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Emerson Sensi review:

Sensi found a smarter way to heat and cool your home

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Emerson Sensi Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat

(Part #: UP500W)
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The Good Emerson's $130 Sensi Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat costs less than many other smart-home models, its button interface and app are thoughtfully arranged and it works with Amazon's Alexa.

The Bad The Sensi doesn't come with algorithmic learning, remote sensors or geofencing capabilities; the thermostat hardware is on the plain side of the spectrum.

The Bottom Line The Sensi is a solid option if you're looking for a smart thermostat upgrade that still manages to keep things simple.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.4 Overall
  • Features 7.0
  • Usability 9.0
  • Design 6.0
  • Performance 8.0

Emerson's Sensi Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat doesn't rely on algorithms, remote sensors, geofencing or any other high-end smarts a la Nest's Learning Thermostat, Honeywell's Lyric or the Ecobee3. In fact, it's really just a basic-looking programmable thermostat with a related app. So, why should you buy it over the competition?

Let me count the ways:

  • It's affordable -- The Sensi is widely available at stores like Home Depot for $130 and on Amazon for just $104. Nest and other connected models cost as much as $249. Amazon's UK site lists Sensi for £341 through a reseller, so it's much cheaper and easier to find in the US.
  • It's easy to use -- Both the thermostat and the app have thoughtful, logical layouts that make usability a breeze.
  • It works with Amazon's Alexa -- You can pair any Alexa-compatible device with Sensi for fast voice control integration.

If you're on the hunt for a thermostat upgrade, but don't want or need all of the fancy extras, the Sensi's semi-smartness still makes it much simpler to heat and cool your home. I definitely recommend it.

Sensi, part one

If I were to come across the Sensi on a store shelf alongside other connected thermostats, I would assume someone put it there by mistake. This thing is pretty utilitarian-looking. It's way better than the 20-year-old, barely functioning model in my house right now, sure, but decidedly lacking in the dazzling design department.

Since the advent of the Nest Learning Thermostat in 2011, a $249 smart model designed by two former Apple employees, a number of manufacturers have turned away from the practical rectangular white box look and have instead tried to add a dose of modern design into the mix.

Emerson didn't do that with the Sensi, but it isn't all bad news -- its buttons are responsive, its display is large and it's easy to read from a distance, as well as different angles. The app and Amazon Alexa integrations, too, are simple to configure and create a number of opportunities for remote access.

But before all that, you have to install your Sensi.

First stop? Check here to see if your wiring is compatible and be sure to visit Sensi's support page if you have installation questions. As always, consult a professional if you aren't comfortable going the do-it-yourself route, but a basic familiarity with thermostat wiring should have everything up and running in minutes. It took me roughly 10-15 minutes, but the holes in my wall from the old thermostat conveniently lined up with the Sensi's, so I took a slight shortcut.

Click through the gallery below for a tutorial on how to install a Sensi thermostat; this covers everything from removing your old thermostat to pairing the Sensi to the companion app.

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