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NEWS Panel Highlights Smartest Products

Contractor Board Shares Insight into the Most Intelligent Products They Install

December 16, 2013
Trans

These days, everybody wants their HVAC product to be known as the smart option. And with increasingly sophisticated technology and intelligent design being built inside HVAC products, as well as connecting them together, there is an endless range of products striving for that label. We asked the contractors on our editorial advisory board to share which products they believe truly deserve to be called smart — and why.

AAON RN Series

Chosen by: Rick Tullis, PE, president, Capstone Mechanical LP, Waco, Texas.

About the product: AAON RN Series packaged rooftop units, heat pumps, and outdoor air handling units are available from 6-140 tons. The RN Series is designed for quiet, energy-efficient operation with the capability of operating with up to 100 percent outside air.

Tullis’ take: “AAON RN Series’ 100 percent outside air rooftop units provide temperature and humidity controls, energy efficiency, and good serviceability. We like to sell options such as modulating hot gas reheat humidity control, variable-capacity scroll compressors, and modulating gas heating. We design them into buildings that require a large amount of outside air, such as schools and churches.

“This product deserves to be called intelligent because it meets our need for outside air using a well-thought-out mechanical design along with a solid controls platform. Our engineers like to design around them, our installers can put them in easily, and our technicians can understand them.”

Carrier Infinity Touch Control

Chosen by: Rob Minnick, CEO/president, Minnick’s Heating and Cooling, Laurel, Md.

About the product: As part of Carrier’s Infinity communicating system, this control can manage temperatures, humidity, ventilation, airflow, IAQ, and up to eight zones. Its user-friendly features include a full-color touchscreen and remote access, via the Internet, on Apple and Android smartphones and tablets. It also has energy-conscious features like advanced smart setback and real-time energy use tracking.

Minnick’s take: “This thermostat communicates with all equipment and lets us know the last 10 faults that have happened with the system. It communicates to the customer and the tech what is happening — and with it being Wi-Fi-enabled, you can get this knowledge anywhere you are. Customers love it.”

Daikin VRVIII

Chosen by: Steve Moon, president, Moon Air Inc., Elkton, Md.

About the product: Daikin VRVIII systems are available as both air-cooled and water-cooled systems. Both the air-cooled and water-cooled systems are available as either heat pump or heat recovery units. It’s a modular, ductless system featuring Daikin’s variable-speed inverter compressors, which use only the amount of energy required to provide the necessary heating or cooling to each individual indoor unit.

Moon’s take: “The Daikin VRVIII system really excites me. It’s amazing in the commercial field for its efficiency and flexibility, with long line set runs and very little space needed. It’s also special because it thinks and adjusts itself to the environment inside and out to give clients constant comfort.

“For commercial retrofits, the Daikin system is easy to install, so we can get out of our client’s way quickly.”

EarthNet Energy Heat Pump Mini-Split System

Chosen by: Steve Moon, president, Moon Air Inc., Elkton, Md.

About the product: EarthNet Energy’s solar heating and cooling heat pump mini-split system provides ductless heating and cooling (12,000 Btu) for applications such as homes, sunrooms, classrooms, etc. It will heat and cool an area up to 750 square feet. By adding three solar panels to the roof, wall mount, or pole mount, 690 watts of power is inputted directly to the outdoor condenser, which significantly reduces the need for ac power from the electric panel box. When utilizing solar power, this high-efficiency system draws less than 1 amp of current and is rated at 35+ SEER. When operating on all electric, it still performs with high efficiency (19.3 SEER/10.2 HSPF).

Moon’s take: “This is a very cool and little-known unit. It’s great for entry-level tree huggers and those that are energy conscious and want to reduce their carbon footprint.”

Ecobee Smart Si

Chosen by: Roger Grochmal, chairman and CEO, AtlasCare, Toronto.

