Using Wiser Air
Once installed and configured, you can manage your home temperature in a variety of ways. There’s an app available for iOS, Android and Windows devices and you can access thermostat controls by logging into the Wiser Air website in a standard browser too. Direct control is supported on the touchscreen itself and a recent collaboration with Amazon sees Alexa voice control supported for Amazon Echo/Echo Tap users.
Before we get too far into the detail of the various apps and services available, you’ll need to decide whether you’d like to create a manual temperature schedule for Wiser Air, or whether you happy to hand control over to the device’s Eco IQ feature. The latter is a machine learning algorithm which will automatically adjust your home temperatures as its learns your preferences. Set a broad guideline as to when your thermostat should heat and cool your house (based on temperature thresholds) and from there simply adjust the temperature when you feel too hot or too cold.
Eco IQ learns from a variety of data points – your inputs, of course, the length of time it takes to heat and cool your home, your energy usage and external temperatures, provided by Schneider Electric’s weather service. The company says that it takes Eco IQ around a week to learn your initial preferences, but will keep tweaking and adjusting your home’s temperatures based on your preferences.
With Eco IQ enabled, I actually found that Wiser Air did a better job of maintaining a consistent temperature in my home than the Nest Learning Thermostat. Admittedly, my home is problematic for temperature control as it’s a. four floors (including an attic and a basement) with a single temperature zone and b. the builder located the thermostat control wiring in a dreadful position that’s bathed in sunlight in the afternoon. As a result, Nest’s automatic temperature control seems to swing wildly in an attempt to heat or cool the house. Wiser Air seems to do a better job at keeping the temperature comfortable.
Sure, it’s Autumn and the external temperatures here in Canada are fluctuating between single digit (Celsius) right up to this afternoon’s 24 degrees. But when the temperature feels uncomfortable, a quick tap of the up or down arrow allows Eco IQ to adjust the temperature model. For more rapid relief, holding down the arrow initiates a 15 minute temperature “boost” (adjustable in five minute intervals) which will provide a blast of cooling or heating as required. I was able to feel the difference immediately.
Having been a little distrustful of the Nest Learning Thermostat, a couple of weeks with Wiser Air has reassured me that this system knows what it’s doing. You’ll want to keep an eye on what’s happening at first, but over time, you’ll learn to trust the device and should only need to intervene now and again.
Notifications will keep you in touch with what’s happening in the world of your home heating. Reassuring messages regarding your energy consumption help to reinforce the savings you’re making with a smart thermostat.
I miss Nest’s regular email which compares your energy consumption with other Nest owners in your local area, but dig around (particularly in the browser) and you can find charts tracking your home temperatures.
If you prefer to take control yourself, you’ll find manual schedules are reasonably easy to build, whether you’re using the Wiser Air app (video below) or the browser. Simply configure the thermostat with the times of the day that you’re home and away and the desired temperature thresholds and you’re good to go.
That same ease of experience extends across the Wiser Air user interface – whether you’re using the mobile apps or a web browser. A clear, friendly and consistent experience extends across the user interface, thankfully without the snags I encountered during setup. Viewing and changing temperature is easy and there’s a handy weather forecast shown on screen. Once you’re up and running, you’ll find Wiser Air is very easy to use.
Third Party Integrations
Of course, no smart home device is an island – we’d expect a smart device to offer integrations with a range of smart home hubs, devices and services. One of the selling points of a device like the Nest Learning Thermostat is that third-party manufacturers and developers are falling over themselves to offer integration support. That’s not the case with Wiser Air, unfortunately.
At the time of writing, there’s no support for IFTTT, Apple HomeKit or other popular integrations like Philips Hue, Logitech Harmony et al. However, an integration with Amazon Echo is now available, allowing you to control your home temperatures with voice commands.
Linking Amazon Echo to Wiser Air is a simple matter of enabling the relevant skill and linking the devices via a voice command. I found setup to be very easy, but performance after that was mixed. Alexa was able to report the current temperature in the house correctly, but whenever I asked for a temperature change, Alexa complained that it was having trouble accessing the Wiser Air skill. A work in progress, it seems.
At $239, the Wiser Air smart thermostat is clearly positioned to compete with devices such as the Nest Learning Thermostat, Ecobee3 and others. While I was pleased with its core features – the device provides more consistent temperatures in my home than Nest, for example – Wiser Air lacks the same polished experience that its competitors deliver.
Sure, once you’re up and running, it’s friendly to use and the thermostat’s Eco IQ feature looks to be a winner. But overall, the device lacks the charm and personality of Nest with a reasonably bland hardware design and a setup experience which could be more intuitive. Third party integration is also lacking at this point and my experience with the one integration that is available, Amazon Echo, was patchy.
While the hardware design can’t be improved in this current generation, the good news is that the other difficulties I encountered can be fixed with software releases. I would hope – and expect – that Schneider Electric works quickly to enhance Wiser Air with a fuller range of features to compete with its peers. It also needs to continue to refine what is an overall friendly and easy user experience.
As it stands, the first generation Wiser Air smart thermostat is a solid debut, that doesn’t quite deliver the pizzazz of trendier competitors. Today, it delivers the basics well, but you can feel there’s more to come.