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Remodeling 101: The Ins and Outs of Smart Air Conditioners


Remodeling 101: The Ins and Outs of Smart Air Conditioners

August 10, 2017

When it comes to steamy summer days, there are two kinds of people: those who can’t live without AC, and those who prefer to go without (we’ll be posting on hacks for staying cool without AC tomorrow). For those in the AC camp, there are now smart air conditioners (and by “smart” we mean wirelessly connected so you can control it using an app on a smartphone or tablet, and perhaps also link it to other smart devices in your home). Unlike some other smart-home appliances, these still have a few bugs to work out. Read on to learn more about staying cool the Wi-Fi-connected way.

the noria smart air conditioner was funded on kickstarter and will be avai 17
Above: The Noria Smart Air Conditioner was funded on Kickstarter and will be available in spring 2018, as seen in 4 Attractive Window Air Conditioners, High to Low.

Why would I want a smart air conditioner?

A smart AC cranks the convenience of a remote control-operated AC unit up a notch. You can use an app on your smartphone to turn the AC on before you get home so that everything’s cool and comfortable by the time you walk in the door. Some smart ACs will monitor the weather for you and turn on in the middle of the day if the outdoor temp goes up. Others will monitor your energy use. One app can control multiple air conditioners, and send out reminders to change the filters.

rated at \14,000 btus, the lg smart portable air conditioner can cool a sp 18
Above: Rated at 14,000 BTUs, the LG Smart Portable Air Conditioner can cool a space as big as 500 square feet; it’s $599 via Home Depot.

How do I choose a smart air conditioner?

Of course, you’ll need to consider the same things that come with buying any new AC. There are various types of smart air conditioning units: window units, through-the-wall units, or stand-alone portables. If it’s for a window or wall, you’ll need to get the dimensions of the opening. The size of the unit (that is, the BTU rating) will depend on the area you need to cool—so get out the measuring tape if you don’t know how big your living room is.

Some other things to consider: How loud is it when it’s running? (That’s especially important for a bedroom unit.) Does it have an energy-saving mode? Is the filter easy to clean? And is the unit passably attractive?

the app enabled frigidaire cool connect gets high marks for its low profil 19
Above: The app-enabled Frigidaire Cool Connect gets high marks for its low-profile mesh front. The 8,000-BTU unit will cool and dehumidify a room up to 350 square feet; it’s available for $299.99 at Amazon.

What else should I consider when shopping for a smart air conditioner?

When you’re shopping for a Wi-Fi-enabled AC, it pays to do your research. What do tech reviewers have to say about specific models on the market? Is the app intuitive and easy to use? Are the consumer comments on the retail sites consistently positive, or are a lot of buyers voicing the same complaints?

In general, tech reviews for smart ACs are mixed. Sweethome, in particular, doesn’t pull any punches, saying that the “extra frustration” brought by smart ACs “will, for many people, outweigh the modest benefits.”

Can I retro-fit my existing AC to make it smart?

It’s possible to make your AC smart—but read on. You can buy a wireless AC remote control that will work with any model that comes equipped with a remote. There are several brands on the market that let you operate your AC by means of an app on your smartphone—not simply turning it off and on, but adjusting the temperature and fan speed, and letting you monitor the home temperature.

the airpatrol smart air conditioner controller, available for \$\159 via amazon. 20
Above: The Airpatrol Smart Air Conditioner Controller, available for $159 via Amazon.
The Sensibo Sky ($119) can be connected to Amazon Alexa and Google Home, so you can operate your AC with voice commands. AirPatrol ($159 on Amazon) also works with Amazon Alexa. While some AirPatrol users found setup easy, others struggled to make the connection (“I really wanted to like this,” one reviewer commented”). The Tado Smart ($174.99 on Amazon) earned only lukewarm reviews.

Note that these controllers aren’t inexpensive, especially when compared with the price of the air conditioners they’re meant to control.

Are there other ways to get the benefits of a smart air conditioner without investing in one?

The cheapest and perhaps most effective way to make your AC Wi-Fi enabled is to invest in a smart plug. Rather than using your smartphone to operate the AC itself, you’ll be using your smartphone to connect to the plug. You won’t be able to tinker with the AC’s settings, but you can turn the AC on and off wherever you might be. The smart plug app also lets you set automatic schedules for turning a device on and off. (Stay tuned for an upcoming post all about smart plugs.)

Considering buying a smart air conditioner? Other models that come recommended, in addition to the Frigidaire Cool Connect and the LG Portable Smart Air Conditioner, are the GE Energy Star 115-Volt Electronic Room Air Conditioner, $269 at Home Depot, and LG’s 8,000-BTU LW8017ERSM model, $279 on Amazon.

N.B. Energy company Con Ed is currently offering New Yorkers free “Smart AC kits” and a $25 rebate for making their window units Wi-Fi connected. The program aims to encourage consumers to save energy by not leaving their AC running when they’re away from home—since they’ll be able to operate it remotely.

Prefer to stay cool without the use of AC? See our post Expert Advice: Hacks for Staying Cool Without AC, Courtesy of a Catskills Summer Bungalow.

For more smart home and technology, see:

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