There’s no shortage of products designed to keep you cool on the jobsite, and for good reason. Keeping cool isn’t just about personal comfort, but also safety.
Most products for keeping workers cool rely on passive evaporation and must be soaked or filled with water before wearing: evaporative vests, dew rags, and the like. Fan-cooled work wear is worn dry; it speeds the evaporation of your sweat by pulling air into the garment.
A few years back Stuart wrote about one such product from Makita, a fan-cooled jacket powered by the company’s tool batteries. At the time it was available only in Asia. It’s now available here but there is only a single model.
But that’s not the fan-cooled work wear I want to write about. As of last year, a company call Zippkool has been offering a number of battery-powered cooling products for industrial and jobsite use, including jackets, hoodies, short sleeve shirts, and a fan-cooled flap that fits on the back of a hard hat.
I particularly like the helmet fan because hard hats are hot to begin with, and if your head stays cool the rest of your body will feel cooler too. The company also makes air-cooled work pants but does not offer them in the U.S. because they haven’t figured out the sizing yet.
I first saw these products at the National Hardware Show and was impressed by their design, and how cool the guys wearing them looked to be while standing outside in the hot Las Vegas sun.
The shirts and jackets fit tight at the waist and must be zipped to work. Air is pulled in through a pair of fans near the back. When the fans are running the work wear inflates—with the excess air escaping through the sleeves and neck.
The air flow cools the wearer by speeding the evaporation of sweat. In most cases you’ll be cooler wearing these shirts and jackets than not, particularly in low-humidity conditions.
Zippkool’s products differ from Makita’s in several ways. First, the fans (two per shirt or jacket) fit nearly flush to the surface of the garment, while Makita’s fan unit is larger and hangs off the back of their jacket.
Both brands make use of belt-worn battery packs. Makita’s is powered by one of their 18V Li-ion power tool batteries. Zippkool’s pack contain a proprietary rechargeable lithium-ion battery, or you can use their optional battery box that takes 4 AA cells.
The proprietary pack is said to provide 8 hours of power with the fan on high, and 24 hours with the fan on low. The numbers for the AA pack are 4.5 on high and 20 hours on low—though that would obviously depend on the type of cells that were used. Their air-flow from the lithium-ion pack is higher at all settings.
Like most exhibitors at the Hardware Show, Zippkool was there to find companies to distribute their products. I’m not aware of any U.S. retailers that stock their work wear but you can buy directly from a store on the company website.
Buy Now(via Zippcool)
It’s expensive stuff, but given how miserable (and sometimes dangerous) it is to work in the heat, I wouldn’t be totally put off by the price. I remember buying a truck when I worked in New England and having to choose between the cost of 4WD and AC. Going with AC was definitely the right decision. In the 10 years I owned that truck, I used the AC hundreds of times; there were only a handful of days when it was so muddy or snowy I could not get to the jobsite.