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.
When Stuart wrote about the Makita jacked, I commented about vortex cooling units on things like proximity suits and kiln entry suits. I also talked about ice vests and evaporative cooling vests. If you Google “cooling vest” – you should be able to see some – including ones for dogs.
In the case of these jackets, like vortex tube cooling, they are working by helping to get your perspiration to evaporate more quickly – carrying off the enthalpy (latent heat) of vaporization of the water in your sweat. Hopefully the jackets are made of breathable material that allows the vaporized sweat to be efficiently transported away from your body with the airflow from the fans.
yeah so far none of their shirts would probably fit me but I like the ideas.
I notice they have a car seat cooler too. Looks interesting, hope to see more of it
The car seat I may get one for old F150 work truck that has vinyl seats an no AC, but wing window works great, unless you sitting in traffic. I remember years back when the beaded seat covers that you could find in the driver seats of most taxi cabs hit Fad status and could be bought all over, I will say that they worked becasue of the increased air flow, allowed for increased evaporation.
I just saw these advertised in a home improvement magazine. Can’t remember which. I thought for sure they had been around for a little while. I seem to easily over heat in the summer, as I swear my body does not regular temperature well. Hopefully I can find one to try on.
Any chance of the proprietary battery could be modified for an m12 pack? I’m sick of more charges on my charging rack
I live in the South and, with all the humidity here, these aren’t going to do much for cooling but they will make me look cool with that puffed-up jacket on. The ventilated hard has some possibilities.
Would someone come up with pants that breath and dry out quickly yet still meet safety requirements?
Natural fibers – like cotton, linen and wool are what meet most safety requirements for not promoting flame propagation. They also don’t melt and burn your skin. Merino wool is actually pretty good.
Ive always thought it would be a great idea to do this for fishermen, outdoorsmen, etc who need to stay dry during the rainy season but are in areas like the South where it may still be too warm to wear a jacket. Wearing a raincoat in 80f temps with 100 percent humidity is also dangerous. Any kind of airflow would keep the sweat off!
I could almost be persuaded to pay up to $300 for the hat and jacket.
We’ve had 100° with 60%+ humidity all week ….heat index has been 108 @ 2 pm every day this week in GA.
I don’t think it could clear that much moisture without being sodden.
Instead of having an fan cooled jacket, you could just have a regular jacket, and take the jacket off, if it’s to hot, it’s not rocket science.
Ya with a very strong fan.
Waeco have had this for years, https://www.dometicrvcentre.com.au/onlinestore1/other/mcs20-seat-cooler
I have a few of them and they work pretty well considering, but they never sold well.
I purchased mine on ebay for around $20 never used and they have got me through some hot summers in my Mack truck that has no air conditioning. Given the high cost of these garments and the need to continually be changing/charging batteries, I don’t think I would bother.