The curtains are drawn. The windows are shut. The panes are covered in tinfoil held together by bits of plasterer’s tape. Strategically placed fans circulate the air in a hot swirling vortex all around me. My slowly roasting flat resembles the home of a murderer in some rubbish ITV serial killer drama, moments before the police kick the door down and drag him screaming into the sunlight.
It’s pretty hot out there, if you haven’t noticed, which is why I’m turning to our old friend technology to help keep cool. Specifically, a portable air conditioner and a Tado smart AC control V3+.
Portable air conditioners are functional appliances built around a basic set of features: suck the air in, cool the air down, exhaust the hot air out of a window, and blast the chilled air into the room. The Tado smart AC control V3+ takes these simple functions and integrates them into your smart home setup.
I’ve always resisted the urge to invest in air conditioning. Not only is the machine too big to keep stored away until the one week of the year you’ll need it, but I think there’s something fundamentally rude about pumping my flat’s hot air back outside, making it everybody else’s problem rather than mine – it feels a bit like tipping your bins out your window. Combating a climate change induced heatwave by using shedloads more electricity to cool my flat by a few degrees sounds dangerously like a feedback loop, too.
There’s also the matter of how expensive they are to run. Our smart electricity meter clocks our portable air conditioner as sucking down between 700W and 900W, roughly similar to running the oven, the dishwasher or the washing machine. With energy bills skyrocketing, you’re looking at spending 30-40p per hour to keep your flat cool – that’s about £100 a month, conservatively.
That’s why I was interested in the Tado smart AC control V3+, a smart home gadget that turns any dumb portable air conditioner (so long as it has an infrared remote) into a smart one, with customisable schedules, geofencing, voice controls, and energy and cost saving features. Here’s what I made of it.
Tado smart AC control V3+: £74.98, Amazon.co.uk
The Tado smart AC control V3+ is simple to install. Pop it on the wall near your portable air conditioner, plug it in, connect it to your wifi through the Tado app, point your AC’s remote control at it to “teach” it how to control your AC, and you’re done.
Once set up, you can then control your portable air conditioner using voice commands with Google Assistant, Alexa or Apple Homekit, whether you’re at home or on the other side of the world. Through the app you can build a cooling schedule to control your home’s temperature throughout the day and over the course of the week.
Portable air conditioners use more electricity whenever they have to make very drastic temperature changes – such as when you get back from the office to a flat that’s been baking in the afternoon sun. This is one way that a smart AC controller can help save energy, by programming your air conditioner to keep your home from exceeding a maximum temperature while you’re away, it has less work to do when you need things a little cooler.
Read more: 5 best portable air conditioners
For an extra £2.99 subscription the Tado app uses your phone’s location to determine when you’re away from home. So, if you prefer, you can have the peace of mind that you’re never cooling an empty flat by setting the AC controller to switch off when it knows you’re not in.
With a subscription you also get open window detection, which sends you an alert to let you know if your AC is hopelessly attempting to climate control the entire outside world. Portable air conditioners generally need an open window to run the hot air exhaust pipe through, so open window detection is less useful for fairweather AC users in Britain.
Similarly, the wider Tado system can save on electricity bills by pairing your AC usage to draw more power when energy is cheaper at night, and less during the day. This isn’t useful for anyone simply running a portable air conditioner like me (it’s hotter during the day), but Tado’s smart controller technology is designed to invisibly puppet-master your entire home’s heating and cooling system, from heat pumps and radiators to air conditioning and water tanks. All of these can take advantage of a variable tariff.
The verdict: Tado smart AC control V3+
Anyway, back here in my dimly lit murder-flat, my thunderously loud portable air conditioner is aggressively spewing frigid air, and the temperature is dropping. The Tado smart AC control V3+ is a simple and straightforward way to make most dumb air conditioners a fully integrated part of an energy-efficient home.
And, once the Tado smart AC control is connected to your Google Home setup, you can add climate control to any routines you use. When I say good morning to my smart speaker, the blinds come up, the AC kicks into high gear, the lights come on and the radio starts playing.
The Tado smart AC control V3+ does nothing to make me feel less like a creepy villain stewing in his foil-wrapped lair, but it’s certainly taking the edge off the heat.
Tado smart AC control V3+
Buy now £74.98, Amazon.co.uk
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