ACHRNEWS

It's All Under Control

February 13, 2006
John Ruiz from Johnson Controls provided insight into the Metasys BACnet field controllers’ move into the world of wireless technology.
CHICAGO - As you might expect, HVAC control systems both in the home and in commercial use are becoming more advanced. However, what seemed to be a convergence of technology a few short years ago, has split into different directions, at least for the time being, as evidenced by products shown at the 2006 International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo).

For residential control solutions, that means more user-friendly technology, however complicated these devices might be behind their covers. On the commercial side, that means more installer-friendly solutions, and perhaps an inroad or two into the controls contracting market.

First, let's tip our hats to E-Z Controls (www.e-zcontrols.com), which offers an energy management package "developed by contractors, for contractors," the company said. It's SimpleNet® system controls rooftop units - "20 rooftops in 20 minutes" is the company's motto.

The preprogrammed control system doesn't require the purchase of a computer, the company said. It's Web-enabled and can work with rooftop units, chillers, VAV systems, boilers, towers, and pumps.

SimpleNet provides a digital display of temperature and setpoint; staged outputs for heating, cooling, and fan control; occupied and unoccupied sequences and set points; analog input for temperature, humidity, and airflow; digital input for remote unoccupied override and time clock; and more.

WELCOME TO WIFI

Johnson Controls (www.johnsoncontrols.com) Metasys® system now features BACnet® field controllers with flexible wireless solutions. "Wireless technology can be applied at any or all levels of the system including room sensing, field controllers, network automation, and user interfaces," the company said.

These wireless capabilities offer facility operators and owners mobility, flexibility, and cost-effective options for managing their facilities and expanding their systems into spaces that may have been too difficult or costly to wire for controls before, the manufacturer said.

The company also offers a suite of wireless building infrastructure solutions that support a range of wireless applications.

Engenuity Systems Inc. (www.engenuity.com), a major LonWorks® and open systems product distributor, announced that it will carry additional product lines from manufacturer Nico Technologies. The move expands Engenuity's line into wireless options.

The Nico Web Panel PAD 5200L is a Windows® CE.NET platform with grab-and-go computing convenience. Its metallic aluminum control panel acts as a wireless connectivity device that also functions as a portable computer for mobile workers. It is designed to integrate into a small office automation system, entertainment system, lighting device, or security system.

The 2.4 line of wireless products is compatible with LonWorks networks and can be used in both commercial and home applications, the company said. The products offer reduced installation costs, convenience, and ease of installation for systems that control temperature and humidity.

The ZigBee Alliance (www.zigbee.org) is a name to keep in mind. The group describes itself as an association of companies working together to enable reliable, cost-effective, low-power, wirelessly networked monitoring and control products based on an open, global standard.

ZigBee, the global interoperable standard for wireless connectivity, claims to be suited for the home automation, building controls, and industrial markets.

Using ZigBee-enabled devices, a wireless networked home environment could be created with immediate results, the association said. "Homeowners will be able to buy off-the-shelf products and be assured that they'll work together in their networked environment. Because ZigBee is well suited for applications that require low power, such as light switches and sensors, it can operate using standard, off-the-shelf batteries for months, years, or even decades.

"Homes equipped with ZigBee-based networks will make it easy for builders, contractors, and home-supply manufacturers to reconfigure heating, lighting, and security systems to accommodate additions and the remodeling of kitchens, bathrooms, and other property-value-enhancing projects."

It may have resembled the old board game Mouse Trap®, but booth representatives for Minco called it an engineer trap. Balls made their way through the Rube Goldberg-style sculpture, which incorporated many of the company’s control products.

IMPROVED INTEGRATION

The BACnet and LonWorks "seamless" integration continues to work itself into the market, with manufacturers tending to pick up connectivity with both protocols instead of choosing just one.

