Smart Products for Smart Contractors
There is a definite trend in the HVACR industry toward smarter, more sophisticated products. Just examine some of the smart products manufacturers have been - and keep - producing.
It’s true that equipment using electronic controls has been around for many years, and many residential and commercial buildings have much more integrated systems as a result. However, manufacturers are taking those controls even further, introducing a spate of new products that includes everything from systems that diagnose themselves to variable-speed air handlers with electronic controls to equipment that adjusts itself based on space conditions.
The NEWSwent in search of smart products, equipment, and systems, designed to not only make the building owner and homeowner comfortable, but a contractor’s work a little less complicated.
In truth, there are far too many new smart products to include here. What is noted here is far from being exhaustive. Rather, this is a showcase of a few of the smart pieces of equipment that are now available in the industry.
• Smart Thermostat, from ecobee (www.ecobee.com) - The first question that HVAC installers who have seen the ecobee Smart Thermostat ask is, “When can I get it?” Homeowners can program this new programmable thermostat easily and simply using its touch screen, or over the Internet, from anywhere, in seconds. It is an attractive, modern-looking consumer electronic device with an easy-to-read full-color LCD screen, featuring touch-screen technology. The thermostat connects to the homeowners’ standard WiFi (wireless network), which gives them remote access to their thermostat settings from any computer. Its guided Wizard function leads the homeowner through each step of the programming process with a series of simple questions.
“Ordinary, old-style programmable thermostats, if used correctly, save homeowners about 15-20 percent of their heating or cooling bills on average,” said ecobee President & CEO Stuart Lombard. “But it takes a rocket scientist to figure out how to program them, so people don’t use them and don’t get the energy savings they could.”
Lombard explained that he founded the company because he wanted to reduce his home energy consumption and had trouble programming his own home thermostat. He thought there must be a better way.
The Smart Thermostat can be pre-ordered online at ecobee’s Website for delivery in early 2009.
• Infinity™ System Control with Remote Access, from Carrier (www.carrier.com) - Imagine all your bags are checked and everyone made it safely on the plane, so you sit back and smile: Your vacation is just beginning. Suddenly, you remember you forgot to set your heating and cooling system to your preferred temperature. No problem, if you have Carrier’s Infinity System Control with Remote Access. It allows users to instantaneously program a vacation schedule online or on the phone anytime, from anywhere. It even e-mails and calls you with important alerts you choose to receive.
The homeowner can select a local dealer to receive maintenance or service reminders for timely service. Infinity Remote Access makes programming a customer’s comfort system as easy as choosing options online.
There are two types of notifications: urgent and routine. With Infinity Remote Access, a homeowner will be able to access your Infinity System from anywhere in the world with Internet or telephone access.
• UltraTech™ communicating system, from Emerson Climate Technologies (www.emersonclimatecontractor.com) - The communicating system is designed to deliver the ultimate in comfort and efficiency via UltraTech thermostats, indoor and outdoor control boards combined with the Copeland Scroll UltraTech two-stage compressor and Emerson UltraTech four-wire variable-speed blower motor. Using ClimateTalk™, the UltraTech components can have two-way conversations, sharing information on configuration, operation, and monitoring. With UltraTech systems, there are no additional wires to run or dip switches to set, making it simpler for the installing contractor. A “Call for Service” alert displayed on the thermostat and onboard ComfortAlert™ diagnostics provide active protection from severe faults, all designed to improve system reliability and performance.
• Comfort Control System, from Rheem (www.rheemac.com) -The manufacturer is now in the second generation of its Comfort Control System (CC²S). The control panel offers detailed system status displays for the contractor and a unique set of system control features for the homeowner. The combination of advanced diagnostics and customizable system control will exceed the expectations of most homeowners, said the manufacturer.
The Rheem Prestige Series 16 SEER, R-410A Heat Pump with Serial Communications (RPRL-024JEC) and Ruud Ultra Series 16 SEER, R-410A Heat Pump with Serial Communications will be the first products manufactured with the new CC²S control board. Over the next three months, the launch will include other ultra-high efficiency heat pumps, air handlers, and condensers, leading up to the incorporation of CC²S into other Rheem and Ruud offerings.
