There are now a few HomeKit-enabled window mounted air conditioners on the market, but what about the millions of installed and working dumb air conditioners already in homes and apartments? Does it make sense to trash a perfectly good air conditioner just to get a smart one?
Perhaps! But an Israeli-based company called Sensibo has a quicker/easier/better solution. For most air conditioners with a remote, the Sensibo Sky is will add an app/web controlled and timer equipped thermostat to your air conditioner in minutes, and today it is $99 as part of Amazon’s Prime Day.
Sensibo Sky Hardware
The Sensibo unit is a 5V/1A micro USB powered dongle that is placed near or on the legacy air conditioner. Inside, it has a Wi-Fi chip to connect it to the web and an infrared output to control your air conditioner. It also contains temperature and humidity sensors to guide its thermostat features. On the bottom is a double-sided tape-like surface that will affix it to your air conditioner or somewhere nearby.
Sensibo is available for iOS or Android and even has a web app if you want to control it from your Mac/PC/Chromebook. That’s a nice touch for those of us that don’t want to leave the desktop to control our IoT devices. The app isn’t beautiful, but it is very easy to use and understand.
Sensibo Set Up
Set up was fairly easy and more importantly straightforward. I generally rate devices where I don’t need to look at an instruction booklet much higher than ones that require following pages and pages of reading. Here’s how it goes down.
- Plug in the Sensibo to the Wall – a blue light will start blinking, install the app and open it, create an account.
- The app will ask you to take a picture of the small 2D code on the back or enter a 10 digit code
- You’ll then set it to use your local Wi-Fi connection
- You’ll need to identify the remote control by pointing it at the Sensibo or identify the AC model number from a list. (I chose the list option which worked on my LG AC)
- Set up preferences like geo location where the AC turns on automatically when you get home, high and low temperatures and voice support.
Sensibo Homekit/Alexa/Google Home support?
Official Sensibo Sky HomeKit support is coming around the holidays according to Sensibo or via third-party now. It supports Amazon Alexa or Google Home out of the box. I didn’t try the HomeKit hack since I have both Google Home and Alexa in my house, but if you want to use Siri to control your AC this summer, you’ll need to use HomeBridge. I’m definitely going to hook up HomeKit for next year.
I wasn’t really looking for smart support in my remote office/cottage. When it is hot I just turn my AC on and I try to turn it off when I leave.
However after just a week of Sensibo, I’m already loving the advantages:
- With the thermostat feature I can put in my comfort range, even if it is just a few degrees, and don’t have to worry about adjusting the AC every few minutes.
- I have now set it to turn on when I get close geographically so I don’t even need to really think about it.
- When I want to get the place primed on a particularly hot day, I just bring up the app and turn it on.
- Boy is this thing going to save me time and money. I imagine it will pay for itself in a season or two. How? By turning off when I’m not in the office, not overcooling and allowing me to remotely turn it on and off instead of just letting it run all day.
Some things that could use some improvement:
- I wasn’t initially able to set up the AC by pointing a remote at it. That needs to be improved. It was easy however just to select my make from a list and have it work instantly.
- HomeKit ASAP. “December 2018” is OK but I want HomeKit out of the box.
- More integrated than a dongle. I’m not in love with how this looks in my place (below).