Distech Controls (www.distech-controls.com) LonMark®-certified line of EC-Stat communicating thermostats with integrated room sensors offer versatility as stand-alone or networkable controllers, the company said. These products may be used in commercial, industrial, and hotel applications. Configuration is done using the EC-Configure LNS®-based plug-in or EC-Net wizard or directly from the EC-Stat keypad.

LonMark-certified EC-Stat-FC (fan coil) communicating thermostats feature a configurable system mode button, designed to allow the user to set the sequence of operation to automatic for optimal temperature control, and to heat or cool for specific operation, said the manufacturer. The fan button allows manual control of fan speed, and controls devices with up to three speeds.

Devices designed for institutional or commercial use have override buttons located on their faceplates. Models designed for hotel use toggle between Centigrade and Fahrenheit.

Honeywell Building Solutions (www.honeywell.com/buildingsolutions) introduced a BACnet-compliant, Web-enabled control system for HVAC products, the ComfortPointâ„¢. The system features a family of BACnet controllers and a simplified interface that gives consulting engineers and building managers a flexible platform for monitoring and managing HVAC equipment from a variety of vendors, the company said. It complements the company's existing Lon-based HVAC offerings.

The interface provides a single view of all system information (temperature, system status, alarms, etc.) and gives users command and control options based on their authorization level. The programming and operating functions are combined on the interface. "For example, a technician could use the navigation menus and graphics to monitor temperatures throughout a facility and then expand the same menus to change the sequence of operation in a built-up air-handling unit," Honeywell explained.

The system is said to be accessible through a secure Web connection from any personal computer using Internet Explorer, which allows more managers to control the system from remote locations. For cyber security, ComfortPoint uses the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption protocol, which also protects financial and banking sites.

At the device level, controllers are available preprogrammed with industry-standard HVAC applications that support equipment like VAV systems, rooftop units, and air handlers. Users can also customize the controllers to suit their needs, the company said.

ComfortPoint is compatible with Honeywell's building automation platform, Enterprise Buildings Integratorâ„¢ (EBI). "Migration to EBI allows the building owner to go beyond HVAC controls by integrating everything from access control and security monitoring to fire alarms and digital video surveillance," the company said.

Honeywell also introduced Service Online (HSO) (www.honeywellserviceonline.com), a suite of online tools, information, and system support that provides its customers with increased control and insight into building operations. Facility managers can use the Web-based service to enhance traditional onsite support and service capabilities with 24/7 access to industry tools and information.

HSO is said to give users quick access to real-time facility information and support, plus an automated software update delivery tool (similar to Windows updates, the manufacturer said). Customers can view their Honeywell service status, order parts, and access technical documents. A user community bulletin board service offers a discussion forum.

"We're bringing the convenience of real-time e-support, a staple of the software industry, to building automation systems," said Mike Taylor, vice president of marketing for Honeywell Building Solutions.

The online suite provides tools and information in system support (ongoing technical support for building automation customers); services (access to the Honeywell ServicePortalâ„¢, a Web-based application that allows customers to view the status of current service activity, review several years of service history, and submit online service requests); and product information (access to product and system information, and tools to generate system and controller solution recommendations).

Reliable Controls' (www.reliablecontrols.com) RC-Studio® 2.0 BACnet operator workstation software "makes integrating BACnet objects from any device a snap," the company said. "Simply open the BACnet tree browser and view all the native BACnet devices in the system. Then click on the BACnet device to open its complete object list."

BACnet objects in the list can be dragged and dropped to the appropriate destination or code, the company said.

TAC's (www.tac.com) Continuum® family of native BACnet controllers is listed with the BACnet Testing Laboratories (BTL) and communicate as MS/TP or BACnet/IP devices to all other third-party BACnet Devices on the network and attached subnetworks, in accordance with ANSI/ASHRAE standard 135-2004.

