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Hands-on Gear Review
Sensi Wi-Fi Programmable ReviewPrice: $160 List | $140.60 at Amazon
Pros: Easy to install, great mobile app, only thermostat that has a battery powered option
Cons: Hard to use without the app
Bottom line: The best for older homes, and while it can be difficult to use on the device, the app is great
The Sensi WiFi by Emerson fall much more in the traditional thermostat category, retaining the appearance and interface as a typical programmable model. Scoring equally as our Best Buy award winner, this model was just a little more expensive. However, this model has the highest compatibility with older homes, and is definitely a product to consider if you have an older home or a non-standard HVAC system. The only aspect where this device really lagged was on ease of use on the device, but it's easy enough to adjust everything through the mobile app, almost negating this drawback.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Sensi gave a strong performance across most of our testing metrics, scoring above average on install and support, remote access and accuracy. Our main complaint was this product was its below average performance in ease of use, which was our highest weighted metric.
Ease of Use
Ease of use was our most important rating category for this product, making up 40% of the total score. Unfortunately, the Sensi scored below average in this category with a 4 out of 10, effectively precluding it from winning the top score. This was the only model that did not prompt you through the setup process, simply initializing with its factory settings. We found it to be significantly unintuitive to set a schedule, initially thinking it was impossible to set a schedule on the device, only being possible on the app.
It turned out that the feature to set a schedule on the device is disabled when connected to WiFi. This product limited to 4 changes per day: wake, work, home, and sleep and will only run a 7-day schedule, with all days being the same. This is substantially more restrictive and less customizable than other products, and much harder to match to your actual comings and goings.
Under advanced settings there are a handful of things you can adjust, such as adding a lock or add a fixed offset to correct if the Sensi is always reading slightly high or low. We did like that you can adjust the maintenance band on the Sensi, or how fast it cycles on and off your HVAC system. This allows you to decide how much you want to push your equipment at the expense of accuracy.
The current temperature is adjusted through up and down arrow keys, and the temperature can be set to hold until the next change in schedule, with a hold minimum time of 2 hours. The Sensi displays the current and set temperature, time, and mode on its home screen.
Install & Support
Upon opening the box, the packaging notifies you to install the companion application, which then guides you step by step through the entire set-up, with helpful tips and tricks along the way, including additional video if you get lost in a certain section. We felt this was an extremely helpful tool, and contributed to this product earning a 7 out of 10 in this category. The base plate for the Sensi also included a built-in level.
It lagged a little when it came to customer support, requiring us to follow up on our initial request after a week to get a response, and even then their responses felt somewhat cryptic and short. We felt they did much better when it came to over the phone support, answering our questions without the need to transfer us around multiple times.
The Sensi did well when it came to remote access, earning an above average score of 7 out of 10. The app is easy and straightforward to use, and we particularly liked that the background changes color depending on whether or not it is heating or cooling.
Scheduling on the app is great, giving you the option to change the temperature in 15-minute increments up to 8 times a day. You can also pull up the schedule on the calendar view to see the week and the temperatures that you have set.
The home screen of the app is extremely similar to the device, with a slight delay before the information is pushed to the device, allowing you to correct for unintentional adjustments. This product also has a fully automatic mode where it will decide what actions the HVAC system must take to keep the ambient temperature in a set range.
As we tested all of these products, we checked the displayed temperature against each other and against a laboratory grade thermometer to act as a control. The Sensi was decently consistent, usually off by about a degree from the control. You can also adjust the temperature with a fixed offset, as mentioned above. For example, if you check and the Sensi always reads a degree higher than ambient, you can manually offset it down a degree to display the true temperature.
This product has a decent value, scoring the same as our Best Buy award winner, but having a list price that is about 40 dollars higher.
The Sensi falls somewhat in the middle, scoring alright but is a little too expensive to be considered a value pick. We felt that there were some odd idiosyncrasies when it came to setting up schedules and navigating menus, but would potentially be a great pick if you can cope with those quirks and/or found it at a better price.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer
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