Profiting from the Smart Home Trend

High-tech HVAC solutions address the needs of today's customer.

When customers say they want low maintenance, they're really saying that they would like to spend less time and energy thinking about their home. They want to be freed up from obvious work (such as exterior painting), but also from mundane tasks such as having to constantly adjust the heat or vacuum up cobwebs.

Heating and cooling equipment manufacturers have responded to this desire with new technologies that create a comfortable and healthy indoor environment, while reducing the need for homeowners to monitor and make decisions about it.

The most visible of these technologies are the devices mounted on the wall. Not only has the thermostat come a long way from the once ubiquitous round disk, but the latest models are a cut above even the basic programmable model.

Today's high-tech thermostats offer intuitive, graphical touch-screen interfaces—resembling an iPad fixed to the wall—that, in addition to following pre-programmed temperature setbacks, can adapt to changing schedules. For instance, the GPS feature on family members’ smart phones will alert the system that someone is on the way home and adjust the temperature accordingly. Some new thermostats will even send the homeowners a report and analysis of their energy use over time, so they can take measures to reduce it further, if desired.

While homeowners will be wowed by advanced thermostats, the best way to move them toward a buying decision is to help them understand how they benefit from the advanced technologies they can't see.

For instance, most homeowners don't understand how furnaces and air conditioners have evolved. Today's super-efficient models contain sophisticated internal controls that maintain more even temperature and humidity, as well as cleaner air.

Homeowners are likely to be delighted to learn that a new, variable speed furnace or air conditioner linked to a compatible thermostat will maintain temperatures to within 1/2 degree of set point. It’s fairly easy to explain that, unlike older equipment that only ran at full speed and switched on and off several times per day, these models constantly modulate their output. Fans automatically speed up or slow down (a typical range is between 35% and 100% of their maximum airflow). Furnace flames vary their intensity depending on demand. And air conditioners ramp up slowly to draw more humidity from the air before it starts to circulate.

Homeowners will also be happy to learn that variable speed models use less energy; as much as 2/3 less than conventional equipment.

New HVAC technologies even include smart solar electric systems, consisting of a rooftop solar electric array that prioritizes where to direct the electricity it generates. Heating and cooling equipment gets first priority, but when that equipment is not running, power is directed to the home's main electrical panel. If the array generates more power than the home needs, excess flows to the utility's power grid and the homeowners receive a credit on their electric bill. What homeowner doesn’t like the sound of that?

A "smart" home is one that's self-aware and self-regulating. Its systems can adapt to changing conditions and communicate with the homeowner electronically and remotely. Increasingly, customers want a safe, efficient and comfortable home that basically runs itself.

Of course, there are DIY devices on the market that offer some of these attributes. Examples include electronic entryway locks and video-enabled doorbells that let the homeowner see who is at the door from anywhere with an internet connection.

But when it comes to the indoor environment, the types of fully optimized systems described here require professional installation and calibration. Helping homeowner to understand that will position installation companies as real problem-solvers.

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