Review: Emerson Sensi Wi-Fi Thermostat (1F86U-42WF)
Our Emerson Sensi WiFi thermostat rating:
Sensi at a Glance
What if I told you that you could get all the power of a WiFi enabled thermostat (remote control, ease of scheduling) at half the price of the flashier thermostats?
Meet the Sensi.
Technically, its full name is the White-Rodgers Emerson Sensi Wi-Fi Thermostat, but we’re gonna just go with Sensi for short. And it is a great thermostat, especially if all you care about is accessing your thermostat remotely and setting schedules with ease.
March 2016 update: Amazon Echo now supports Sensi! Give a command in the form of, “Alexa, set my bedroom temperature to 64” or “Alexa, increase the temperature in my home” to try it out.
- Costs $100+ less than Nest and ecobee3 with few (if any) real sacrifices
- No C-wire required for most systems – the only exceptions are heat pump systems, 2-wire heat-only systems and AC-only systems
- Looks like a traditional thermostat, which might suit your home better than some of the more futuristic-looking thermostats
- Amazon Echo integration and Wink Home Hub integration for centralized control of your home’s smart things
- +/-1 degree swing range
- On-screen weather conditions
- Humidity sensor
- PIN lockout – a recent update lets you prevent kids, employees, visitors, etc from adjusting the thermostat in your absence
- Check humidity, temperature, fan settings, auto/off toggle from app
- Backlight button on top of unit illuminates the screen on demand
- Simple, straightforward – no need to mess with any learning algorithms or geofencing
- Great app and web portal – everything you need is in the app, no need to get off the sofa 🙂
- Manage multiple Sensi thermostats from one app
- Remembers programs through power loss
- 3 year warranty
- Overall simplicity and ease of use
- No usage reports
- Not a humidistat replacement – you have been warned
We think the Emerson Sensi is fantastic and award it 4.5 stars out of 5.
If you’re on a budget (or just don’t want to pay $250 for a thermostat), look no further than the Sensi.
Yes, it’s not as full-featured as many smart thermostats (you won’t get fancy-pants stuff like motion sensors or geofencing), but to many homeowners that’s just fluff anyway. With an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com, the Sensi is a well-liked alternative to flashier smart thermostats. It’s like a programmable thermostat that you can schedule yourself and control through your phone. To get a full 5 stars all we would want are some usage reports, but that’s being super picky, especially at this price point.
The Ecobee Smart Si (our review) is similarly featured and priced, but we like the look of the Sensi more and we appreciate that it works in more HVAC systems without having to also set up a power extender kit (which isn’t even included with the Smart Si).
No-nonsense thermostat with modern sensibilities
The Emerson Sensi thermostat lets you control your thermostat from your phone without any additional complexity. Emerson is an old name in thermostats (some 75+ years) and has decades of experience working with a huge variety of HVAC systems. Many reviewers who had problems installing or maintaining a stable connection with Nest found the Sensi to be much more reliable.
No C-Wire required! (For heating & cooling systems)
Why run wires if you don’t have to? Sensi is designed with low power consumption in mind, and works in a majority of combined heating and cooling system homes without a c-wire. The two AA batteries provide backup power and are expected to last months before needing replacement.
The exceptions, of course, are heat-only and cooling-only systems. It is not possible to run the WiFi features of the thermostat on AA batteries alone (unless you like changing batteries every couple hours). If this describes your home’s HVAC setup, you will actually need to run a c-wire or consider a solution like Venstar Add-a-Wire.
See also: Sensi’s C-Wire compatibility guide
- Program each day individually or in groups
- Precision temperature control (+/- 1 degree)
- LCD display with clock, inside temp, outside temp, system status
- Select F or C
- Access schedules, settings, current mode of operation via app over WiFi
- Permanent on-unit memory
Easy, flexible Scheduling
If you have a predictable schedule, it’s easy to program it in.
If your schedule varies wildly by day, it’s easy to override the programming.
The Sensi lets you…
- Change temp 10x a day if you want
- Set a different schedule for every day of the week
- Set different schedules for weekday/weekend
- Set up custom schedules (ie: a “work from home” schedule)
With the Sensi, you put your schedule in yourself. The Sensi doesn’t attempt to “learn” anything on its own.
