Summer hack: How to turn any A/C into an app-controlled smart A/C for free!

The modlet on the right turned this A/C into a futuristic smart A/C. Photo by Tim Donnelly/Brokelyn.

The modlet on the right turned this A/C into a futuristic smart A/C. Photo by Tim Donnelly/Brokelyn.

The idea of a “smart air conditioner” probably seems like some future technology you’re a long way away from actually being able to own, like the pizza rehydrator from Back to the Future II. A smart A/C means a device that can be controlled via app ( as all things in the future will be controlled), keep track of your energy usage and start up remotely whenever you’d like to come home to a frosty apartment.

But smart A/Cs are not just a dream of Shark Tank or that fancy Google tech you hear about in between WNYC programs: You can turn any A/C in your home into a smart, app-controlled device thanks to a program from Con Edison. Plus it’s free, and you can get rewards for using it too.

Any customer can request Con Ed  send them a Smart A/C kit, which will arrive with a modlet and a remote control (with batteries) in the mail in a few days. You hook it up to your power cord on your existing A/C — yes, it even works on that clunky old one you got when your coworker’s friend’s roommate’s ex girlfriend abandoned all her personal belongings and moved into a yurt (with central air).

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The kit contains a modlet and remote for your A/C.

The kit contains a modlet and remote for your A/C.

You download an app, sync the modlet to your wifi, enter in the model of your A/C unit (you can usually find this on the device somewhere, or also, on the internet) and bam! You got yourself a smart A/C. The app keeps track of your energy usage and you can get “cool points” (cool points) for going easy on the energy sucking, especially during heat waves. You can use those points for retail purchases on the cool points online shop, or donate them to charity.

The best part is that you can use the app to turn the A/C on when you’re on your way home, so if say you’ve got a long uphill bike ride, you can tap the app and get things cool so you can be rewarded upon your arrival home with the reminder that humans have tamed the beast known as heat and bent it to our mighty will. You also get a remote that lets you control the A/C from your bed or toilet or whatever, I don’t know your life.

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A screenshot from the app.

A screenshot from the app.

For personal experience, I have to say that the app, called Think Eco, is a little buggy: Mine sometimes doesn’t turn on when I want it to, and occasionally I’ll hear the modlet click but not actually activate when it’s supposed to.

But overall I’ve felt like a damn space prince when I open my phone and tell my robot butler to cool down the apartment, please, we shall be home soon. It doesn’t work on your homemade air conditioner, unfortunately.