Quirky + GE Refuel review: The Quirky + GE Refuel inspires confidence without enthusiasm

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CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars Good
  • Overall: 6.8
  • Features: 6.0
  • Usability: 7.0
  • Design: 6.0
  • Performance: 8.5
Review Date:

The Good The Quirky + GE Refuel fulfills its promise: it monitors the propane level for your gas grill. It can send you alerts when your tank runs low, and you can monitor those levels from anywhere.

The Bad Its compatibility is limited to standard 20-pound tanks. It's essentially a glorified, connected scale, and lacks any usable extras other than its one basic function. The app has limited customization and can overwrite your settings when you try to do more.

The Bottom Line This smart fuel gauge is excessive if you're comfortable just lifting the tank, and it suffers a few usability issues. However, it does its job for a low cost and will prove useful if you need to check your tank on the go.

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The Refuel from Quirky + GE moves the smart home to the patio. The concept of the Refuel is simple: it helps you prepare for grilling season by checking the amount of propane that's left in the tank of your gas grill. You'll be able to see this information from any smart device, anywhere, via Quirky's Wink app. You can even customize alerts so you're notified if your gas is running low.

The readings, given in quarters of a tank, are imprecise, more so than the ones you'd get from the readily available pressure gauges that do the same task for $10 to $20. Those gauges hook to the nozzle of your tank and are compatible with any gas-grill configuration. In fact, plenty of modern gas grills include a gauge. The Refuel arrives at its measurements through weight, and you'll need a standard 20-pound tank that doesn't hang from the grill in order to use it.

Still, the Refuel costs only a little more as it's available at Home Depot for $30. Ten extra bucks is quite reasonable when you consider that the Refuel is the only one that offers connectivity. It claims to do one task, and it does it well enough to be useful. It's definitely excessive and won't wow you, but for those couple of times a year when you're at a hardware store trying to remember if you need propane, the Refuel can come to the rescue.

Home Depot offers the discounted price of $30 for the Refuel. You can also purchase it for $50 via Quirky's website, but again, there's no reason to pay that extra $20 for the same product. These are the only places that the Refuel is currently available, but you can get it shipped internationally. Quirky's price converts to approximately £29 and AU$53, for comparison.

Setup

For a smart device, the Quirky + GE Refuel is extremely simple. Most connected devices have lots of hidden functionality that add energy savings, convenience, or just cool factor. The Refuel has none of this. It's not compatible with IFTTT, the app-based service ("if this, then that") for creating smart "recipes." It won't pair with other devices to allow you to flash the lights or turn off the TV when you're running low. It measures your fuel. That's it.

refuel-product-photos-16.jpg
Colin West McDonald/CNET

Fortunately, the setup mirrors this simplicity. The primary piece of the device looks like a doughnut. Place this under your propane tank and attach it via heat-resistant cord to a puck-shaped sensor. The sensor shouldn't get too hot, but it is magnetic. The cord is long enough so you can easily place your propane tank under the grill compartment and stick the sensor to one of the legs. Just make sure to install the included batteries in the sensor first.

From there, download the Wink app to your iPhone or Android device, and it'll walk you through the rest, with helpful step-by-step directions and pictures. You will need a mobile device with Internet access and an available Wi-Fi signal. The app asks for the name and password of your wireless network, then starts a countdown on your phone followed by a series of flashes. You'll hold the flashing phone over the sensor at this point, and it'll use built-in photocells to pick up the information it needs to connect. This connection method is common on Quirky products, and it works well.

screenshot2014-07-11-12-22-45.png
Look for a "TW" or "T" to find the tare weight. Screenshot by Andrew Gebhart/CNET

To complete the process, you'll need to determine the tank's tare weight tank which is usually stamped after "TW" or "T" on its side. The doughnut piece is a scale, and once you tell it the tare weight, (the weight of the tank when empty), it performs the simple calculation of subtracting that from the total to determine how much of your standard 20 pounds of propane you have left.

It shows this information in a display on the app, or when you tap the sensor. The app allows you to establish push notifications or emails and lets you set a level at which you'd like to receive an alert. Unfortunately, it won't automatically set multiple thresholds, say, at half a tank and then again at a quarter, but it's easy enough to switch it manually after the first mark is passed.

Additionally, the app tends to get mixed up as you move from screen to screen. You can pull up the tank-specific settings and set your alerts from there. They can also be set from the Wink control panel, where you can tinker with alerts on all of your Wink-compatible devices. Unfortunately, the settings in the Wink control panel aren't as detailed as they are when dealing with the specific device, and if you alter anything there, you'll overwrite your more detailed preferences.

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Where to Buy

Quirky Refuel

Part Number: Refuel

MSRP: $49.99

See manufacturer website for availability.