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Schneider’s entry into the smart thermostat space is the Wiser Air, a stylish square that aims to be the simplest to use device on the market. It’s a fully featured thermostat, supporting single and two-stage heating and cooling, single and two-stage and dual fuel heat pumps, and multi-zone HVAC control.
Installation and Setup
The Wiser Air didn’t make a great first impression during installation. The elegant white, rounded square plastic thermostat requires the C-wire. Modern furnace installations should have the C-wire installed at the thermostat, but often don’t. Most of the other thermostats we’ve tested recommend the C-wire for powering the thermostat, but don’t require it.
Unfortunately, the installation manual that came with the thermostat was wrong about a key step in the installation process, making for a frustrating installation. There’s a small jumper on the unit that either needs to be set to “on” or “off,” depending on your wiring. The manual, as it turns out, tells you to do the exact opposite of what is required. After a breezy conversation with tech support about why my unit wouldn’t work, installation was not difficult.
Apart from that, setup was as easy as possible: The touch screen made it a breeze to set the thermostat up from the unit itself. Uniquely, it provided a scan code for the phone app, making the process of linking the app with the thermostat foolproof. Setting up the ECO IQ function (the “smart” algorithm) is merely a matter of telling it your top and bottom temperature preferences for when you’re home, away, and sleeping.
Once set up, there’s a lot to like about the Wiser Air. The touch screen is a great feature because it’s so easy to use—more so than, say, the Nest’s push-button dial. The black, plastic square device is clearly a piece of tech, but not so distracting that it calls attention to itself.
Like most new smart thermostats, the Wiser Air is dependent on its app. While there’s nothing wrong with the accompanying mobile control, there’s also nothing especially noteworthy about it. It doesn’t have the excellent tracking and logging features of the Lux Geo, for instance, although it’s a handy way to keep track of the weather. Oddly, what it does track is the temperature outside versus inside.
The Wiser Air is a true smart thermostat, provided its Eco IQ mode is set to on. Like other similar thermostats, the Eco IQ setting tries to learn habits and accommodate you based on your preferences. It’s here that the distinctiveness of the Wiser Air comes into play. Unlike virtually every other device we’ve tested, the Wiser Air doesn’t work based on temperature settings, but instead on the idea of user comfort.
It’s an intriguing way for a thermostat to operate. Past setting those initial temperature ranges for home, away, and sleeping, you don’t change the temperature. Instead, if you’re uncomfortable with the current temperature in the house, you tap a higher or lower button on the thermostat’s touch screen and it runs your HVAC system accordingly.
Outsmarting the Wiser Air
It’s a great system, in theory, but we encountered some issues. For one thing, Schneider designed the “smart” algorithms of the Wiser Air for efficiency more than comfort. So, the Wiser Air is always trying to keep the temperature close to the ideal settings to save money. Unfortunately, depending on your preferences, that might not be the ideal setting for comfort.
So, prepare to hit the up or down buttons many times, especially since it takes time for an HVAC system to hit a new desired temperature. In a way, this repeated tapping left me feeling as though I was arguing with the Wiser Air. I’d want the temperature to be lower than it wanted and kept having to tap the down arrow through the day to get it to “listen.”
Obviously, the idea of learning thermostats is that they need time to learn your preferences, but I never really felt as though the Wiser Air cared that much about my exacting temperature expectations. You can turn the Eco IQ setting off, of course, and use it more like a traditional thermostat, but that sort of defeats the purpose of spending a couple hundred dollars to smarten up your HVAC system. The manual schedule options are thin, though. You configure it for the hours you’re home, away, and asleep on weekdays and weekends, and the temperature range you want for home, away, and asleep.
The Wiser Air is does a great job monitoring the outside temperature and weather and adjusting itself based on weather conditions. As a result, it shows you excellent weather reports on the screen, including forecasts and emergency weather alerts, which turned out to be a favorite feature. The humidity monitoring is excellent as well and like most smart thermostats, the thermostat will let your A/C act as a dehumidifier to reduce excess moisture in the air. The touch screen also includes a clock, and menu access.
Another interesting, different feature is the “Comfort Boost.” With a tap of the screen, you can tell the Wiser Air to give you a 15-minute burst of heating or cooling for times when you need a little more cool air on a hot afternoon or heat to thaw out on a cold morning. I also liked the soft glowing backlight of the thermostat that changes color to let you know when it’s heating, cooling, or in energy efficiency mode. It also makes a nice nightlight.
If you’re sincere in your desire to be frugal with your HVAC system, and don’t care about fine-grained temperature control, the Wiser Air has by far the most user-friendly set-up we’ve seen. The setup, past the initial hiccup, is as straightforward as possible, the touch screen is exceptional, and it’s simple to use.