ACHRNEWS

Equipment Evolution Ignites HVACR Diagnostic Trend

November 13, 2006
"Doctor, if I move my arm like this it hurts," complained the patient. "Then don't move your arm like that," the doctor replied.

Most doctors don't respond this way. After multiple years in medical school, countless internships, and thousands of dollars spent, doctors work to enhance their reputation and build their diagnostic skills, not make flippant, inaccurate diagnostic attempts. These skills make for an effective and successful doctor.

The concept of the smart HVAC system is much the same. Large amounts of time, effort, and money have been invested in constructing the premium HVAC system.

Creating accurate and effective systems that self-diagnose, prevent system down time, and provide constant, appropriate information and access to the comfort system is what will make the next evolution in the HVAC industry effective and successful.

COMMUNICATION REVOLUTION

What is the next evolution in HVAC? Intelligent units. There are multiple examples of emerging technology that takes mechanical systems to a new level of operational efficiency and productivity. These smart components will define how premier, quality environments are achieved.

Rheem and Ruud's Heating and Cooling Division has released the Comfort Control Systemâ„¢ as its offering to the smart HVAC arena. With the availability of two-speed compressors, on-demand dehumidification, variable-speed motors, advanced controls, and IAQ products becoming standard components of many HVAC systems, component integration has become a significant consideration to the installer, the service technician, and the end user.

The Comfort Control System is a component integration system with system-wide communicator potential that allows each individual part to be linked in one common language. It will also allow the sharing of operating status and diagnostic information, resulting in the controlling and monitoring of the overall system for health and efficiency. The results for the end user culminate in custom fit comfort, superior energy efficiency, and increased product reliability and durability.

"Products using electronic controls have laid the groundwork for the future of integrated home comfort systems," said Rheem and Ruud. "These systems include variable-speed air handlers with electronic controls, advanced on-board diagnostic systems, and interactive system-wide communication."

On-board diagnostics and interactivity are the two key principles to this innovation. Time is money; time spent diagnosing or often, misdiagnosing a unit, costs the contractor and the end user. With on-board diagnostics, the trial and error testing and repair is virtually eliminated. When abnormal conditions occur, the Comfort Control System sends a call-for-service message to the end user's thermostat. The end user calls for service, the service technician comes in, and then he is able to review system status and fault history.

This allows a quicker and more accurate diagnosis. The Comfort Control System's built-in diagnostic system has a fault recall button and a system status code on a seven-segment LED display. It remembers the fault history and retains it, even if there is a power failure. The end user's system also warns of declining system performance in advance, helping prevent costly repairs and catastrophic replacements.

Interactivity is another important feature of this product. With the Comfort Control System, the unit becomes interactive with the end user, the service technician, and the contractor. This is where the future unfolds. The connectivity between service technician and manufacturer, and contractor and end user can create priceless opportunities to build better relationships resulting in profitable gains and healthier environments.

"Think of today's thermostat as evolving into a system user interface or communication hub supporting a myriad of home comfort appliances in a single, integrated network. It can communicate to and from the system to any communication device anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day, every day of the year," said Rheem and Ruud.

ACROSS THE BOARD

There are other new innovations popping up in the HVAC industry that cover multiple residential and commercial applications. Bryant's Evolutionâ„¢ Control, for example, combines six controls in one, letting end users monitor and manage temperature, humidity, dehumidification, ventilation, IAQ and airflow. Using the Internet or telephone, it connects end users to their home comfort system while they're away by sending them notifications on required maintenance or service. It also offers maintenance reminders with dealer name and phone number, day-at-a-glance programming, and vacation scheduling.

With utility interface connection and up to 23 diagnostics points, the Evolution System is also dealer-friendly. Enhanced features reduce dealer callbacks and installation time through plug-and-play installation and advanced system-wide diagnostics that are displayed on the control panel in text message instead of numerical codes. The four-wire, color-coded Evolution Control also allows dealers the opportunity to complete a retrofit application without having to pull new wire.

The Lennox® L Series® and S-Class™ Premium Rooftop units contain an Integrated Modular Controller (IMC) as their standard unit controller. It is designed to provide complete control of Lennox's premium rooftop units by optimizing operation of constant volume bypass or single zone units, interfacing directly to Lennox's L Connection® Network, and communicating with add-on modules using BACnet® or LonTalk® open, standard protocols. The IMC is preprogrammed and sends alarm messages providing detailed information concerning the alarm, including a time stamp for enhanced troubleshooting.

Heatcraft Refrigeration Products has also entered the smart HVAC realm with its Beacon II® Refrigeration System. It is a complete refrigeration system including the evaporator, mounted expansion valve, and condensing unit. This system replaced traditional components such as the liquid line solenoid valve, room thermostat, and defrost clock, with electronic components like the Beacon II control board and electronic expansion valves. The control board continually monitors system operation and displays operating characteristics. The electric expansion valve maintains a superheat that is set at the control board. There is also optional software that allows for remote system monitoring.

Carrier's new-generation Infinity™ System, with its programmable digital control has been redesigned with a new control unit. It uses a single control to monitor 23 different operating parameters of the total system. The Infinity control provides diagnostics on the initial installation by measuring the pressure drop through the duct system and automatically setting the proper operating characteristics which saves the installer up to ½ hour. The Infinity system then does a complete duct assessment every day and adjusts performance of the system to comply with any changes in the duct system.

The Infinity Control provides the additional security of doubling as a service tool to maintain optimum performance. If a need for service arises, the control will provide an alert and display the phone number of the installing Carrier dealer on the Infinity user interface. System-wide diagnostics are provided in plain language along with the last 10 system faults, allowing the servicing technician to see a history of the system, not just a point in time. An optional Remote Access Kit allows the system to contact the dealer via e-mail if service is required, permits remote troubleshooting, and gives end users remote control of the system via the Internet or a telephone. Once activated, the Infinity Control automatically configures itself to the system and all its components.

Smart HVAC systems may not talk yet, but they are not far from it. HVAC will never be the same.

Publication date: 11/13/2006