Assessment: Hunter SimpleConnect ceiling fan is a 2-in-1 HomeKit important for dwelling automation
Hunter is a company known for marketing ceiling fans over 130 years ago. Today, the company is the only company that makes Smart Home ceiling fans that work with Apple HomeKit. Hunter’s SimpleConnect line includes three ceiling fan models that come in multiple styles and are priced at $ 299.
Each Hunter ceiling fan has a built-in LED light that makes SimpleConnect a 2-in-1 device for HomeKit households. This enables Siri control of Apple devices, access to the Control Center on iPhone and iPad, automation with other smart accessories via the Apple Home app and much more.
After testing Hunter last year, every other ceiling fan feels absolutely archaic. With the HomeKit control I can turn the fan on and off, adjust the speed and control the light remotely and conveniently. I can also automate mode switching based on time and location.
The built-in LED light is bright enough for a bedroom environment (the Signal and Apache I tested include a single 17W dimmable lamp; Symphony includes two 9.8W dimmable lamps). The fan speed is very impressive at 50% or 75%, ideal for most uses (25% is pretty subtle while 100% is very effective at cooling, but super fast). You never hear the engine and only the fastest speed creates serious wind noise.
Hunter initially had connection issues with HomeKit which limited control to the Hunter iOS app and the included remote control. However, an update in June completely addressed this issue and the HomeKit controls worked just fine. HomeKit automation requires an Apple TV (4th generation), Apple TV 4K, or iPad. For remote access via the Apple Home app, an Apple TV (3rd or 4th generation), an Apple TV 4K or an iPad is required. SimpleConnect also works with Amazon Alexa, but does not yet support the Google Assistant.
I tested Hunter by replacing the existing ceiling fan in my master bedroom with the Signal model. This is a great upgrade if you own or build your home from scratch, but it is also possible for tenants like me with the landlord’s permission as the installation is usually reversible before moving.
I’m computer savvy but not a handy man (changing a wall light switch is roughly my limit), but removing the old fan and installing the new device took less than 90 minutes thanks to an experienced friend. Check out Hunter’s installation resources to get an idea of what to expect.
A disadvantage of SimpleConnect is that with the standard installation, the wall switches for the ceiling fan and the light for the remote control must remain switched on. You can lock the wiring so you don’t accidentally turn off the switches (this is how Philips Hue lights work), and you have a wall-mountable remote control for traditional wall control, but not as stylish as traditional wall switches with the switch on and from.
Fan and light functions
Even before you can take advantage of HomeKit, SimpleConnect has its own smart features. With the supplied remote control you can switch the LED ceiling light on and off, adjust the brightness and switch the ceiling fan between 0, 25, 50, 75 and 100 percent speed.
With the iPhone app from Hunter you can turn both the light and the fan on and off and choose between 10 brightness levels and four fan speeds. You can also choose the airflow direction (down for summer mode, high for winter mode), turn off dimming of lights, and turn off audio feedback when you change LED brightness and fan speed.
You can optionally log into the Hunter iPhone app to access additional features, including time-controlled programming of light and fan activities, separate sleep timers for fans and lights, and randomly turning the lights on and off between evening days as a safety measure when you are away.
Personally, I don’t spend a lot of time in the main accessories app as it’s not particularly pretty and Apple’s Home app has the same controls as HomeKit.
For me, the real magic of SimpleConnect starts with activating HomeKit. This is how you can use Apple’s Home app on iPhone and iPad to:
- Control the light brightness between 0 and 100% in intervals of 10%
- Adjust the fan speed in intervals of 25% between 0 and 100%
- Group light and fan controls with other HomeKit accessories by creating scenes
- Automate light and fan control based on time of day, location, sensor triggers, and control of other accessories
Here comes the 2-in-1 package too. HomeKit treats the Hunter ceiling fan as an accessory and the Hunter LED as a separate accessory because one is a fan and the other is a light. This means you can add HomeKit-controlled lighting to a room without smart lightbulbs or smart wall switches. An Ethernet hub is not required to operate Hunter.
The remote works with Siri from iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Apple TV (4th generation or later), so you can control both the ceiling fan and the ceiling light with your voice. This will also work with the HomePod when Apple’s smart speaker ships next year.
You can also control Hunter from Apple’s Home app on iPhone and iPad. If you set either the fan or the ceiling light as your preferred accessory, you can also access them via the Control Center on the iPhone and iPad and in the Home app on the Apple Watch. Just tap to toggle between On and Off, then press firmly to access the slider that allows you to choose speed and brightness. From here you can also change the fan direction.
You can optionally group the ceiling light with other HomeKit-enabled lights in your house to control all lights in a room or throughout your home with a single tile and slider. However, I keep mine separately as a ceiling light for the master bedroom. I also have two other HomeKit connected lamps in my bedroom. When I ask Siri to turn off the bedroom lights, it controls both the Hunter LED and another company’s two lights without manual grouping.
My absolute favorite part of SimpleConnect is the intelligent automation features that work with HomeKit.
With the Home app on iPhone or iPad, you can create scenes like Good Morning that turn off the ceiling fan, turn on the ceiling light, and even control other HomeKit accessories around the house. I also have a Good Night scene where the ceiling fan is on at 75% speed, the ceiling light is off when it is on, and some other HomeKit accessories are controlled.
You can activate scenes in conversation with Siri (just say “Good morning” for the relevant scene) in the Control Center, if you prefer, and in the Home app in the favorites view or in the specific room view.
Activating scenes manually is a convenient way to control multiple accessories. However, when you set up an automation, the real magic happens. You can automate control of individual accessories or a scene based on:
- Place where someone arrives or leaves
- Time of day like 10 p.m. or sunset
- other accessories are checked
- or when a sensor detects or no longer detects movements
HomeKit and Apple’s Home app allow you to be creative about which accessories are controlled, and if so, there are tons of ways you can go about it.
My personal favorite automation with Hunter SimpleConnect and HomeKit is turning on the ceiling light in the bedroom and turning off the ceiling fan in the bedroom as part of my good morning scene. This works fantastic as an alarm clock and solves the problem of I often find the bedroom fan on after my wife leaves the house for work.
You can be extra creative adding other HomeKit accessories like extra lights, thermostats, and occupancy sensors. This automation works out of the box, however, provided you have an Apple TV or iPad to control the automation (HomePod will also be able to run automations at startup).
Hunter offers three models of SimpleConnect ceiling fans with built-in LED ceiling lights and three 54-inch blades:
- symphony ($ 299) in matte black, crisp white, or matte nickel
- signal ($ 349) in fine bronze, satin nickel (pictured), or matte nickel
- and Apache ($ 399) in precious bronze (sometimes a matte silver option is available)
If you’re looking for a new ceiling fan in the market, you’ll quickly find that Hunter SimpleConnect models with HomeKit and Alexa come at a surprisingly affordable price compared to simple ceiling fans with no smart features.
Every Hunter SimpleConnect model is a must-have for anyone building a complete HomeKit home. Even HomeKit hobbyists can get started with just one unit and purchase both a connected ceiling fan and a connected ceiling light at a reasonable price.
Subscribe to 9to5Mac on YouTube for more Apple news:
FTC: We Use Income Earning Auto Affiliate Links. More.
For more Apple news, check out 9to5Mac on YouTube: