It’s been almost three months since I’ve moved into my new place and one of the first things I knew I wanted to do was install smart controls and automation for the air conditioning system(s). As it was the height of summer in Australia the idea of being able to pre-cool the house before my return and other smart capabilities filled me with excitement.
Admittedly I didn’t do too much research when I selected the Sensibo. I was relatively familiar with the brand (they’re constantly advertising on my Instagram feed), had seen their products in store and to be honest, didn’t think there was much competition.
Set up was amazingly easy. It only took one attempt to find my air conditioner system in the Sinobi database and synchronise the remote and set my settings in terms of which air conditioning unit I was controlling and in which room.
As usual with most Smart Home controllers, Sinobi requires you to download their app to manage their devices. Luckily the app is pretty nice (not a given in this category and I’m still surprised when I see terrible smart hub apps).
The app is well designed with a good UX and makes it easy, organised in a logical manner, making it easier to find the controls you’re looking for. The UX is so good that in many cases you’ll be able to find additional controls for your AC unit that may be hidden or impossible to find on your regular remote control. For example, with the AC unit in my bedroom I prefer to have the digital display off as it’s super bright and can be distracting when trying to sleep. On the factory remote control it’s a confusing series of buttons that I’ll never remember but on the app it’s a simple button sitting alongside all the other room controls.
For some of the more advanced controls that can be it’s more of a mixed bag in terms of usage. The geofencing for instance works really well. Whenever you (or more correctly your phone) are more than a pre-determined radius from your house you can set specific commands such as switching on or off. This works really well but often I’m out of the house without my phone (go figure; the Apple Watch with Cellular is often enough!) so doesn’t work in those cases.
The Climate React feature, however, I tried for a few weeks but ended up switching off. This is where you can set your units to react according to the outside temperature. It’s nice in theory but I felt the internal room temperature was so different to what was going on outside it rendered it useless. In a two storey house you get so many variances in rooms again it seemed pretty useless.
The “sensor” part of the Sensibo Air + Room Sensor I have to assume just works. It’s pretty assuming; it’s battery-powered and just happy to sit and work wherever you place it. I find the sensor valuable for a central area like a living room where you want the air conditioning most of the time but often times people leave the room without remembering to turn the unit off. For the really sweltering months of summer I switch the sensor off as I like the living room like a meat locker.
The notifications are something that you probably will need to customise to your preference. I found the geolocation alerts a little OTT so I ended up turning those off.
It should come as no surprise that the main way that I’m interacting with the Sensibo controls is through voice and Google Assistant. It’s just a very natural way to control temperature as you’re entering a room or going about your day. Initially I was pretty happy with the basic voice commands such as “Hey Google, turn the living room AC on”. There are a number of variations you can use to allow for your preference such as “aircon”, “air conditoner” or in the colder months “heater”. It doesn’t feel like you’re a slave to specific worded . You do have to remember what you call your specific rooms which may take a bit of learning. We have a second living area which is a part gaming/study area and didn’t really know what to call it so we settled on “Upstairs Living”. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue and sometimes we forget. Only in recent months have I learnt to use more advanced voice commands such as “set the temperature to 25 degrees” (or whatever your preference is in celsius or fahrenheit) or “switch the aircon from cool to heat” (a valuable command in those weird months in spring and autumn). These are nice shortcuts instead of having to press app or hard remote buttons multiple times so I can see myself using these commands more often.
The other very nice feature is how well it is integrated into Google Home and their interactive displays. Some service integrations are merely but the integration between Sensibo and the Google Hubs is pretty amazing. From the Hub screens you’re able to do what you’d expect such as switch room units off and on, control the temperature and switch from cooling to heating mode. Again, this all seems very obvious but with some services you’d be surprised how the basics aren’t even there so have to give Sensibo and Google props for this.
One other feature that has gone under-utilised is using the Sensibo and air conditioning settings within Automation Scenarios. I’m still not that convinced that my daily routines are regular enough that I’ll get much value out of this but I may give it a good ‘ol try before I totally abandon the idea.
So what’s my verdict three months? I like it very much, thanks for asking. They’re not the sexiest form factor like a Google or Apple smart speaker and so you may want to hide the units as much as possible. The Sensibo controllers are something that I tend not to think about and just work reliably when you need it to day in and day out. Isn’t that what some smart home services should be?