About the product: The ecobee Smart Si thermostat provides homeowners with remote control of their thermostat settings from anywhere using a smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer. It lets users set their own heating and cooling schedule and also makes smart saving adjustments based on local weather and how a home responds to temperature. It also offers contractors the option to monitor and troubleshoot HVAC equipment remotely.

Grochmal’s take: “It’s our belief that all home HVAC products will be connected together in the future. It is not a matter of if, but only when. The ecobee is a great first step. We look forward to the day when we can connect to any and every product out there and provide a real predictive service to our maintenance customers.”

Supco M500 Megohmmeter

Chosen by: Tim Paetz, general manager/owner, Bud Anderson Heating & Cooling, Lowell, Ark.

About the product: A smart diagnostic tool for technicians, the Supco M500 Megohmmeter aids in determining the state of a motor’s windings. It measures the insulation resistance of motor windings, and is specifically designed to detect ohms with a scale that reads up to 1,000 megohms.

Paetz’ take: “The Megohmmeter is a fantastic tool to have on a service truck. It gives our technicians the ability to read the life of compressor and motor windings. With the readings, we can let the client know exactly what shape his motor is in. We use these on all tune-ups and service calls, so our techs get more repairs and replacements while the client gets peace of mind.”

Trane ComfortLink II

Chosen by: Travis Smith, general manager, Sky Heating & Air Conditioning, Portland, Ore.

About the product: The Trane ComfortLink II controls Trane’s zoning system, which is available with Trane’s XC95m gas furnace or TruComfort XV20i variable-speed heat pump. It features a high-definition color touchscreen and, with other zoning components, provides customized comfort in each zoned area of the home. It also includes Nexia Home Intelligence, enabling homeowners to remotely control the system.

Smith’s take: “The Trane zoning system can be controlled from a smartphone anywhere there is Internet access. It can also control lighting, cameras, and motion sensors through the Nexia home automation software. The key to the Trane zoning system is that the dampers themselves modulate along with the furnace. So, if one zone needs less heat than another zone, the zone with the lesser heating need can partially close or partially open the damper, unlike conventional full-open or full-close systems.”

Trane Tracer Controls

Chosen by: Tom Borowske, vice president of operations, Environmental Conditioning Systems, Mentor, Ohio.

About the product: Trane Tracer Controls incorporate open protocols along with wireless and mobile features to provide organizations with an efficient and effective building management system.

Borowske’s take: “All [of the Trane Tracer] systems offer plug-and-play connections to Trane products and most can connect to other products via LonTalk or BACnet protocols. The Tracker is suited for small, single-zone, or VVT [variable volume and temperature] commercial buildings. The summit is great for larger buildings that do not require Web access; SC is a newer product line that incorporates Web access. ES is a multibuilding or campus system capable of communicating with both summit and SC products.”

WaterFurnace 7 Series

Chosen by: Travis Smith, general manager, Sky Heating & Air Conditioning, Portland, Ore.

About the product: WaterFurnace’s 7 Series ground-source heat pump features variable capacity and excellent efficiency, with a rating of up to 5.3 COP [coefficient of performance] and 41 EER.

Smith’s take: “The WaterFurnace 7 Series is a variable-capacity ground-source heat pump system that can modulate the compressor on demand based on user input into the thermostat or real-time conditions in the home. It can also intelligently control up to six zones with varied airflow and varied compressor stages to match the load and heat gain or loss needed in the zone.

“For a ground-source heat pump to work in harmony with so many items, it takes a lot of intelligence. As the thermostat calls for heat, the compressor modulates to the precise level needed, the ductwork adjusts with up to six zones to direct the heating where it’s needed, and, while all this is happening, the airflow adjusts for the zone and compressor call with a separate control board to talk to the variable-speed flow center and make sure the waterflow meets the compressor requirements.

“While doing all of this, the system can also provide some of the home’s domestic water heating needs or control a [WaterFurnace] NSW water-to-water heat pump to take care of all of the homes domestic water needs.”

Publication date: 12/16/2013 

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