Great app, easy to use
Scheduling, overrides, and settings are right there on the smartphone app, which is nice looking and easy to figure out. The app is available for iOS (reviews and screenshots) and Android (reviews and screenshots). The worst complaint about the app seems to be the occasional inability to connect.
Amazon Echo integration
In March 2016, Emerson and Amazon announced Amazon Echo integration for the Sensi! The smart thermostat can now be controlled by Amazon Echo and Alexa, Amazon’s cloud-based voice-controlled service.
There are no additional fees or apps to use, just let Echo discover the Sensi and start issuing commands. For example, you can say, “Alexa, set the upstairs temperature to 72 degrees”.
Wink hub integration
In July 2015, Sensi added integration with the Wink Home Hub, a centralized home automation system that lets you control all of your connected devices from one app. You can use the free Wink app instead of Sensi app, if you prefer (iOS | Android).
Humble, inobtrustive design
It just looks normal, and for a lot of people that’s a good thing. It’s very slim against the wall (just a bit more than an inch thick) and the white plastic body won’t attract finger smudges.
Below is a manufacturer photo labeling the Sensi’s on-unit buttons and screen elements.
Installation and setup
You’ll need to make an account with Sensi (through the app) when you set up your new Sensi thermostat and register your device. Be sure to write down the access code found on the back of your Sensi before you mount it to the wall, because you’ll need it during setup (if you forget, though, no big deal – it’s also included on a sheet of paper in the box).
On my first setup attempt I accidentally neglected to finish registering the Sensi thermostat – and that prevented it from fully integrating itself with my app. So that’s my one bit of advice for setup: be sure to complete the registration step, or else you’ll be wondering why your thermostat doesn’t show in the app.
Once you’ve got the setup complete, your Sensi app will change to reflect the current mode and temperature. (Yes, it was cold when I set this one up!)
The upper right corner of the app’s default screen shows today’s high and low temperature, as well as current temperature and location.
(I’ve edited the name and location out of these screenshots because this is one of my own, not manufacturer’s screenshots.)
From here, you can set up schedules and adjust the current target temperature via the “hotdog” (or “hamburger”) menu in the upper left corner. A tray pops out to show schedule options, settings, account info, access to help, and more.
Everything in the app is straightforward and easy to figure out. There aren’t a lot of options, just a weekly schedule (you can build a fairly sophisticated schedule to accommodate shift work or children’s schedules) and some settings.
Sensi Tech Specs
- Main unit: 5.875″ wide x 3.75″ tall x 1.125″ thick
- SSL/TLS-enabled remote control
Nearly all modern wireless routers meet these standards.
In the box
- Sensi Wi-Fi thermostat
- Thermostat base
- Quick start guide
- Mounting screws
- Wire labels
- Security code card for hooking up with the web portal and app
- 2 AA batteries
Sensi System Compatibility
From the manufacturer:
- Gas, oil, radiant heat, geothermal
- Up to 4 stages of heat and 2 stages of cooling
- Conventional systems (2-wire heat only and 2-wire cool only systems require a C-wire)
- Heat pumps
- Dual fuel heat pump system – automatic balance point control with no additional sensors required
Incompatible systems include line voltage and proprietary systems, gravity furnaces, in-floor, or millivolt wall systems. However, some systems can be made compatible by adding a 24 volt transformer. For assistance, Emerson recommends contacting Sensi Support.
More Sensi Info & Reviews
The Sensi is a smart choice if you want the convenience of a WiFi enabled thermostat from a renowned company and won’t miss features like geofencing or usage reports.
Note that Amazon features two versions of this thermostat, the “DIY-Install” version and the “Pro-Install” version. They are the exact same thermostat, but the “Pro-Install” version comes with a longer warranty and costs less. Win win!
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Emerson Sensi WiFi Thermostat
Ease of use10.0/10
Integration with home automation systems8.0/10
- Easy to use app
- Tight control over daily schedule
- Straightforward, simple design
- Access from anywhere via app
- Budget-friendly price
- Requires a c-wire in heat only / cool only systems
- No usage data