According to TAC, "Continuum uses BACnet communications at every level of the system." BACnet operator workstations and building controllers are used for system management and message routing. In addition, the open architecture of Continuum permits its access controllers, lighting controllers, digital video recorders, and protocol drivers to work with native BACnet devices from TAC and other third-party BACnet manufacturers, the company said.

Mamac duct averaging temperature sensors were built to be rugged and flexible. Here, multiple sensor modules are interconnected with plenum-rated cable.

CONNECTIVITY IMPROVEMENTS

System connectivity has been a longstanding hurdle for controls contractors. Recent technological developments could be easing those problems, with just a few more connections.

Echelon's (www.echelon.com) i.LON 100 e3 Internet server is said to offer streamlined monitoring and control of all of a building's control networks and devices. Users can access devices from a local network, a virtual private network, or the Internet, with the security of user authorization. It's a gateway device for LonWorks, ModBus, M-Bus, and digital I/O devices, the company said.

It is said to provide universal connectivity for the devices attached to it. Appliances, meters, load controls, lights, security systems, pumps, valves, and most other electrical devices can be connected, then remotely configured, monitored, and controlled, said the company.

Control Solutions' (www.csimn.com) AddMe II I/O controller features 16 universal inputs that are context sensitive; when configured as an analog input, a self-calibrating converter produces 15-bit resolution with high noise immunity, the company says. However, when used as a discrete input, the converter switches its resolution for a faster response, it said.

The company's Babel Buster LonWorks-to-Modbus gateways are not just simple protocol translators, the company said. "Each data object is implemented as a fully featured LonMark sensor or actuator functional block," the company explained. "That means Modbus devices can become completely compatible with any LonWorks network," and visa versa.

Eaton Corp.'s (www.eaton.com) EZD intelligent relays include multifunction displays that offer visualization functions in addition to basic functions, the company says. Applications range from stand-alone intelligent relay with a few timing relays and a timer switch, to a large-scale network of intelligent relays with local and remote expansion modules and graphics, the company said.

The finished circuit diagram is stored internally and can be saved externally for transport, security, and backup. Multilevel password protection secures the circuit diagram from unauthorized viewing, editing, copying, or deleting, it said.

FieldServer Technologies (www.fieldserver.com) introduced its SlotServer LonWorks-to-ControlLogix interface. The module is said to enable the user to interface third-party devices using LonWorks to the ControlLogix 1756 platform. The interface provides features demanded by integrators who desire an interface between their PLC and LonWorks, such as simple installation, user-friendly text display, LonMark certification, compatibility with other LonWorks devices, and a standard 1756 format that plugs into the Allen Bradley ControlLogix rack. Custom configurations are available through FieldServer.

Lynxspring's (www.lynxspring.com) Jenesysâ„¢ TCP/IP Internet control suite has been targeted at control system integrating contractors, national accounts, and small commercial buildings, according to president Terry Swope.

The interoperability product was developed based on "our deep understanding of the needs of our customers, based on years of work in our targeted markets," he continued. The product has been designed to sustain its interoperability regardless of changes in technology, he said, calling it "a future-proof strategy."

It incorporates Modbus®, BACnet, and LonWorks into a single platform. "Our OEM clients' equipment lasts over 25 years," Swope said. "Building control strategies tend to change every three to five years. We see in Jenesys a platform that protects our customers by providing a protocol-agnostic solution." It incorporates Tridium's (www.tridium.com) Niagara AX software platform.

Jon Williamson from TAC showed the Continuum family of native BACnet controllers. It is said to be able to communicate as MS/TP or BACnet/IP devices to all other third-party BACnet devices on the network and attached subnetworks.

CONTROL IN THE HOME

Action Talking Products (www.actiontalkingproducts.com) showed the Kelvin-talking thermostat, a voice-interactive programmable thermostat designed for the visually impaired, disabled, elderly, or anyone who has difficulty seeing and programming a standard thermostat.

