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One customer’s comment on Amazon sums up the Sensi WiFi thermostat for us:
“It does not have the fluff of some of the more expensive ones, but it does the job – and does it well.”
Easy installation with no need of a C wire in most cases
Convenient remote control feature with a simple app interface
Easy and flexible scheduling whether on the app or thermostat
Incompatible with humidifiers and dehumidifiers. Though it has a humidity sensor and will show you humidity level, it cannot change it
Limited range of smart device integrations though this could change in the future through software updates
Costing less than $150, you can buy the Sensi smart thermostat at half the price of the more sophisticated Nest & Ecobee smart thermostats.
This doesn’t mean you are getting a lower-quality product or a less satisfying experience. In fact, the Sensi thermostat trumps those pricier and smarter thermostats in terms of installation and ease of use.
If you are looking for a basic WiFi thermostat that is reliable, easy to install and easy to operate, then Sensi is a great choice.
In the following review, we dig deep into Sensi’s various features, noting where it performs best and where it could use some improvement.
If you are hesitant about getting into the ‘smart home’ and are looking for affordable smart home devices to get you started, then this review is for you.
It is also for homeowners who want the benefits of smart thermostats without the sometimes confusing bells and whistles of expensive brands such as Nest.
HVAC System Compatibility
As with all other smart thermostat reviews, we begin with the most crucial aspect – system compatibility. Before you even begin to consider whether a specific smart thermostat is right for you, it is important to check whether it can work with your HVAC system.
Sensi outshines many other smart thermostats when it comes to cross-compatibility. It will work with almost any kind of residential heating and cooling system.
This includes 4-stage heating and 2-stage cooling systems, heat pumps, radiant heat systems, hot water boilers, cool-only systems, and heat-only systems.
It also works with gas, electric, oil as well as forced hot air systems.
The systems that are not compatible with Sensi are those that are rarely used in homes. They include electric baseboard heating systems (110V or higher), millivolt heating systems and proprietary HVAC systems.
In the case of millivolt systems, Sensi provides a workaround to create compatibility. Contact them if you have such a system and want to use the Sensi thermostat.
As for humidifiers and dehumidifiers, the Sensi thermostat can connect to them but cannot control them. For remote sensors, it can neither connect to them nor control them.
The best way to check for compatibility is using the tool provided on their official website. You will be asked to select all the wires you see on your old thermostat. For more help, you can always get in touch with their customer support team.
Sensi touts itself as the easiest smart thermostat to install.
According to most customers, this is true.
When you are buying the thermostat, you will notice there are two versions:
- a DIY version that is more expensive
- a Pro version with instructions for a pro installer and is slightly cheaper.
But the Sensi thermostat really does not require a pro to install so you might just as well buy the DIY version and save yourself the extra installation costs.
Sensi provides extensive step-by-step guidance, so you don’t have to worry about messing anything up.
The most important part is getting the wires right. You can use the guide to help you with that.
One of the installation advantages of Sensi is the less strict C wire requirement. In most cases, you can connect the thermostat even if you have no C wire in your system. The common wire is required only in a few cases where your system is heat-only or cool-only. If you have a heat pump system, you also need to have the C wire present.
Once you have installed the thermostat, a process that should take 30 minutes to an hour – the next step involves downloading their free app, available for both iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.
You will then be prompted to create an account and add your new thermostat. Note that you need to have your router up and working to register your thermostat and control it remotely. See our connectivity and remote control sections for more details.
Overall, the installation process is simple, straightforward and quick. Their customer service provides great support in case you run into a problem or need some clarification.
As we mentioned above, you need to have a compatible router to access the full features of the Sensi smart thermostat. This is because it depends on WiFi for features like remote control, smart scheduling and smart home integration.
It works with 2.4 GHz WiFi networks, so make sure your router broadcasts in this range. Look for dual-band routers rather than those that broadcast in the incompatible 5GHz range only. For security, the thermostat is compatible with the following protocols: WPA2 AES (recommended), WPA (TKIP) and WPA/WPA2. Check the official website for full network compatibility specifications.
Unlike the Nest thermostat, Sensi does not have Bluetooth connectivity. In fact, no other smart thermostat comes with Bluetooth since it has little to no use currently. The WiFi connection is enough for all connectivity requirements.
Simplicity is one of the biggest selling points of the Sensi WiFi thermostat. This is clear from the thermostats and accompanying apps user interface. They are both fairly easy to use and do not require a learning curve.
The design of the thermostats does not have much to praise. It is very basic with a monochrome display and no touch screen interface. Instead, you navigate your way around using physical buttons. The main buttons are on the left. They include a menu button at the center and two arrows sandwiching it from the top and bottom. The arrows are used to increase or decrease temperature level in the house.
At the bottom, there are three more buttons: Mode (heat/cool/off), Fan (auto/on) and Schedule. The home screen displays the main interior temperature in large numbers at the center of the screen, the time at the top, the current mode on the left, and the main status symbols (corresponding to the bottom buttons) at the bottom of the screen.
