HVAC Technologies Ready for New Challenges
November 10, 2008
The technologies that we tend to think of as being new, or nontraditional, probably aren’t all that new. What is new is that these are today’s go-to technologies - things that we already have in hand to deal with the relatively new challenges facing, well, the world.
The HVAC industry is ready to step up to bat with proven energy-saving technologies, like geothermal systems, controls, and solar-based systems.
Selling and installing these products can help boost the profits of those industry professionals who are facing an otherwise sluggish economy. According to Kent Kuffner, product manager of Carrier, the company is seeing an increase in the geothermal market.
“We’re seeing geothermal opportunities continue to grow for Carrier,” he said. “Despite the housing situation, the geothermal market is growing dramatically. We’re excited.”
The manufacturer’s geothermal heating and cooling systems are following another significant trend of combining more traditional HVAC technology, in this case the split system, with the more cutting-edge geothermal technology, giving contractors and their customers something a little more familiar to hang onto. The geothermal split units can be connected to a gas or propane furnace or an air handler, making it appropriate for add-on installations.
“The split option gives dealers a lot of flexibility in installation and application,” said Kuffner. “The package units are popular as well, in more new construction applications. You can do it either way.”
The loops themselves might hold some contractors and customers back, but they really shouldn’t. With the right training and support, it’s really not a big deal. “Our training program provides the dealer or loop installer all the knowledge needed to design and install the earth loop, based on the requirements of the installation.”
Dealers are provided with a software program, GeoDesigner, that helps ensure a well-sized application through heating and cooling load calculations, run times, soil temperatures, and more. “It really helps us be very exact in the sizing of the system. It’s a good engineering tool, and it’s a good sales tool,” he said, comparing geothermal vs. any other system.
It’s a good time for selling geothermal systems, thanks in part to the recently passed economic stimulus package. Kuffner pointed out that it provides tax credits for owners installing geothermal systems through 2016; 30 percent of the cost of the system, up to $2,000. “It’s fully funded by the reduction in credits given to oil companies.” In addition, some states and utilities are offering incentives for geothermal installations.
Clients range from individual homeowners to entire communities. “We see some areas of interest in planned communities,” Kuffner said. “There are certainly opportunities for dealers to do hundreds of units at a time. It’s a way for the builder/developer to set themselves apart, offering something that’s different and beneficial and green.”
While the basic technology hasn’t changed much, “We make tweaks and improvements here and there.” Variable-speed motors, for instance, are one that adds comfort and energy efficiency. “It’s a great benefit. Where you might have not the optimal duct system in the home, you can really fine-tune the airflow in the duct system that you have to work with. It’s a nice benefit to the designer-dealer.” Carrier recently introduced a high-temperature water-to-water unit for radiant floor systems.
Radiant floor also is becoming more popular in upper-end homes and homes in colder climates. Geothermal systems can deliver hot water for radiant applications in a very cost-effective way.
WIRELESS CONTROLSSystem controls continue to advance in applications and ease of use, especially in more intuitive user interfaces. One newer product, the MyTemp™ system, offers room-by-room temperature control and energy management.
The system from Home Comfort Zones provides independent temperature control for every room in the home. It continually monitors and adjusts the temperature in each room. Sunny rooms can be kept cool while shadier rooms can be kept warm.
The system is controlled from a centrally located, touch-screen main display. In addition, every room in the home receives a small wireless temperature sensor, called a Smart Controller™. From the Smart Controller, the customer can make temporary temperature changes or place a room in Saver mode.
The system is said to provide up to 40 percent in energy savings through its Saver mode, which reduces conditioning in unused rooms, and schedules that reduction of the conditioning based on the time of the day and day of the week. Smart Circulation™ balances temperatures between hot and cold rooms without using the air conditioner or furnace; a 24-hour energy history pinpoints the rooms that use the most heating and cooling.
An Away mode reduces conditioning while the home is vacant.