A new feature of the CC²S technology is its auto-configure capability. When a Rheem Series 500 thermostat is used in tandem with the controller, the contractor can set up the system, simultaneously monitor the air handler and heat pump, and customize the home comfort settings from one location. Simplifying these procedures streamlines the installation and maintenance process.
• UVC Emitters™, from Steril-Aire (www.steril-aire.com) -The company offers a full line of multipatented emitters for use in all types of air-handling systems, including fan coils and other units with limited space and/or access. Emitters come with all the necessary hardware components, designed for fast and easy snap-in installation for contractors. High-output UVC energy is designed to prevent the spread of colds, flu, and other viral and bacterial infections. The product is designed to eliminate mold and associated odors, plus reduce energy consumption and coil/drain pan maintenance.
• NeoTherm® condensing boiler, from Laars Heating Systems (www.laars.com) - This new space-saving hydronic solution is designed to offer 95 percent energy efficiency. Four new, smaller sizes are now introduced to the modulating boiler line. The boilers were first introduced in light commercial sizes of 285, 399, and 500 MBtuh. New residential models now include 80-, 105-, 150-, and 210-MBtuh systems. All sizes will soon be available as volume water heaters.
NeoTherm is a direct vent, sealed combustion boiler that modulates with a 5 to 1 turndown, said the manufacturer. Zero clearance to combustibles and convenient top connections (horizontal or vertical direct vent) make it a good choice for tight installations. The natural gas or LP-fired boiler features an ASME stainless steel heat exchanger, integral three-speed boiler pump, and low NOx emissions. Features include top-mounted water and gas lines and air intake, permitting close, multiple boiler installation.
The NeoTherm line also includes Laars’ Integrated Control System with PID logic that governs ignition, temperature, and indirect water heater functions, outdoor reset, frost protection and high limit. It can be integrated with other controls for multiple boiler sequencing and building automation systems.
• Magna wet rotor circulator, from Grundfos (www.grundfos.com) -The product now enters North America after years of duty in Europe, where it won all “A” ratings for energy conservation and reliability, according to the manufacturer. Magna’s broad performance range, with three cast iron models now available, covers flows from 10 to 170 gpm, making it a good choice for many hydronic, radiant heat, and snowmelt applications, the company said.
The circulator’s patented AutoAdapt control function is designed to automatically adjust performance to meet demand and save energy. According to the manufacturer, it learns what works best for the system, continually changing its settings to provide the temperature and comfort required. This translates to savings on running costs.
Magna pumps exceed the performance of simpler, proportional-pressure circulators, the company said. Though proportional pressure pumps operate with a higher minimum head (pressure), the Magna retains a low “foot point” at 5 feet. As flow demand increases, the pump pressure follows the AutoAdapt performance setting until the pump operates on the maximum curve. At that point, it continues downwards until it reaches the required flow.
Good news for contractors is that the pumps are virtually maintenance-free. The pump is oilless and seal-less and does not require a fan because it’s cooled and lubricated by the water it pumps. Flange connections are designed for easy replacements.
• Flexible tubing, from Watts Radiant (www.wattsradiant.com) -The company just added the 3/8-inch PEX-AL-PEX to its RadiantPEX-AL line. With reliable, easy-to-use compression fittings and greater flexibility, 3/8-inch RadiantPEX-AL is considered installer-friendly composite tubing. Now with sizes from 3/8-inch to 1-inch, RadiantPEX-AL fits most radiant or hydronic distribution needs.
• Universal TR6 thermostatic expansion valve, from Danfoss (www.danfoss.us) - Using temperature and pressure sensors to open or close the diaphragm as needed, this valve is designed to precisely meter refrigerant flow (either R-22 or R-410A) to maintain proper gas saturation in the coil, said Robert Hennessy, director of wholesale sales and marketing. An internal check valve, adjustable superheat, and adaptable inlet and outlet ports make it easy for contractors to install the valve, he said.
The TR6 allows homeowners to increase the efficiency of their air conditioning unit or heat pump by up to 15 percent, said Hennessy, adding that it can reduce energy costs by as much as 40 percent.