Despite its outdated look, we would say Sensi’s user interface is better than Nest’s. With Nest, there is no touchscreen or buttons. You have to turn a dial and press it inwards to select various settings. The good old pleasure of pressing physical buttons wins over the minimalist but tedious interface of Nest.
These days, smart thermostats, regardless of price, perform pretty much the same when it comes to remote control. It has become an essential feature and the biggest appeal to consumers.
Once your Sensi thermostat is connected to your home WiFi network and you have registered it through the app, you are ready to use remote control. This simply means you can change thermostat settings wherever you are by using the app on your phone.
Anything you can do on the thermostat, you can also do on the app. When you fire it up, the default screen displays the current temperature with arrow buttons on the right allowing you to quickly increase or lower it.
One the upper right corner, you will see a snapshot of your location’s weather report. This includes the max and min temperature for the day as well as the current temperature.
Along the bottom edge, there are quick buttons to set the system mode to heat, cool, auto or off.
Use the menu icon on the top left corner to access more settings and details. These include scheduling, account, feedback, support and general settings.
Using the app you can also receive alerts regarding your system such as when it is too hot or too cold.
Many users generally rate their app experience highly, with some noting occasional connectivity and responsiveness issues.
It seems that energy monitoring is a feature that has been left to Ecobee and Nest only.
Honeywell and Sensi do not provide any energy monitoring features at all. This means no daily insights on how much energy the system is using and no monthly reports on usage or energy savings.
Seeing that smart thermostats sell themselves on their ability to save energy, they should all include basic energy usage statistics. This would, in the very least, help homeowners understand how much energy they are using and by comparing it to past usage, determine where they are really enjoying any savings. For a feature so basic, it is a wonder so few are integrating it in their smart thermostats.
Scheduling And Automation
As with remote control, smart thermostats have become quite good at scheduling. So whether you get a Nest, Honeywell or Sensi thermostat, scheduling is the one feature they all excel at. Of course some thermostats like Nest have embellished their scheduling with automation, attempting to learn what the user likes and using it to automatically set temperature levels.
Sensi sticks to the basics. Their scheduling is simple to program and is flexible enough to meet even the busiest of lifestyles. First, it is important to note that you can program the schedule in two ways; on the thermostat panel or through the app.
The first step is turning scheduling on through the app’s menu. If you had already created a schedule, tap edit. To create a new one, you will see the appropriate button in the scheduling section of the menu. You can create customized comfort levels for different days and different times of the day.
You can also create multiple schedules for holidays and other events not catered for in the main schedule. Just make sure that ‘multiple schedules’ is tuned on in the settings. The app allows you to create as many different schedules as you need. You can also delete unwanted ones from the menu.
At this point, you start realizing why there is such a big price disparity between expensive thermostats like Nest and Ecobee3 and cheaper ones like Sensi. Cool designs aside, the pricier alternatives come packed with various sensors including motion sensors.
Sensi has only two basic sensors; temperature sensors to measure room temperature and a humidity sensor to measure the humidity level inside the house.
The thermostat will not light up as you approach because there is no proximity sensor nor will it detect when you are approaching home because there is no geofencing. But the lack of these sensors does not make for a worse experience. So do not feel pressured to spend more money on a Nest thermostat if it was not your plan.
Smart Home Integration
In terms of smart home integration, Sensi doesn’t compare that well with more expensive thermostats.
This is another area where most smart thermostats, pricey and low-cost, are doing well. Perhaps it is out of fear of becoming antiquated as homes get smarter that manufacturers are taking all measures to create cross-compatibility with other smart devices.
In 2016, Sensi was updated with the ability to connect to Amazon’s Alexa through Echo. All you need to do is tell Echo to set the temperature to a certain level and it happens. The other integration is with Wink.
These integrations are more limited than we expected.
For example, Sensi lacks compatibility with Google Home, Apple HomeKit, IFTTT and other home automation systems.
But this should not be a cause for worry since integration is as easy as an over-the-air update from the company. As home automation systems gain a foothold, it is without doubt that Sensi will add more integrations.
- Easy installation with no need of a C wire in most cases
- Convenient remote control feature with a simple app interface
- Easy and flexible scheduling whether on the app or thermostat
- Low cost
- Incompatible with humidifiers and dehumidifiers. Though it has a humidity sensor and will show you humidity level, it cannot change it
- Limited range of smart device integrations though this could change in the future through software updates
- Compatible with Amazon Alexa and Wink
- Requires 2AA batteries to function (batteries provided during purchase)
- Compatible with both Android and iOS
- Requires WiFi connectivity
- Weighs around 1.5 pounds and measures 5.9inches long, 3.8 inches wide and 0.9inches thick
This basic smart thermostat. omits the colorful features and smart home integration found in pricier smart WiFi thermostats.
But it is still a great smart thermostat that delivers solidly where it matters most – comfort control, remote access and smart scheduling.