ACHRNEWS

High-End HVAC Doesn't Mean High Maintenance

June 25, 2007

Communication has come a long way from two tin cans and a string. Communication devices have become more advanced and their applications increasingly far reaching as machines now communicate in multiple formats. Emerson Climate Technologies introduced one such advanced communicating device this year at the International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo). According to the company, the UltraTech™ communicating system, which will be available later this year, is an integrated network of components that enable HVAC systems to deliver superior performance. Considered a “significant advancement for the HVAC industry,” UltraTech shares information system-wide, allowing contractors to not only complete the installation with confidence, but also communicate with confidence the efficiency and comfort value to the customer.

TECHNOLOGY TALKS

The UltraTech system consists of five main components: an outdoor control board, indoor control board, programmable thermostat that is connected and communicates as a system, and a Copeland Scroll UltraTech™ compressor and variable-speed blower motor that delivers superior comfort and energy savings. With this system, instead of manually setting dipswitches and running additional wire to both the outdoor unit and the thermostat, UltraTech auto configures and checks system settings, while requiring no additional wires to the thermostat. According to the company, by sharing information system-wide, UltraTech improves the installation and reduces callbacks.

“These are the enablers that allow the contractor to offer superior benefits to homeowners, effectively removing the barriers to installation,” said John Schneider, director residential marketing, Emerson Climate Technologies.

UltraTech can be found embedded in new OEM equipment. The backbone of the system is the ClimateTalk™ communicating protocol. This protocol is completely open to users and is available on the Internet. Because of this open protocol, OEMs have added flexibility in the design of their systems. “We made sure the design was flexible and open enough for OEMs to have the ability to customize their systems to best meet their unique needs,” said Schneider.

The new technology helps reduce callbacks by improving service and reliability with onboard ComfortAlert™ diagnostics, which provides active protection from severe fault conditions. With UltraTech’s ability to communicate system-wide, it can display a “call for service” indicator on the thermostat when system faults are detected. According to the company, the onboard diagnostics are proven to increase diagnostic accuracy by up to 60 percent.

“Our market research shows homeowners want better comfort and energy savings, with systems that are highly reliable,” noted Schneider. “However, these systems are often more complex to install. Most contractors agree that UltraTech enables them to up sell better performance to the homeowner with smart HVAC systems they can install and service with confidence.”

UltraTech allows you to auto-configure system settings, provides built-in Comfort Alert diagnostics, and includes “Call for Service” on the thermostat.

MAN VS. MACHINE

According to Emerson’s market research of contractors, there is a high interest in this type of smart solution for selling, installing, and servicing systems. Eight out of 10 contractors agreed that UltraTech would help them sell up, improve the quality of the installation, enable more service technicians to be capable of installing high-end equipment, and reduce callbacks. UltraTech helps alleviate the complexity often associated with high-end HVAC systems. Instead of having one technician with the ability to install traditional high-end systems, contractors are finding that with UltraTech, all of their crews are able to confidently install high-end systems.

“While the homeowner sees a simpler system with significantly better performance, UltraTech still requires trained, skilled HVAC technicians,” noted Schneider. “By enabling more technicians to install higher-end systems, however, UltraTech allows the contractor to more readily offer added value benefits to homeowners with systems he can install with confidence.”

Consider the advancement of computers for example. When the personal computer (PC) first began to gain popularity, it was run on a DOS-based operating system. Navigation was difficult, set-up required detailed technical knowledge, and to fix the machine a person needed to be a programmer or hire one. As technology advanced and Windows® was introduced, the what-you-see-is-what-you-get era was born. Computers became more user friendly not only for the end user, but also for the computer technician. The DOS-based programming, however, is still there and it still requires a trained technician. Anyone can click a mouse and stimulate a response from a computer, however, it takes a trained computer technician to diagnose and deal with the maintenance and upgrades required by a computer for proper care and usage and for maximum efficiency. UltraTech is much the same.

MARKET MATTERS

As HVAC technology advances, smart systems will begin to take a hold in the market. Emerson’s research indicates that 39 percent of homeowners are willing to pay a premium for systems that improve the comfort and energy savings of their air conditioning system, which often includes the two-stage outdoor unit.

“We see this market rapidly expanding,” said Schneider. “Communicating systems are playing a major role in single- and two-stage outdoor equipment with variable-speed indoor motors because of the enabling and efficiency benefits.”

He predicted that two-stage systems would grow to 10 percent market share in the next three to five years, as compared to the current 3 percent market share.

“That’s a significant jump. You’re talking about nearly a million pieces on the market, enabled by smart communicating systems.”

According to Schneider, the only limitation to market growth is the lack of education.

“Making sure the contractor is aware of those systems in the market and ensuring that he understands the benefits to himself and to the homeowner is going to be the most important need short term,” cautioned Schneider. “Communicating systems and smart electronics are a platform for further innovation, and there’s unlimited potential in terms of where this technology can go in the future.”

Publication date: 06/25/2007