Feeling sick? Cleaning your portable aircon could help

Delonghi Pinguino portable airconditioner, chassis off
Pictured: Delonghi Pinguino air conditioner with chassis off
// Heed my warning
Anula Wiwatowska
Mar 12, 2024
Icon Time To Read2 min read

Even if you’re planning on using your air conditioner to escape the heat for a few more weeks, you need to clean it. Believe me.

Lately I’ve been unwell, and even though the antibiotics did their thing, symptoms are lingering. Breathing is harder, my throat is irritated, my nose and eyes are uncomfortable- none of these symptoms are from my latest bout of sickness though, but they are noted health effects of dust and mould. While my house is mostly dust-free, one peek into my portable air conditioner showed that I had missed a crucial spot.

The dust build up inside my Delonghi Penguino was nauseating. The removable filter was coated, but so was every internal surface. I could see dark spots where the dust and moisture had mixed, coating areas with a thin layer of mud - or maybe it was mould. Unfortunately, the only viable spot for my air conditioner is right next to my head in the bedroom. Since I have a tendency to blast it all night and get snuggled up like a cinnamon scroll, this means the air, and all its contaminants are spraying across my face for eight or so hours. Every night.

Delonghi pinguino back off

While portable air conditioners do have filters, the particle matter ratings on these are not generally advertised. On the Delonghi website for example, my air conditioner is simply listed with a ‘dust’ filter, while others as ‘Silver ion’. We reached out for further details about its filters, but Delonghi didn’t respond before publication. Dust comes in a range of sizes, with small particles less than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5) causing the most serious health issues. While devices like air purifiers weed these out with HEPA filters, air conditioner filters aren’t as robust and can still pull in dust and other bacterial particles while in operation.

Mould on the other hand is more difficult to filter out, and thrives in moist environments like the one cultivated inside my air conditioner. Clogged coils and filters can also lead to moisture build up, further sweetening the deal for spores to shine. My air conditioner in particular has a handful of unfiltered vents so that the electrics don’t overheat. Although this is needed, each entry point to the device allows for dust particles to make their way inside and slowly clog the internals. The extent of which was horrific.

Handful of dust on a background of brick

I needed to remove the case of my Penguino to get to the crux of the problem. To take off the chassis I only needed to unscrew 15 phillips head screws, and leverage the top piece to pop the pieces apart. Finding all the screws was the hardest part. Once these are off you can take a micro-fibre towel and a vacuum to all the internal surfaces. Inside the Delonghi model I found two additional filters that were plastered in layers of dirt. Seriously it was a wonder that any air was getting through this thing. 

Disgusting as it may have been, the whole process took me less than half an hour and I am breathing a less laboured sigh of relief. If you, like me, have been waking up with a dry and closed up throat, it may be worth indulging your morbid curiosity and taking a peek inside your air conditioner.

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Anula Wiwatowska
Written by
Anula Wiwatowska
Anula is the Content and Social Media Editor within the Reviews.org extended universe. Working in the tech space since 2020, she covers phone and internet plans, gadgets, smart devices, and the intersection of technology and culture. Anula was a finalist for Best Feature Writer at the 2022 Consensus Awards, and an eight time finalist across categories at the IT Journalism Awards. Her work contributed to WhistleOut's Best Consumer Coverage win in 2023.

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