Once the thermostat is programmed using the talking buttons, the advanced speech-recognition technology allows the customer to raise and lower the temperature by using voice commands, pressing the large tactile buttons, clapping hands, knocking on a table or desk, or even by whistling, the company said.

"Every button talks," the company said. "When a button is pressed, a clear voice will tell you exactly what that button signifies. It will announce the time, room temperature, and temperature setting." Programming buttons include "Set Day," "Set Time," "Raise," and "Lower."

Emerson Climate Technologies, a business of Emerson (www.white-rodgers.com), announced several upgrades to White-Rodgers' 80 Series single-stage thermostats. The thermostats now offer enhanced comfort features like indefinite and timed setpoint hold, as well as a display that is 45 percent larger than previous 80 Series single-stage thermostats.

"The 80 Series thermostat is one of White-Rodgers' most popular products," said Ron Miles, vice president of sales and marketing distribution. He said the 80 Series thermostats offer more accuracy and control, more comfort and convenience, and more value and energy savings with programmable models. Homeowners can save as much as 33 percent by programming heating and cooling times to cut energy use, based on the home's location, climate, and program selections, he said. It meets Energy Star® specifications.

In addition, Emerson Climate Technologies added a universal staging model to its White-Rodgers division's line of 90 Seriesâ„¢ Blueâ„¢ touch screen thermostats. The 1F95-1271 works on single-stage, multi-stage, and heat pump applications without the need for additional wiring, the company said.

Mark Bulanda, president of White-Rodgers, said, "The universal 90 Series Blue touch screen thermostat not only delivers all of the best features of the 90 Series Blue single-stage model, but it is truly universal," he said.

"If ... contractors wanted to make their jobs a little easier and carry one high-end thermostat to cover most residential applications or needs, this would be it."

Climatouch (www.climatouch.com) introduced its C3 (comfort, control, convenience) universal thermostat, which can be used with gas, oil, electric, heat pump, air conditioning, and multistage HVAC systems. It offers one through five (3 heating + 2 cooling) configurable stages for simple residential or multiple-stage commercial environments, it said.

An Auto Mode setting is designed to help simplify programming by automatically selecting heating or cooling to maintain the setpoint temperature. In addition, the Full Lock feature is designed to prevent anyone from accessing the setting without entering a four-digit PIN. Partial Lock allows temperature changes without changing the PIN, it said.

Finally, the Installer Message allows the contractor to use up to 42 characters to create a customized message - say, on the importance of regular maintenance.

Control Products Inc. (www.controlproductsonline.com) introduced its FA-Q2 Deluxe FreezeAlarm for remote monitoring of homes, cabins, cooler/freezers, greenhouse, or any temperature-sensitive place. The upgraded product's Quick Status Check feature lets the homeowner check current temperatures, power status, and battery charge in a 15-second phone call, the company said.

According to the company, the product can be integrated into the home's heating system, allowing for the temperature to be adjusted via the phone, turn on/off auxiliary heating-cooling systems, turn on lights, or activate sirens. The Deluxe FreezeAlarm also features increased call-out phone capacity.

According to marketing manager Mark Bjornstad, the product upgrades were all based on consumer demand. "We listened carefully to our customers and have incorporated their requests," he said.

Intellidyne LLC (www.intellidynellc.com) debuted its IntelliCon-FA residential and IntelliCon-CFA commercial forced-air heating system fuel economizers. These controls are said to optimize the operation of forced-air furnaces, allowing them to deliver the same level of heating while consuming less fuel.

When a forced-air furnace receives a call for heat, the burner ignites and the temperature in the heat exchanger starts to rise. The IntelliCon monitors this temperature rise throughout the burner cycle, the company said. As the heat exchanger warms up, the temperature begins to level off, which indicates that the output air temperature is at its maximum level.

According to the company, the control maintains the air temperature just below this maximum level, which is when the furnace is running at maximum efficiency, by cycling the burner on and off.