A small, wireless temperature sensor, the Smart Controller, is placed in each room of the home, continuously monitoring and transmitting each room’s temperature to the master unit. The master unit controls the existing furnace and air conditioner and receives and processes information from a variety of sensors, including the Smart Controllers. After comparing the temperature in each room against the desired settings, the master unit decides whether heating, air conditioning, or circulation is required, and which rooms require it.
Next, it opens and closes pneumatic dampers to control airflow to specific rooms. Finally, a conditioning cycle (heating, air conditioning, or circulation) is initiated. Wireless sensors and individual control are the keys to the system’s comfort and energy-savings potential.
When the damper is inflated, airflow to that register is turned off; when the damper is deflated, airflow is turned on. The Master Unit continually monitors the temperature in every room, and operates the HVAC equipment and monitors the conditions in the air handler. Using information from the Smart Controllers and temperature schedules, 24 computer-operated valves control pneumatic dampers, giving each room independent temperature control.
The wireless receiver measures the temperature, air pressure, and humidity inside the air handler and relays the information to the Master Unit. Placed on the exterior of the home, this wireless sensor monitors and transmits the outside temperature to the Master Unit. It converts the electrical output of a wall socket into 12-vdc to power the Master Unit. In addition, an internal air pump provides vacuum and pressure to inflate and deflate the dampers. The air pump is isolated from the outer case using a spring-damped base. This reduces noise and vibration to ensure quiet, reliable operation.
Honeywell recently introduced a totally reliable wireless platform engineered specifically for HVAC. The system features a portable comfort control, a hand-held device that not only senses and allows homeowners to adjust for that room’s temperature, but also provides information on outdoor conditions to help them make informed decisions that could positively impact overall energy use.
The new wireless comfort and zoning products use the FocusPRO® thermostat, and imbed RedLINK™ wireless technology, which is said to be stronger than wire with internal self-checking safeguards, tested and proven in homes up to 6,500 square feet with multiple levels.
This suite of wireless products is said to offer contractors the ability to easily zone a home without running thermostat wires, often within a single day. And the customer service impact that comes from easily relocating thermostats and providing the tools to positively impact energy efficiency and enhance comfort in the home is well suited for this marketplace.
The wireless portable comfort and zoning systems are available in programmable and nonprogrammable installation kits.
The company has also introduced the Prestige™ comfort system, a high-end, wired, high-definition, full-color programmable device that is also enabled with RedLINK wireless technology. Contractors can download their company logo and contact information into the unit.
The hand-held portable comfort control device has resonated in extensive consumer tests, the company said. Ninety-eight percent of homeowners quickly understood how to use it when asked.
Used much like a TV remote, the control is a hand-held, battery-operated device that automatically adjusts the temperature in whatever room it is in to whatever desired setting; displays outdoor temperature and humidity; puts energy-related decisions in homeowners’ hands; allows for energy-saving setback at bed time; maintains the schedule from the programmable thermostat; and with zoning, the control can be used to monitor or change the set temperature in any zone of the house.
SOLAR MOVESAnother new product called SolarAttic “has harnessed the sun’s solar energy which is collected in every structure in the United States. The sun’s solar energy is reflected in the nature of the solar roof and solar attic,” said Ed Palmer, SolarAttic’s president.
This technology recovers solar heat from attics to heat swimming pools, homes, and water. It also is said to control attic ventilation, reducing air conditioning costs. How it works is easy to understand. The existing roof functions as a solar collector. Heat is then transferred to the attic, where it is trapped and stored.
The system uses heat-exchange technology to capture and use this free energy. By using the existing attic heat energy, Palmer said the United States could save 30 percent of its annual space heating costs, 35 percent of its air conditioning costs, 50 percent of its electric hot water heating costs, and 95 percent of its pool heating costs.
For more information, visit www.carrier.com, www.homecomfortzones.com, www.honeywell.com or www.solarattic.com.
Publication date: 11/10/2008