Beating The Heat With IFTTT

Summer is here, and with it, the accompanying heatwaves in many parts of North America. If you’re fortunate enough to have an air conditioner tied into your smart home setup, however, you’ll already be ahead of the game in making sure that your home stays cool and comfortable without draining your wallet in the process.

While being able to turn lights on and off is probably the most common applicaion for smart home solutions, the ability to control heating and air conditioning will make a smart home pay for itself in no time at all. Continuing our series on IFTTT, we’re going to take a look today at ways that you can use the popular automation tool to maintain a comfortable temperature in your home without burning through your energy bills.

Controlling your air conditioner

There are a few different ways in which you can make an air conditioning unit part of your smart home. You may think that you need a central A/C system to use a smart thermostat like an Ecobee or Nest, but don’t despair if all you can use is an in-window or split A/C unit — there are solutions to handle those as well. Companies such as GE and Samsung make smart air conditioners that will integrate with IFTTT and other services directly, but even if you’ve already got a “dumb” A/C unit installed in your house, Sensibo’s Sky may be able to tie that into your smart home — Sensibo’s device emulates the remote control to send commands to your A/C unit, so as long as your unit supports an infrared remote control, you should be able to use it with IFTTT.

Sensibo’s service for IFTTT is relatively straightforward, offering only two actions — one to turn your A/C unit off, and one to turn it on, the latter of which provides options for mode (heat/cool/fan/auto/dry), temperature, and fan level, subject to the features your specific air conditioner offers. Although Sensibo’s Sky device also includes temperature and humidity sensors, there are no triggers available to use this information with IFTTT.

Turn on the A/C when it gets hot outside

As a basic starting point, a simple IFTTT applet can use the Weather Underground service to check the temperature outside and turn on the air conditioner when it goes above a certain threshold.

While this doesn’t factor into the actual indoor temperature, it’s a proactive way of making sure your room stays cool, and most air conditioners won’t use a lot of power until there’s actually a need to cool the room, so think of it as a way of preparing your air conditioning unit for action. If the temperature starts getting hot outside, it’s going to start warming up your house soon enough.

Turn off the A/C when leaving home

If you have an iPhone or Android phone with the IFTTT app installed, you can use IFTTT’s Location service to create events based on when you arrive at or leave from a certain area. This is a great way to make sure that you don’t leave your A/C unit running and needlessly draining your energy bill when you leave home.

Note that you can set the radius in the IFTTT location service as well, so if you don’t want the applet to fire off when you go for a walk around the neighborhood, simply set a larger radius.

If you have a smart thermostat like an Ecobee or a Nest, you can even use the thermostat’s home/away modes to control your air conditioner, so that when the thermostat detects that you’re away, IFTTT can adjust your A/C unit appropriately. This may not be as quick as using the location method — for example an Ecobee thermostat can take up to two hours to automatically switch into “Away” mode — but it also helps to ensure that the applet only fires off when everybody really is out of the house, since IFTTT’s own Location service isn’t sophisticated enough for that.

Turn on the A/C when it gets hot inside

You can also use a smart thermostat or an IFTTT-compatible indoor temperature sensor to turn on the A/C when it gets too hot inside, regardless of the actual outdoor temperature.

While most A/C units have their own thermostats to prevent the energy-draining compressor from running once a room is cool enough, you may also still want to turn the unit off entirely once the temperature drops below a certain threshold, which can easily be done with a second applet which triggers based on a low temperature threshold.

Keep the humidity down without running the A/C

Sometimes the problem isn’t so much the heat as the humidity, and if your A/C unit supports a dehumidifier-only mode, you can easily set up an IFTTT applet to read the humidity from your smart thermostat or other sensor and run the A/C in that mode when it rises above a certain threshold.

This can also be used with a plain old standalone dehumidifier connected to a smart plug. In fact, you could even set up multiple IFTTT applets to activate multiple units based on the change in humidity from a single sensor.

Jesse Hollington

Jesse Hollington

Jesse Hollington is based in Toronto, Canada, where he lives with his daughter, Victoria. He is the author of iPod & iTunes Portable Genius, and works as a senior editor for Prior to becoming a writer, Jesse ran his own information technology consulting practice and served as an officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force Reserve.

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