Let’s look at the Universal Internet Thermostat’s hardware in a clockwise direction. First, there is a Schedule on/off button, second, an away on/off button, two temperature adjustment up/down buttons, a fan on/off button, and lastly, a system button. This sets the thermostat to heat, heat and cool, cool, or off.
Overall, the Hunter Universal internet thermostat has clean, sharp edges. (Let’s just call it the UIT from now on, OK?) Almost all of the controls are hidden in the side of the thermostat. I think it will look “at home” in any decor. Compared to our previous thermostat, it looks five times as stylish and bit more conspicuous because of its large display. The temperature is displayed in bold, huge text, making it easy to read from across the room.
Luckily for my electrically-clueless self, the family member who installed this for me is a competent Master Electrician. :) The UIT was relatively easy to install onto the wall. It probably won’t be a big challenge for many DIYers out there.
After it has been wired in, a gateway needs to be plugged into your router to connect the thermostat to the internet. It takes a minute or two for the gateway and thermostat to connect.
Hunter says that the UIT is compatible with many heating and cooling systems. Some systems, including ours, don’t have a “c-wire” to power the thermostat. Unlike most Wi-Fi programmable thermostats, the UIT can run on batteries or a c-wire.
|The desktop version of the my.hunterfan.com webpage|
There are endless situations that would benefit from from the UIT’s smartphone and web controls. For instance, the frequent traveler use his smartphone to warm up his house before he gets home. A cabin owner can easily set up a schedule that keeps her cabin cool during the workweek and warm during the weekend. As you can see, a programmable thermostat can save energy and money. However, I wish the UIT could be programmed right on the unit itself. Why? The thing is: after the three month free trial, you must pay a $10 yearly fee (or a $50 lifetime fee) for internet access. The programmable functionality is lost when there is no internet connection.
How do you use the web controls? First, you can access the thermostat via an iPhone app or a webpage (my.hunterfan.com to be exact.). I don’t have an iPhone, so I won’t be able to comment on the app. I was able to use the web page, though. It comes in two versions: mobile and desktop. If you have an Android phone, the mobile will be for you. The desktop version is for any computer with a compatible web browser. Both methods have many handy features. For instance, users can set up accounts for family members. Users can set up e-mail notifications when the temperature dips below a certain temperature.
I had problems with the desktop version because Chrome, my go-to- web browser, is not supported. Other common web browsers like Firefox and IE are supported, so I had to fire up old Internet Explorer 6 and a recent version of Firefox. It turns out that both versions of the webpages are buggy, even when used with compatible web browsers. For instance, when I tried to apply a schedule to a day of the week, it wouldn’t save. I also had trouble changing the schedule temperatures. I would change the temperature on a certain time block, but it would just go back to what it was previously. Grrrrr. User reviews on Hunter’s website mentioned some of the same problems I had.
According to Home Depot’s website, there are several programmable Wi-Fi thermostats that have higher user ratings than the UIT’s. Take Honeywell’s Wi-Fi programmable thermostat, for instance. Although it costs $50 more, there are no internet subscription fees. The Hunter’s and the Honeywell’s prices would be equal after paying the UIT’s $50 lifetime internet subscription fee. My electrician tells me that Honeywell is respected among construction professionals because it is an established, well-reputed brand that has been making reliable thermostats for quite some time.
The Hunter Universal Thermostat has its share of desirable features. Its design, in my opinion, is much classier than other comparable thermostats. Its installation is quite easy. However, its main selling point, app and web controls, just won’t cooperate.