As with any “smart home” sensor, you’d expect to it be completely wireless and make use of an intuitive user interface. And SmartAC’s solution does just that– it walks you through the setup and installation of the sensors and provides easy access to local HVAC technicians if something breaks down.
SmartAC’s product does many things right, and we have many good things to say about it. But, we did note some minor issues with the sensor placement, and the iPhone app sometimes takes a while to open. With that said, none of the problems we faced were deal breakers. Continue reading for our full review.
Review Criteria Ratings
- Easy setup
- Intuitive application
- Remote monitoring
- Push notifications
- Daily insights
- Breakdown risk assessment
- Easy access to HVAC service
- Intermittent slow loading on mobile app
- Comfort sensor not ideal for floor supply vents
- Doesn’t provide current home temperature
Should You Buy It?
If you’re looking for a solution to monitor your HVAC system remotely and detect trends that could indicate a problem, SmartAC’s solution is a great option.
It collects tons of data, tells you when to change your filter, and lets you know when your HVAC system needs service before a breakdown happens. Plus, it puts you in direct contact with an HVAC pro right in the app.
Disclosure: It is important you understand that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. All opinions are our own we pride ourselves on keeping our articles fair and balanced. For more info see our disclosure statement.
SmartAC – Product Overview
If you haven’t heard of SmartAC before, you might expect it to be either (yet another) smart thermostat or a smart air conditioning unit.
But, it is neither of those things. However, what it does is much grander. SmartAC’s product is a unique solution for monitoring the performance of your HVAC system and alerting you when you need HVAC maintenance.
It also puts you in direct contact with an HVAC technician in the mobile application. This is convenient if your AC stops working in critical times (like the 100ºF temperature I’m experiencing as I write this). You can text a tech who will walk you through some light troubleshooting.
Being in the HVAC industry for several years, I suspect they would ask you simple questions like:
- Is it running?
- If it’s running, is there cold air coming from the vents?
- Is the circuit breaker off?
- Is the air handler leaking water?
- Are there any strange noises coming from the indoor or outdoor unit?
With these probing questions, they can collect your air conditioner’s symptoms to get an idea of the cause before sending an HVAC technician to repair it. Or, they might be able to walk you through some steps to get it back up and running.
So how does SmartAC’s solution work? Their solution is a kit that includes multiple sensors, a wireless hub, and a mobile app that you need to download (for free) on your Android or Apple smartphone.
Depending on the number of zones and configuration of your HVAC system, SmartAC will provide a different number of sensors to you. For a single zone system like I have in my home, they provided three sensors and one hub:
- Wireless hub: The wireless HVAC sensors connect to this, and in turn, the hub uploads all the readings to the cloud, which you access via their mobile app
- Comfort sensor: Installs on a supply vent near your thermostat. It measures the supply temperature and when (and how long) your HVAC system runs.
- Filter sensor: Installs inside your air handler next to your filter. It monitors your filter and tells you in the app when you need to change it.
- Water sensor: Installs in your condensate pan and alerts you if the water doesn’t drain properly.
Overall, SmartAC’s HVAC monitoring system is great for homeowners who want to optimize their HVAC system’s performance and monitor it on their smartphone. The hardware is not expensive, but you must pay a monthly monitoring fee ($5/month). However, SmartAC claims that the energy and preventative maintenance savings they provide will offset these costs, assuming you listen to the app and their recommendation alerts.
How SmartAC Performs
The SmartAC kit lives up to its name by providing smart monitoring of your HVAC system. As I mentioned earlier, the kit includes three sensors, a wireless hub, and a mobile app. Here is how they perform.
The Mobile App
In the SmartAC mobile app, you can quickly see the status of your system.
It provides the following information upfront:
- Breakdown risk level rating
- Leak information
- Filter health
A full assessment on your unit can be accessed when you tap the “Risk” in the lower left portion of the app. This page breaks down your system’s risk level on a scale ranging from Low, Medium, and High. It will also provide recommendations when available.
On the other hand, the “Insights” page in the application tells you the total runtime and number of cycles of your HVAC system per day and week.
