New technology ruled the day in 2006. The race to keep up with the latest and greatest not only affected the general market substantially, but also began profoundly affecting the HVAC market.

“Technology surrounds us,” said John Kunzier, vice president of business development for Alpine Mechanical Services LLC, New Britain, Pa. “People have cell phones glued to their ears, iPods pound tunes and videos, and executives, addicted to Blackberries, keep up with their e-mail. GM vehicles with OnStar e-mail a diagnostic report providing an overall status and suggest potential service.

“The technology is getting smaller and more powerful, creeping into every aspect of what we do and changing how we do it.”

As of the first half of the year, the small unitary market had experienced significant growth in onboard system diagnostics, said Chris Coker, commercial a/c marketing manager-new products, Emerson. According to him, there has been a 10-fold increase in systems with onboard diagnostics for central air and heat pump systems. 

“Furnaces have been fairly well established in onboard diagnostics,” he said. “Cooling systems gather indoor and outdoor information to help guide the technician in troubleshooting.” Most major manufacturers include furnaces with advanced diagnostics, particularly for variable- or modulating-speed system installations and setups.

The most visible advancements were in onboard diagnostics, used to make sure a system is diagnosed properly, and give an increased focus on making sure installations were correct.

The trend toward smart HVAC diagnostics installed directly onto the equipment started in commercial products, due in part to the decline in the number of experienced service technicians. Both the number of good techs and the size of electronics for diagnostic systems have gotten smaller. The electronics have also become more affordable, leading to their broader use in residential systems.

“We definitely see a lot of potential in the future for this platform,” said John Schneider, director of residential marketing, Emerson Climate Controls. “As we move forward, we see that we will be able to do more advanced diagnostics - more communicating systems, leveraged sensors, and more information that we can tap into in addition to the compressor, for system diagnostics and performance.”

Publication date: 12/25/2006