I'm in love with the smart home. I bought a Nest thermostat when it was released, Philips Hue light bulbs, and the Nest Protect smoke detector (which, sadly, was great when it worked, but terrible when it didn't). I can open my garage door from my iPhone, and it's all wonderful (except for the smoke detectors).
I'm even more in love with devices that talk to each other to make the whole system better, and that's why I adore the Haiku fan from Big Ass Fans, located in Lexington, Kentucky.
The Haiku is the residential offering from Big Ass Fans, who got their name from the truly enormous fans the company designed for commercial applications like restaurants, gyms, and warehouses.
Made in America, the fans are luxury products with a price tag to match. The "smart" version of the 52" and 60" Haiku fan starts at $1,045 (a non-internet connected version is $150 cheaper) in a black or white composite material, with caramel or cocoa bamboo finishes available for $100 more, plus an LED light kit that's a $95 premium. Fully loaded with bamboo and the LED light kit, the fans run $1,240 each.
To be sure, they aren't cheap, but considering the Wi-Fi connectivity is a $150 premium, it's not the smarts that make up most of the cost — it's the fact that it's a really nice fan that happens to connect to the internet. If you wouldn't spend close to a thousand dollars on a ceiling fan to begin with, this surely isn't the fan for you — but a luxury home needs a luxury fan, and this is a great one.
How smart is the Haiku fan?
I live in Colorado, where temperatures can fluctuate as much as 40 degrees between day and night. In the summer, we leave our windows open — and in the winter, we heat the house during the day but shut it off at night (scheduled with our Nest), because my wife and I like it cool when we sleep.
We installed the 52" smart Haiku version in our bedroom and have been testing it for several months.
Our verdict? If you can stomach the price, the Haiku is simply wonderful. Putting aside the smarts for a moment, the fan's DC-powered motor is totally silent, no matter the speed. At full chap, the three rotating blades make a fair amount of wind noise, but the sheer amount of air that's moving is incredible — significantly more than the cheaper fan that came with the home when we bought it.
Even more impressive is where it's set now, in the middle of winter. The fan has six speed settings — on the slowest setting, it's nearly impossible to feel the air moving. Big Ass Fans says this is a big deal — to circulate air through the room and get hot air off the ceiling in the winter, most ceiling fans need to be run in reverse because they simply can't run slow enough to move air without causing a draft. The Haiku has a higher-quality motor that can run slowly enough to avoid a cooling feeling on room occupants, while still keeping hot air off the ceiling.
They're also incredible efficient, with Haiku fans the most energy efficient ceiling fans in the country, according to Energy Star.
Now, on to the smarts. The fan is equipped with an infrared motion sensor, so it knows when the room is occupied. It has temperature and humidity sensors, so it knows what the environmental situation of the room is and what it needs to do to make the room feel cooler to any occupants.
A smart mode on the fan, adjustable from the companion iOS app, automatically adjusts the fan speed based on room temperature. For example, it can slow the fan down as your room cools down at night, then speed it up again during the day. It also talks to the Nest thermostat, speeding up the fan to keep a room feeling a certain temperature rather than turning on the air conditioning. With a home full of smart fans, this could make a big difference to an electricity bills.
The fan can also turn itself on and off based on room occupancy. When no one is in the room, there's no reason for a ceiling fan to be moving — thus, when the motion sensor notices that no one has been in the room for a while, it can turn the fan off. Then, when someone returns, it spins back up to reduce the effective temperature.
Scheduled events can be set to turn the fan, light, motion sensor, smart mode, or other settings on or off automatically based on time of day and day of the week. You can also set to turn on the fan or light to use them as an alarm in the morning. There's even a fun setting called "Whoosh" that adjusts fan speed over time to simulate the natural breeze that might come through a window. The first night we used Whoosh, my wife thought I was messing with her by turning the fan speed up and down. In the summer, Whoosh was a lovely feature, though not so useful in the winter when we just leave the fan on the slowest speed at all times.
Ultimately, it's the integration with other devices that really makes a difference. The most logical is with the Nest thermostat, which has two different modes. In the summer, the Haiku will automatically adjust its speeds to make the temperature in the room feel the same, even as the temperature rises. Allowing the actual temperature to rise, and thus using the air conditioner less, can save a ton of money on energy costs.
In the winter, it gets even smarter. Big Ass Fans discovered that running a fan in an unoccupied room at high speed circulates heat better than at low speeds. Then, when the motion sensor notices someone is in the room, it slows the fan down to circulate air without creating a draft. Very clever.
Finally, Big Ass Fans recently announced integration with Jawbone fitness trackers. The fan will automatically go into a preset sleep mode when you tell your Jawbone that you're heading to bed. In the morning, you can look at sleep quality readouts and make changes to how your fan behaves when you're asleep.
The app does not have a particularly fancy user interface, but it certainly gets the job done. It has a sort of set-it-and-forget-it quality, and using the included infrared remote is a much quicker way to adjust the fan settings should you want to override the smarts. There's also talk of an API for integrating with smart home control systems, and Big Ass Fans tells me that integration with Apple's HomeKit is coming. So, presumably, you'll be able to tell Siri to turn your fan on and off at some point, too.
If you're looking for a luxury ceiling fan for your smart home, I highly recommend the Haiku with SenseME. You won't be disappointed.
Have you thought about getting a smart ceiling fan? What other components of a home smart do you find appealing? Let us know your thoughts in the discussion thread below.
Jordan Golson is an Apple Columnist for TechRepublic. He also writes about technology and automobiles for WIRED and MacRumors. He has worked for Apple Retail twice and has been writing about technology since 2007.