I’ve lived in my house for 2 years. It was built in 1999, but somehow the thermostats look like they’re from the 1980’s. I’ve finally had enough. Time for them to go! So, I spent some time reading this post from lifehacker and decided that Sensi WiFi thermostats were the best fit for me. First and foremost I was intrigued by the price tag. The Sensi programmable thermostat (made by Emerson) may not have all the glitz and glamour, but its price is about half that of the popular Nest, the Ecobee3 and the flashy Honeywell 9000. I appreciate the idea behind a “smart” thermostat that learns behaviors and preferences, but I would rather be the one in control (and save money too). My house has two zones (upstairs and downstairs), so the extra $80-140 per unit would have been doubled. I bought two Sensi WiFi thermostats for less than one Nest. Also, check with your local utility provider for rebates! (Georgia Power offers significant rebates.)
Sensi is about half the price of other popular “smart” thermostats.
There are also plenty of user override options, so you can tweak the temperature or deviate from your normal schedule. You can even disable the wall units altogether with app-only controls, so home guests can’t fiddle with your settings!
Another selling point is that, from what I’ve read, Sensi offers a precise temperature sensor. They claim +/- 1 degree precision vs. others having as poor as +/- 3 degree precision. I can’t validate this claim, but I can say I haven’t noticed any temperature swings between system cycles. Sensi also features a humidity sensor. Sensi can’t control the humidity, but I like having that information at my fingertips. (Minor complaint: the humidity reading and the clock occupy the same spot, alternating every couple seconds, even though there is plenty of real estate for both!) While I appreciate the low-profile design of the unit, as a novice installer I found the wiring clearances to be annoying. It was hard to stuff the excess wires into the space provided. But, I understand that more clearance would result in a bulkier unit. I assume this is a DIY problem with all modern thermostats. Overall, the display is bright, easy to read and has intuitive controls.
Aside from the price, one of the selling points of the Sensi WiFi thermostats is that, unlike many other WiFi thermostats, it allows for a battery power source in lieu of a C wire. C wires are used to power modern features like back-lit displays and WiFi, and they are often missing in older homes. Fortunately, my downstairs thermostat had an unused orange wire. So, I watched this cheezy yet effective video on how to re-purpose an unused wire into a C wire. Batteries no longer required! Unfortunately, no such luck on my upstairs unit. Silver lining, now I’ll be able to report back with real-world battery life.
*Edit 6/6/16: I still love my Sensi thermostats after 6 months. The upstairs unit that is using two AA batteries in lieu of a C wire is still running strong. The battery indicator reads “full” – 3 out of 3 bars, so I think a 2 year battery life is within reach.
THE SENSI APP
The smartphone app is required, for all intents and purposes. Though, if you’re not planning to control your thermostat with a smartphone, why pay extra for WiFi functionality? The main app displays a lot of useful information all on one screen. You get the current conditions inside your house (temperature and humidity), current program setting, the weather conditions outside, and a 12-hour timeline showing upcoming programming changes. The default screen color is grey, but it changes to blue or red when the system is actively cooling or heating your home. Overall, it is a great app.
NOT QUITE PERFECTION
I do have a few gripes about the Sensi WiFi thermostats. Editing your schedule requires a lot of smartphone screen tapping. Fortunately, once you get the schedules set up to your liking there should be minimal changes. Also, for people with two thermostats, each one is controlled independently. I wish there was a way to view and edit both of my thermostats simultaneously. You don’t have to completely log off and on again, but it’s cumbersome to synchronize them, switching back and forth within the app. Again, this is mostly just a temporary pain when you’re initially fine-tuning your schedules.
At the top of my wish list would be a fan-only re-circulation mode. On moderate spring or fall days where neither heating nor cooling are required, I like to switch the HVAC fan on, but leaving it on 100% seems like overkill. A “minutes per hour” fan-only setting would be awesome! 20-30 minutes per hour would be perfect. It would also be nice if the Sensi app could spit out some usage reports and statistics, but I’m willing to sacrifice that feature given the huge discount over other “smart” thermostats.
I have experienced some occasional connectivity issues with the app. Although, the issues were usually brief. The good news is, I had a couple of questions for Sensi customer service and all my interactions were very positive. Their social media accounts are responsive too!
*Edit 3/3/16: Check out this recent announcement from Sensi. Now you can control your thermostat with voice commands using the Amazon Echo device! Very cool!
— Sensi (@Sensi) March 3, 2016
If you’re interested in upgrading your home with one or two Sensi WiFi thermostats (or any smart thermostat for that matter), please support Dad Kingdom and click through one of our Amazon links!