If you select “View cycle details,” you can view all measurements recorded by the sensors, including:
- Supply temperature
- Return temperature
- Performance (Delta T)
- Outside air temperature
- Leak sensor temperature
- Pressure change
- Mode (heating or cooling)
Why is this information necessary and why would you ever need all of this data? Unless you’re an HVAC nerd like me, you would never need or want all of this data. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t important.
This data is what the SmartAC kit uses to establish performance trends of your HVAC system. If variables like performance (delta T), pressure change, runtime, etc., start to trend in a negative direction, the app will know that something is failing and tell you that you should have an HVAC technician swing by soon.
Without the SmartAC kit, you’d never notice a bad trend. And the issues causing the negative trend would persist until a component fails and breaks down, leaving you without heating or air conditioning.
But, this data collection allows SmartAC to tell you about the problem and get it fixed before equipment failure occurs.
The Wireless Hub and Sensors
The wireless hub is essentially a gateway for all the wireless HVAC sensors in the kit (three sensors, in my case). Each sensor connects to the hub via a closed IoT ISM band, and the hub connects to your Wi-Fi network (and the cloud).
The benefit of the hub is that the sensors can maintain a stronger connection to the hub with the ISM band (it’s hard for Wi-Fi to penetrate ductwork and other obstacles). Plus, having fewer sensors connected to your router frees up bandwidth and doesn’t slow down your network as much.
From a design standpoint, using the hub was a great choice. I’ve had mine installed for over a month with no connection issues with the sensors or hub.
The sensors themselves are powered by 2x AA batteries, which are not hard to switch out. I haven’t had to change them yet, but I did remove the cover to take a look. After a month of use, the batteries still show a full charge in the app, which is a great sign.
Overall, each sensor provides detailed and frequent readings that are automatically uploaded to the cloud and used to assess the risk of your HVAC system. In my opinion, the sensors do a fantastic job, have a great battery life, and don’t get in the way (for the most part).
For most homeowners, installing HVAC sensors in their AC unit and around their home probably seems like a daunting task. But, rest assured, SmartAC makes installation very easy.
And while I know my way around an HVAC system, the process is so simple that anyone could do it.
All you have to do is download the app and walk through their step-by-step instructions. They even provide a quick setup guide card to help you get started.
Once you download the app by scanning the QR code, you can install the hardware kit. The app plays short animated videos that describe each step of connecting and installing each of the three sensors in the correct locations.
For example, for the Comfort Sensor, it tells you to place it on the supply vent closest to your thermostat. It has a magnet that holds it in place on the supply vent cover. In my home, my supply vents are on the floor. This is common for homes with AC units in their basement (which is typical throughout the midwest).
Placing it on a vent on the floor isn’t ideal because you can step on it or kick it by accident. Or, your kid can grab it and run off with it (like my 14-month-year-old did). So, I found a floor vent hidden behind an end table in my living room for its final spot (a bit further from the thermostat than the first vent).
To install the water and filter sensors, you will have to open up the air handler of your AC unit. The water sensor should be placed in the condensate pan under your evaporator coils.
But, my AC unit is stacked with my furnace, so I put mine next to my drain line. This empties the condensate into a pipe and drains into a sump pit. Not the ideal placement, but if something overflows or gets clogged, this will still catch it.
The filter sensor gets installed on the outlet of the filter (the side the airflow direction arrow points towards). For my air conditioner, I had to open up the access door and place the sensor next to the filter.
The app then asks for your filter size and the last time you changed it.
All in all, the installation and pairing of the sensors to the app was relatively quick and easy — it took me less than 20 minutes.
The final step is taking a picture of the nameplate on your outdoor unit. Your AC unit’s nameplate includes the model number, efficiency, and other specifications that are important to monitor it for issues.
The photograph you take is uploaded to SmartAC’s servers, which are then read and paired to your account. I believe this is a manual process since getting the “HVAC details” into the app took a few weeks.
Once this information is available, SmartAC produces a “Breakdown risk level” for your HVAC system, which is insightful and helps you plan service and filter changes.
Does it help and work?
Fortunately, I haven’t needed any maintenance on my HVAC system since I installed SmartAC’s kit. So, I haven’t experienced a “preventative maintenance” alert from the equipment yet. But, based on the frequent and accurate readings from the sensors, I am confident it works as intended.