The controls can be installed on a new or existing furnace in 60 to 90 minutes by a qualified technician, without major rewiring and without voiding manufacturer warranties, the company said. The company claims the control never requires programming or seasonal adjustment.

Smart Electric (www.smartelectricusa.com) introduced its Comfort statâ„¢ thermostat, with a large LCD display screen, green backlight, soft-touch buttons, in nonprogrammable and programmable models. It's available in heat-cool, heat only, cool only, and single-stage heat pump models, with filter indicators, auto recovery, vacation hold, freeze protection, adjustable cycle rate, overheat protection, static protection, and other features. Four models are available.

Sidebar: Sensors and Sensibility

The Chill-Outâ„¢ air-handling system combination sensor from Minco (www.minco.com) includes both a low-temperature cutout sensor and an averaging resistance temperature sensor in one unit. It features solid-state design with the relay integrated to the tubing.

"In today's conventional sensors, the relay must be housed outside the airflow system to work properly," said Marty Knutson, Minco marketing manager. "This means that the entire length of the attached wound spiral must be carefully uncoiled and threaded through a small mounting hole into the airflow area.

"The Chill-Out sensor eliminates this process and therefore reduces installation time." In addition, the solid-state design replaces gas-filled cap tubes, so they don't need to be mounted horizontally like the cap tubes, said the company.

Siemens Building Technologies Inc. (www.sbt.siemens.com) now offers the Q-Series family of relative humidity room sensors for all standard HVAC applications. These sensors are said to improve building comfort with increased accuracy and an expanded sensing range.

The Q-Series family offers an expanded signal range in 3- to 5-percent or 2-percent accuracy, said the company. Cover options include plain, or LCD display with temperature setpoint and occupancy override.

An embedded microprocessor converts the sensor's digital signal to a continuous 0-10 VDC signal, which corresponds to 0- to 100-percent RH. A removable, replaceable tip (offered with the 2-percent versions) eliminates electronic field adjustment or manual adjustment of potentiometers, said the manufacturer.

Sidebar: New LonMark Spec

LonMark Americas recently published a Facility Automation System Master Specification, designed to help consultants write specs for LonMark® open systems. It is available for free downloading at www.lonmarkamericas.org.

According to the group, traditional specs are not designed to deal with multivendor solutions using common network architecture and off-the-shelf tools. LonMark Americas said it is providing this resource to help consultants produce specifications that ensure their clients receive open, interoperable systems.

According to the group, its Lonwatcher 3 network management tool is a feature-rich software for fast and cost-efficient set-up, commissioning and maintenance of LonWorks products and multivendor systems, and their interaction. This intuitive, yet sophisticated tool, is designed to provide network integrators with advanced features and all the resources necessary to install, operate, and manage LonWorks networks. It introduces a straightforward interface for LonWorks networks, allowing simple visualization and documentation of the control system's logic, said the group.

Lonwatcher 3 is designed to support all LonMark features such as standard functional profiles, configuration properties, resource files, network variables and dynamic network variables and changeable types.

Lonwatcher 3 offers modular applications such as the Binding Manager, and the Lonwatcher Browser. The Binding Manager is designed to create network connections and, with a network variables filter, quickly determines which network variables are compatible. It also allows the user to graphically map the bindings. The Distech Controls Browser is an engineering and monitoring tool used to monitor network variables and configuration property values during operation, allowing fast and easy troubleshooting, said the group.

Sidebar: Scald Prevention

The AM-1 Series thermostatic mixing valve from Honeywell Automation and Control Solutions (www.honeywell.com) is designed to prevent scalding and provide up to 50 percent more usable hot water, the company said. It allows homeowners to store water at 140°F to prevent legionella growth, yet prevents water hotter than 120° from leaving the tap.

A Teflon® coating is designed to increase the product life. Typical applications include nursing homes, domestic water, public facilities, radiant floor heating, heat pump systems, industrial applications, and more, said the company.

Publication date: 02/13/2006