OCT 18, 2021 / Review

Tado Smart AC Control V3+: How smart can your aircon get?

Like many Australians, I survive our hotter summer months thanks to the invention of air conditioning. Not that I can’t sweat it out when I have to, but equally, a good AC unit can make a hotbox of a home into something considerably more comfortable. Air conditioning isn’t a new invention – I looked it up, and the first Aircon was installed all the way back in 1902 – but the technology behind air conditioning has certainly come along in leaps and bounds in recent years.

If you’re installing a new air conditioning unit you can spend up big and get a high powered unit that’s ready to roll with internet connectivity and voice control, so you can perform fancy tricks like setting your AC to fire up when you’re away so that your home is pleasantly cooled – or nicely warm – when you do return.

But what if you’ve got a sturdy older unit that doesn’t think in terms of Internet at all? Tado recently sent me its Smart AC Control V3+ unit to test out. The core idea here is that it can take any standard AC unit that works off an IR remote – which is functionally speaking all of them – and give it the essential smarts to work in an interconnected way via a smartphone app or its own control panel.

Installation of the Tado Smart AC Control V3+ is a simple enough affair, with an easy app-led install that walks you through registering your device, and then placing it in a way where it’ll work with your already installed air conditioning unit. That’s a line-of-sight question, although IR is pretty good at bouncing off walls. I tried pretty hard to find a sane spot in my living room where it wouldn’t work, and outside burying it under the sofa it always functioned nicely.

Most big brands are well represented so that all you should have to do is tell the app the make and model and it’ll work out the functions available to you as a result, but you can also add features if it misses out on a button on your remote that you’d like to replicate.

You can then use the app itself or the Tado touch panel to quickly adjust your home’s AC parameters, or connect it up to existing smart home speakers for voice controlled temperature control. It still feels all rather Star Trek to me every time I tell Google to switch on my air conditioning, and in my experience it’s marginally slower that way – because Google then has to talk to Tado’s servers, who then talk to the actual Tado device that then sends the final IR command up to you. We’re still only talking a matter of a few seconds in any case.

Tado’s claim is that the Tado Smart AC Control V3+ goes further than just replicating what your remote can do with additional features such as geofencing to smartly turn your AC off even if you forget when going out, as well as air quality controls and open window detection, to help you save money and energy.

Geofencing naturally relies on the app and the location sensing of your connected smartphone, and can work pretty well if you do often leave the home without switching your AC off. The other features are designed with health and wealth in mind, although in my own experience they can be a bit hit and miss – especially that open window feature. My own living area is quite open plan, and from time to time the Tado app’s tried to notify me of an open window when none was open; all I can guess is that it’s detecting air temperature shifts in a larger area as an open window.

The overall question here of course is one of value. If you’re happy enough with a basic AC remote control then this is adding some convenience, and could save money over the longer term by limiting your accidental power usage, whether that’s due to leaving the AC on or leaving windows open. I’m forever scrambling to work out where my kids have left the AC remote – yes, it has its place, but like the TV remote, it seems to like to travel – so it’s quickly become a very welcome addition to my own home.

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Alex Kidman
Tech Journalist