I can tell you that my “filter health” has dropped from 51% to 47% since I installed it. From this, it appears the filter sensor is working as it should.
I can also tell that the Comfort sensor works based on its measurements when the AC is on and off.
For the water sensor, my air conditioner didn’t have a leak this past month, but that didn’t stop me from testing it out. I took a pan of water to my basement and placed the contact tips in the water.
I got the sensor wet at 10:48 AM, and just two minutes later, I received a text message: “SmartAC.com: Water detected in the basement. Urgent action is required. Open the SmartAC.com app and follow directions.”
That’s pretty fast– and if I did have an actual leak, I might not notice it for days since I don’t go in my basement too often. During that time, mold and mildew could grow and cause thousands of dollars in water damage.
Also, the “Live Chat” feature works surprisingly well. You can message an HVAC technician with just a few clicks of a button. I tested this out. To start, you text your problem, and an automated response walks you through troubleshooting. If the automated bot can’t fix your issue, it allows you to talk to a real HVAC tech or immediately schedule a maintenance visit.
Considering the amount of data the SmartAC kit collects, how rapidly it notifies you of any issues, and how easy it is to troubleshoot and schedule HVAC service with the app, I would say it is well worth the money. It could save you hundreds to thousands of dollars in repair and water damage costs. It’s like insurance for your HVAC system.
SmartAC’s kit is a one-of-a-kind solution for monitoring your HVAC system. Although, there are products that will perform some of the same functions that SmartAC’s solution does (but without the cloud monitoring, notifications, and quick access to HVAC technicians).
Here are some independent alternatives to SmartAC’s kit:
Filtrete’s Smart Replenishable AC Furnace Filter
If you’re just looking for notification of when to change your filter, the Smart Replenishable filter from Filtrete is your best choice.
It is just like your regular furnace filter, but it includes a battery-powered blue sensor in the middle that tells you (via an app) when you need to change it.
It’s relatively inexpensive, easy to install and set up, and doesn’t require a subscription like SmartAC. But, you don’t get preventative maintenance assessments or other monitoring capabilities.
YoLink Smart Home Water Sensor Kit
If water leaks are your primary worry, then the YoLink water sensor kit is a great alternative. It includes one hub and four battery-powered water sensors. You can use one in your AC unit’s condensate pan and the other three in your dishwasher, washing machine, or under sinks.
It doesn’t require a subscription and integrates with Alexa and IFTT, so you can set up alerts on your mobile device. And you get multiple sensors for less than the cost of SmartAC’s kit.
Again, unlike SmartAC’s kit, you only get a single function, not a complete HVAC monitoring solution.
Things to consider before buying
Although SmartAC makes the installation and setup very easy, you might still find it overwhelming and complicated if you’re not a handy person. Removing the panel from your HVAC unit can be scary, especially if you’re doing it for the first time.
If you’re not inclined to do the installation yourself, get help from a friend or family member who is.
Another slight disadvantage I mentioned before is that the Comfort sensor attaches to your supply vent with a magnet. That works well if your supply vents are high up on your walls (near the ceiling). But, if they are on the floor (like mine and thousands of other homes are), that can be problematic.
My 14-month-year-old son ripped mine off our vent and stomped away with it before I moved it to a different vent he can’t access. Even if you don’t have young kids or pets that can mess with it, you might still step on it or kick it by accident.
SmartAC’s solution isn’t a one-time purchase. You must pay a monthly subscription fee (currently $5/month) to get 24/7 monitoring, live HVAC tech chat, service scheduling, alerts, health reports, and a warranty. But, you can cancel it at any time.
As an added benefit, you can add extra water sensors to your order to monitor your dishwasher, washing machine, and more which is an excellent addition. Plus, you get a small discount if you order filters through the app.
Your HVAC system breaking down is not something any homeowner wants to experience. Whether it fails in the summer or winter, you’ll have a host of other problems if you don’t get it fixed fast.
If you want to avoid HVAC failures, potential water damage, and costly repairs, SmartAC’s monitoring kit is a great preventative solution. It provides 24/7 monitoring, immediately informs you of issues (like leaks), identifies trends that may lead to breakdowns, and puts you in fast communication with local HVAC technicians.
It protects your home and your budget. To learn more about SmartAC, check out their website today.