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Universal Remote Control VS Smart AC Remote Control: A Comparison Guide

May 9, 2018

by Ambi Climate

May 9, 2018

by Ambi Climate

Remember the days where the only way to control your air conditioner was using your good old remote? Well, they’re gone! Nowadays, with countless devices on the market offering you varying degrees of control, automation and personalization, it seems like we’re all looking for the ideal way to monitor our air conditioner, save energy and keep comfy.

One major thing we need to look at when choosing which controller to go for, is the comfort aspect; don’t we all want to be super comfy at home and let the AC do the work for us? Comfort has been shown to be linked to several factors, and not just temperature as perceived by many. Things like humidity, sunlight and time of day can greatly affect how we feel; what might be comfortable at 7pm will probably not feel the same at 6am.

To help bridge the gap, different controllers aim to ease the pain of using an old school AC remote, which doesn’t allow much more than setting a temperature, fan speed or mode, and definitely doesn’t have any smart features. These controllers have evolved from Universal Remotes like IR (infrared) blasters, to Smart AC remote controllers and ultimately AI-enabled AC remote controllers. With various features and an extensive price range, choosing the right one for you can be a daunting task. We’re here to put everything in order!

Universal Remote Controller

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The Good:

Multiple Device Control

You can control pretty much everything in your house, as long as it has an IR (infrared) remote control; TV, HiFi, fans, blinds and of course, your AC – the sky’s the limit and everything is usually within one simple app!

Create Your Setting 

Universal Remotes typically include an option for Scenes/Macros for one-touch activation of multiple devices. For instance “wake up” may open blinds, turn AC on and switch the radio to your favorite station.

Convenient Price Range 

Universal Remotes come at a wide range of options but normally enjoy a lower price point than Smart AC controllers or AI AC controllers.

The Bad:

Gotta Be Techy 

You might need to search for codes and program each device or scene separately, optimizing as you go; if you’re not a fan of tech DIY, this might not be your thing, as it can get pretty tricky to set up.

Less Smart Home Options 

Some Universal Remotes may offer Smart Home integrations (such as Google Home, Alexa or others) but many will have limited automation options.

Not Focused on Air Conditioners 

They are just not built for air conditioners! While AC control may be one function, there are usually no unique sensors (temperature, humidity and others) to properly analyze and adjust the environment. Plus, the app design isn’t AC-focused and lacks AC usage insights, which some people may find important.

Best for: Tech-savvy people trying to map out an overall Smart Home system and are willing to invest time and money.

Smart Air Conditioner Remote Controller

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The Good:

Made For Air Conditioners 

The app, user experience and insights are all there to help you control your AC and learn more about your usage.

Smart Home Capabilities 

Many of these smart AC remote controllers/thermostats (e.g. Tado or Sensibo) will enhance your experience and Home Automation with various integrations, as well as provide sensors for temperature and humidity.

May Save Energy

This will depend on your usage patterns and how often or for what period of time you run your AC, but definitely some saving potential!

The Bad:

Higher Price Point 

Compared to a Universal Remote, smart remote controllers or thermostats will typically cost more and thus be a more serious “investment”.

Nothing But Air Conditioners

If you’re looking for something to control more than one type of device, this wouldn’t be the way to go.

Basic App Control

Despite having Smart Home integrations and other features, this type of controller is essentially an app-enabled AC remote providing more insights and control; it will not auto-adjust your AC or utilize AI technology to optimize the environment.

Best for: People who want a simple way to control their air conditioner at any given moment with added Smart Home functions, but prefer a streamlined and approachable setup and usage experience.

AI Air Conditioner Remote Controller

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The Good:

A Comprehensive Approach

An AI air conditioner remote controller will collect and analyze data from various sensors (temperature, humidity, sunlight), online data (weather, time of day) and you (comfort feedback), to optimally auto-adjust your AC year-round.

Designed For You

By continuously learning from data and feedback, an AI air conditioner remote controller will learn about you and build your personalized comfort profile to always fit your needs.

Easy and Insightful 

Aside from a very simple set up process and a user friendly app for streamlined control, you will also get valuable insights into AC usage, comfort preferences and habits.

Save on Electricity

You will up your chances of saving energy by letting AI optimize your air conditioner. Moreover, with tools like timers, Geo-fencing and Smart Home integrations it’s easy to plan out the day and eliminate any hazard of overcooling or overheating.

The Bad:

Relatively Higher Price

Compared to a Universal Remote, an AI AC controller will typically cost more; compared to a smart controller/thermostat, it will be about the same or slightly less, depending on the brand.

Nothing But AC 

If you’re looking for something to control more than one type of device, this wouldn’t be the way to go.

Best for: People who want a hassle-free, intuitive approach to air conditioner control, and are looking to maximize their comfort and energy savings.


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Smart Home features and Home Automation can seriously help us create a better home, and so our conclusion is that you should definitely look into adding them in! As for choosing your controller? Think about what would maximize how you feel with the least effort, blending into your home and creating a seamless, comfortable and smooth experience. Your choice should initially stem from your needs – we all have different homes, different lifestyles and different requirements from our AC. What’s for certain? Everyone is looking for comfort, control and hopefully some energy & money savings; we sure hope you find them all!

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COMMENTS

  1. Burt Silver says:

    I really like how you talk about the different ways to control your AC, like with a remote. It would be great if I could use a remote but recently it became unresponsive and the whole system has been down. It would be great if I got an AC repairman out here that could help me to get things working again.

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