When hot summer sun converts our homes into Easy-Bake Ovens, many of us turn to window-mounted air conditioners to beat the heat. While these seasonal appliances offer a respite from the blazing temperatures outdoors, they tend to be energy hogs, sending our utility bills skyrocketing like mercury in a sun-soaked thermometer. Even air conditioning units with energy-saving features built in have to be left on to be effective, thereby drawing more power than they really need to. The recent advent of internet-connected smart air conditioners aims to change that, but what about the rest of us with perfectly good air conditioners in no need of replacement? Enter the Tado Smart AC Control, which aims to convert any AC unit with an infrared remote control into a smart air conditioner. With smartphone app control, smart scheduling, location-based control and now Amazon Alexa compatibility, the Tado Smart AC control promises a smart thermostat-like experience for your otherwise dumb AC. For our Tado Smart AC Control review, we tested the Tado for three sweltering summer months to determine whether the device delivered on that promise, and whether our utility bill took a dip or lay flat, and found the device worked brilliantly, shaving off an average of 20 percent off our power bill.
Out of the box and setup
The Tado Smart AC Control comes with a USB power plug, region-appropriate adapter, Micro USB power cord, and a pair of adhesive strips for wall mounting. On the back of the device are cable guides and exit channels for clean cable management, whether placed on a wall or table.
The Tado works just like an infrared remote control, so you’ll want to place it with a clear line of sight to your air conditioner so it functions properly.
Once powered on, you’ll want to download the Tado app for your smartphone or tablet — currently, Tado is supported by iOS, Android, and Windows apps. The app will then guide you through the setup, which involves teaching the device your air conditioner’s remote codes with the AC’s standard remote control.
From there, it’s easy to set up smart AC schedules. You can program your ideal temperature settings for when you are home, or based on certain times of day, as well as wake-up and sleep times.
Perhaps the Tado’s most useful feature for us was its location-based programming. By letting the Tado Smart AC Control track you and any other resident’s location relative to the home, the device can turn on and off the AC automatically, conserving even more energy. This way, going to work or leaving on vacation will automatically turn the AC off.
The Tado device also offers fully manual control for those times when you wish to just use buttons instead of fiddling with an app.
The Tado does have an on-board touch-sensitive interface, but we didn’t find it to be all that useful. The interface allows full control of the device’s settings and provides for quick control, but if you’re standing that close to the AC unit, you might as well just use the on-board controls.
One of the handier benefits of the Tado device is its built-in thermometer and hygrometer, which provides temperature and humidity readings, both on the device’s display and through the Tado app.
From our extensive experience with the device, we found the Tado Smart AC Control worked almost flawlessly. In the early stages, we’d occasionally forget we’d changed the temperature on the AC manually and not accounted for the action through the app, so an offset of a few degrees would occur. However, with a few days’ use, these oversights were easy to avoid.
Alexa integration also worked very well for us. It’s not necessary to say “Alexa, tell Tado … ” before offering instructions. Instead, you can simply say, “Alexa, set the living room to 73 degrees.” Alexa will recognize which of multiple Tado devices you are addressing by the name assigned to the device in the Tado app, and instantly carry out your instructions. It’s about as seamless a voice-activated experience as one could hope for.
In the end, the Tado Smart AC Controller is a device worth its premium price. You can get a smart AC unit with some similar features built in, but none of them are as customizable as the Tado, and they require a new purchase. The Tado is the perfect solution for making your dumb AC as smart as it can possibly be.