Installing Wiser Air
For this review, I’ll be swapping out a third-generation Nest Learning Thermostat for Wiser Air. While I’m certainly no DIY expert, I found the Nest Thermostat to be very easy to install. The included installation guide (and video, which I’m embedding below) lends confidence that Wiser Air will offer a similarly easy experience.
I’m fortunate, in that my home HVAC wiring is very straightforward, so replacing thermostats is a simple matter of disconnecting the electricity supply. removing the existing thermostat front plate, noting the wiring positions (a quick photo helps), removing the back plate and then working through those steps in reverse with the new device.
If you have a more complicated HVAC system, you can take advantage of Wiser Air’s support service to discuss your specific installation, but I managed to install the device in less than ten minutes. If your HVAC system lacks a common wire (C) then an Extender Kit is includes in the box for installation.
The HVAC wires slot into clearly labelled connectors, which gripped well. Meanwhile, the included backplate allows you to hide any messy drilling or paintwork, which is handy if you don’t have the time or inclination to patch existing holes. The resulting installation won’t look as clean or neat as mounting the device directly to a freshly prepared wall, but won’t require the same level of effort either.
While installation was straightforward, I did miss some of the usability touches you find with Nest’s equipment – an integrated spirit level that helps you ensure the back plate is level, for example. During configuration, Nest also automatically detects the wiring that has been connected – Wiser Air requires you to manually select the connected wires on screen.
None of these points are showstoppers, but they’re definitely points of difference. The Wiser Air thermostat is certainly easy to install, but Nest edges it on simplicity.
From an aesthetic point of view, Wiser Air certainly doesn’t have the grace and style of the Nest Learning Thermostat. It’s backlight requires the device to protrude a little from a flush position, meaning it looks chunkier from the side than it really needs to be. The rectangular shape and thick screen bezel ensures this device looks far more functional than the sleek curves of its competitor. It simply lacks the style and personality you’ll find with Nest.
If you’re transitioning from an older thermostat, make no mistake, Wiser Air’s design will undoubtedly be an improvement, but there are prettier thermostats out there for sure.
Configuration requires you to walk through a setup wizard via Wiser Air’s touchscreen, which I found to be clear and responsive. While installing the hardware was simple, configuration of the thermostat was more challenging, with moments where I really needed Wiser Air to be more intuitive.
Aside from the need to tell the device which wires were connected, I was asked whether the W2 wire I had connected was for an air exchanger. I have an air exchanger, but it runs off a separate controller, so it’s more likely that this wire is for Stage 2 heating. That configuration is referenced in the device’s installation guide, so why the thermostat asked whether the wire was for an air exchanger, who knows?
You’ll be asked about heating sources, with the usual options provided for selection. Again, I was thrown by a question regarding my “secondary heat type”. As far as I’m concerned, I only have a single heating supply – which is gas – so I was left confused.
The thermostat can be configured to run without a network connection, if desired, but that rather defeats the purpose of a smart thermostat. Wiser Air was able to detect and join my home’s wireless network and offered a selection of nearby timezones for automatically setting the date and time.
Having completed that job, I was once again confused when the thermostat then decided to show me a QR code on screen with a direction to “Sync”. OK, I’m pretty sure I was being asked to download and sync a mobile app for the thermostat, but why the QR code was supported with the caption “UGLY PLAYING IGUANA” was beyond me.
I scanned the QR code on my phone, expecting to be taken to an app store to download the app. In fact, my phone’s QR code reader told me the QR code read “UGLY PLAYING IGUANA” and my installation ground to a halt.
So, I downloaded and installed the Wiser Air app, walked through configuration and, sure enough, I was asked to sync my newly created account with the thermostat using the IGUANA code. In truth, the synchronisation worked well, but the user experience was lacking. A simple direction on screen to download the app, create an account then come back to the thermostat to synchronise would have saved a fair amount of confusion.
Sadly, the configuration niggles continued. Having configured the thermostat to show me temperatures in Celsius (I’m a Brit living in Canada, so there are two reasons for that) I was frustrated to see that the app subsequently asked me to configure cooling/heating thresholds in Fahrenheit.
Indeed, the app was unable to show me temperatures in Celsius until I manually configured it in its settings menu. Having already configured the thermostat once, I shouldn’t have had to separately configure the app too.
Again, these usability hurdles aren’t show stoppers, but it’s scrappy design and execution that should have been nailed in a beta period before the product shipped.