Unfortunately Sensibo doesn’t support central ducted heating/cooling, as central systems tend to rely on wall-mounted controllers rather than handheld remotes. This is obviously a deal-breaker in some homes.
Stay in command
The Sky is easy to install, as long as you can place it in a spot where it can reach a power socket but still has line of sight with your aircon unit so it can send infrared commands. There’s double-sided tape on the back for sticking it on the wall, along with a notch if you’d prefer to mount it on a screw.
The trouble at this point is that you’ve now got two devices vying for control of your aircon: the Sky sensor and your old infrared remote. Thankfully they can learn to get along.
If you place the Sky on the wall near the aircon — as opposed to placing it on the wall opposite the aircon — then the Sky can pick up the infrared commands coming from the remote. This ensures that the Sensibo app can keep track of the aircon’s current status, even if someone turns it on or off with the remote while you’re out.
The next step is to install the Sensibo app on your iOS or Android device, which walks you through the setup process.
Pointing your infrared remote at the Sky and pressing the On button should be enough for it to establish the make and model of your aircon. From here it can configure all the aircon’s controls, similar to a universal remote in the lounge room.
Put to the test
In theory the Sensibo Sky should “just work”, but of course your mileage may vary. Tested on two split systems — first an old Panasonic and then an old Fujitsu — the initial set-up process failed to correctly identify either aircon unit.
Thankfully you can dip into the settings and change them manually, and we tried a few different Panasonic and Fujitsu profiles before we found ones that did the job. It’s a shame you can’t just enter the make and model of your aircon unit, as you can with home entertainment gear when setting up a Logitech Harmony remote.
Once the Sky recognises your aircon unit, it’s easy to control it from afar. Press the On button in the mobile app or web interface and the little Sky box comes to life within a few seconds, firing off an infrared command to the aircon.
Of course the Sky can do much more than just turn the air on and off, thanks to the fact it has built-in sensors for measuring the temperature and humidity in the room. You can use it as a thermostat in “Climate React” mode, triggering actions automatically depending on the conditions in the room.
You can also set one-off and recurring schedules, but Sensibo’s real strength is that it can integrate with the rest of your smart home by talking to Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and IFTTT.
One advantage of the using the smartphone app is that you can create a geofence around your home and adjust the radius from 100m to 800m. This lets you automatically turn the aircon on and off as you come and go. In busy households, you can even automatically kill the air when the last person leaves the house.
This upside of this is that it stops you making the expensive mistake of accidentally leaving the aircon running all day while no-one is home. The downside is that enabling geofencing means the app constantly monitors your GPS location which, as with all such services, takes its toll on your smartphone’s battery life during the day.
Room for improvement
While it’s great when it works, unfortunately we found the Sky wasn’t completely reliable when it came to picking up commands from the Panasonic or Fujitsu remotes. The geofencing features were also temperamental.
To Sensibo’s credit, its local support team was fantastic when it came to tech support and troubleshooting. We ironed out some issues but couldn’t get it working flawlessly, despite the fact that most customers seem to have no trouble, including a large rollout with a local energy provider.
So what’s the verdict?
If you’re lamenting the dearth of internet-enabled features in your expensive aircon unit then the $159 Sensibo Sky might be exactly the upgrade you’re looking for.
It’s possible you could run into trouble as we did, particularly with older aircon units, but Sensibo’s tech support is impressive. If they can’t get it running smoothly in your home then they’ll happily give you your money back.
Considering this safety net, Sensibo Sky seems like a smart investment for cooling your home and curbing your power bills this summer.
Adam Turner is an award-winning Australian technology journalist and co-host of weekly podcast Vertical Hold: Behind The Tech News.