Tado Makes Your Dumb AC Smart

The vast majority of the world's air conditioners -- some 85 percent -- are the kind that stick out of windows, or are freestanding units. Tado's $199 Smart AC Control looks to make them more efficient by linking them via the Internet to your smartphone, and turning on the chill only when you're home. We went hands-on with the Tado, available today in the U.S., to see if it's as cool as it sounds.

The Tado Smart AC control looks a lot like other smart home thermostats. The all-white box has rounded corners, with a thin black line running along its lower third. A small microUSB port on the bottom provides power.

When you touch the face of the Tado with three fingers, it lights up to show you the current temperature inside your home. You can then adjust some settings through other taps and swipes, but its rather basic interface is less intuitive to navigate than other smart home thermostats, which show more information at a glance.

MORE: Best Smart Thermostat 2015

Tado's smartphone app (available for Android and iOS, with Windows Phone soon to come) gives you much greater control over the system. Here, you can set schedules, either by time, or by when you wake up or go to sleep. You can also set what distance from your home triggers the AC turning on or off, so that you can walk in to a properly chilled apartment, and have the system automatically turn off when you leave for the day.

The Tado is compatible with Apple's HomeKit smart home system, so you'll be able to tell Siri to "set the temperature to 72 degrees," and have the Tado turn on your AC until the room hits the desired level. It also works with the If-This-Then-That (IFTTT) protocol, so, for example, you can have the lights in your home turn on at the same time as the AC.

Aside from a thermometer, inside the Tado are sound, motion and humidity sensors, so it will know to turn on and off not only when someone's home, but also keep your system running until the humidity is at the level you want.

While the Tado seems, at first glance, to be an elegant way to improve the efficiency of your air conditioner, it does come with a few caveats. First, it only works with in-room ACs, and not central air systems. Also, it only works with air conditioners that have IR remote controls, so if you have a more basic AC unit, you're out of luck.

The Tado isn't the first smart AC -- the $279 Quirky GE Aros Smart Window Air Conditioner also provides similar functionality -- but Tado's device can be adapted to a wide variety of in-wall or in-window systems. For those looking to save money on their cooling bill this summer, it could be just the thing.

Mike Prospero
U.S. Editor-in-Chief, Tom's Guide

Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.