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Technology Went Too Far This Time

November 1, 2010
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Mike Murphy

What is this world coming to? HVAC products are becoming too flexible. If the industry keeps offering these crazy options on products, customers will start demanding all kinds of other stuff, and before you know it, customers will be able to customize their own comfort system products. Things are just going too far.

A few days ago I saw a new thermostat concept that disturbed me. You can see it very soon on the pages of our What’s New section. ColorTouch, according to the manufacturer, is the first and only thermostat with customizable wallpaper backgrounds and screensavers, such as slideshows and clocks. The user can actually upload their own photographs if they so desire. The touch-screen stat first strikes me as being overkill - who in their right mind would want to jazz up something as boring as a thermostat on the wall?

However, I’ve been wrong before.

Not that long ago, the most popular new product at the annual Air Conditioning Heating & Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo) was a ductless unit at the LG Electronics booth that looked like a piece of art hanging on the wall, but was blowing cool air from the perimeter of the frame. Since then, LG’s Art Cool has taken on a few more options, such as the ability for owners to select from a number of classic offerings or photographs from one’s personal stash of baby pictures, softball games, etc. The offering was so unique, at the time, that news of it literally traveled the aisles of the show floor like wildfire; by the middle of the first afternoon of the three-day show, people were packing the LG booth just to see Van Gogh’s Starry Night on an air conditioning product. Oh yeah. It blew cold air, too.

I was thinking at the time, “How novel of an idea, but will it play in Peoria?” In other words, cool stuff, but who is going to buy it?

Today, LG sells a lot of these. Customers actually like them - like them enough to pay extra for products they can customize to their own personal needs. Not just their personal comfort needs, but esthetic design elements are becoming important.

Still, I’m not convinced. Maybe I made a mistake about the Art Cool, but does anybody really think customers are going to buy fancy thermostats?

On another front, there is software available for an owner to operate a comfort system from a personal computer. Talk about customization! That’s just more than anybody needs.

And, what about zoning? It’s just crazy what some customers are asking contractors to do with their systems; they want cooling or heating only in certain places, and even different temperatures for different rooms. Sure, the technology is out there, but do we always have to use it? Just because cars manufactured today come with driver and passenger side comfort controls doesn’t mean we have to go with crazy with home comfort and automation.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

You’re right. It’s not all that crazy. You have had the opportunity to utilize modern technology for quite some time, and when the time is right, you offer the best possible solutions for your customer. There are very many new product offerings that appear in our What’s New product section on a weekly basis. Some are quite basic such as a new twist on a pipe hanger to help make an installer’s job easier. Some are much more intricate such as photovoltaic cells or alternative fuel products. Occasionally, I sift through some of the old issues just to see how many of the products have really taken hold in the marketplace. Yes, it is interesting to take a look back sometimes.

The NEWS will be taking a look backward, and a look forward, as we get ready to celebrate our 85th year in business during 2011. We will be bringing you some old stories, some new stories, some old products, and some new products. Please keep an eye on us in the coming months, and if you would like to be a part of our “85 Years of Leadership” anniversary celebration please get in touch with me. We are looking for your landmark stories, your anniversary stories, and yes - your crazy stories about how you have satisfied your customers’ needs through the decades.

Publication date: 11/01/2010
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