-point scale based on its performance (45%), energy efficiency (25%), safety (25%) and convenience of use (5%).
The safety test was conducted with reference to the international standards IEC60335-2-30 and -2-80. All samples passed the water resistance test and 2 samples even passed all safety tests. Nevertheless, deficiency in construction were found in 5 samples, such as substandard insulation protection, baffles of fan guard being too wide or easy to break, as well as improper earthing arrangement. In one of the samples, earthing continuity for the metal case was found insufficient. Another sample had its earthing screw unsecured after repeated tightening and loosening. Both would affect earthing protection and increase the risk of electric shock.
The air outlet material of 1 sample failed to pass the test due to insufficient resistant to heat which deformed the material and may affect its property under high temperature. Missing information on the product labels included precautions about installation position and distance, power rating, warnings for users who need special care, or there was wrong use of symbols. The Council urges EMSD to strengthen the inspection of relevant products to safeguard its safety.
There is significant difference in clothes drying performance among all samples. The result showed that the clothes drying time varied from less than 1.5 hours to more than 5 hours, representing a difference of nearly 3 times. Models installed in ceiling had a better overall performance than window type models in general. Consumers should choose the products carefully, as the usage frequency would also affect the electricity bill.
Warm air temperature is a major factor for selecting this type of product. The measured maximum warm air temperature of different samples ranged between 32°C and 61°C. It was also discovered that the samples claiming to feature PTC ceramic heater consumed a higher power than the rated value under lower temperature. The increase could be as high as 17%. While installing, it is recommended to allow for extra circuit capacity for the potential electric current rise to avoid tripping of the circuit breaker.
The energy efficiency assessment was divided into 2 parts including clothes drying and standby. 2 samples performed poorly due to longer time taken for clothes drying or higher power rating, leading to higher energy consumption. It is also worth noting that all samples required users to adjust the timer or switch off the machine manually, unlike some dehumidifiers which could auto-detect the ambient humidity and stop the clothes drying process accordingly.
For the convenience of use, although most samples came with a bilingual user guide, only a few had bilingual labels on the control panel or remote control. 1 provided instructions in Japanese kanji only, so consumers may have to read the descriptions on the user guide instead.
Consumer should also beware of the specific installation requirements when choosing different thermo ventilators. Ceiling type models may require a false ceiling for concealing the ventilation tube; window type models have to be installed on the bathroom window; multiple mount type models offer higher flexibility, besides either on the ceiling or on the window, it can be mounted on wall. For the control, some offer remote control and the other have to use the control panel installed on bathroom wall.
Below are some tips for consumers to choose thermo ventilators:
- Many models come with a 24-hour ventilation mode offering basic ventilation for bathrooms without a window;
- These products generally have higher power rating which may need to connect the power cable to the mains supply. Therefore, they should only be installed by a registered electrician. A rainproof case may have to be bought and installed separately on the multiple mount model for window mounting;
- Users should clean the product regularly according to the user guide. Some dust filter claiming to be antibacterial has to be cleaned with a vacuum cleaner instead of water;
- Utilise the timer and avoid prolonged high power operation like warming or clothes drying. Remember to switch off at the appropriate time to save power and ensure safety.
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