• MyTemp® temperature control and energy management system, from Home Comfort Zones (www.homecomfortzones.com) -MyTemp is an easy-to-retrofit room-by-room temperature control and energy management system for homes with forced-air heating and cooling. It uses a network of small, wireless sensors to monitor each room’s temperature. To ensure precise control, pneumatic dampers inflate and deflate to control the airflow through each vent.
The manufacturer said the system was designed from the ground-up for retrofit purposes. MyTemp’s patented installation method minimizes the need to break into ductwork or cut into walls. There is also no need to redesign ductwork or install a bypass. One of the MyTemp development goals was to eliminate the need to run new wiring. To this end, each damper is installed from the register and connected to the master control unit by a single tube, avoiding the hassle of multiple wires. The MyTemp main display, which re- places a conventional thermostat, uses the existing thermostat wiring. In addition, wireless technology allows a temperature sensor to be placed in each room without running a wire back to the master control unit.
Installation setup is achieved through a checklist-based touch-screen interface. If a step is missed, MyTemp alerts the contractor. MyTemp also includes a built-in Help feature, so if a contractor needs additional information, it’s literally right at his/her fingertips.
• ComfortSense™ 7000 Series touch screen thermostat, from Lennox (www.lennox.com) - The manufacturer recently introduced this thermostat, which is Energy Star-rated, has up to 4 stages of heat and 2 stages of cool, and is universal. It is so simple and intuitive there’s no need to reference the user’s manual during installation or operation, said the company. Maintenance reminders and settings are easy-to-read. There are no codes or cryptic messages. Dealers can also enter their contact name and information in the thermostat and set custom reminders for homeowners. The file-folder type tabs make it easy to navigate between menus and the two-line character display shows the date, time, mode, and outdoor temperature.
• Affinity™ modulating gas furnace, from the Unitary Products division of Johnson Controls (www.yorkupg.com) -The York Affinity 98-percent AFUE, 33-inch modulating gas furnace is easy-to-install, operate, and maintain, noted Jeff Hurt, York brand manager. The unit fully modulates the gas valve, circulating blower and inducer to closely match the amount of heat needed at any time. Hurt said the sensors and controls are internally mounted and automatically compensate for air supply and exhaust variations, wind gusts, and long vent runs.
• Hybrid Heat® dual-fuel system, from Bryant (www.bryant.com) -Just as hybrid vehicles are an attractive transportation option, dual-fuel heating systems are the latest in efficient, economical comfort for the home. The Evolution® Hybrid Heat Dual-Fuel system is designed to help dealers address concerns that are most important to homeowners: high utility bills and home comfort.
The Bryant system includes a gas furnace paired with a heat pump, which lets dealers offer homeowners an ultra-efficient system that uses gas or electricity, whichever is more economical for the weather and fuel cost conditions in their area, according to the company. This technology allows homeowners to save money on utility bills in a time of unpredictable fuel costs.
• 26 SEER Halcyon Inverter mini-split line, from Fujitsu General America (www.fujitsugeneral.com) -The company recently introduced 25 and 26 SEER ductless split systems to the North American market. The new 9,000-Btu Model 9RLS is designed to provide 26 SEER with an HSPF of 12. The 12,000-Btu system 12RLS is designed to offer 25 SEER with 12 HSPF. The company said both of the inverter wall-mount systems are available as split system heat pumps, and offer “super quiet” operation and nearly full heating capacity down to 5°F ambient and cooling operation down to 14°. Refrigerant pipe lengths can reach 66 feet between the evaporator coil and the condensing unit, the company added.
These units are available with these capabilities right off the shelf with no modifications needed for low ambient operation. There is no need to add a crank case heater, fan cycle control or larger suction accumulator to protect the compressor; these are already built-in. Fujitsu’s 2009 Halcyon lineup includes 21 single zone systems with capacity ranges of 9,000 to 42,000 Btu. Mix-and-match evaporators of the multizone systems add another possible 110 combinations and allow contractors to create the needed climate control for any size space.
• SmartCoil™, from Goodman (www.goodmanmfg.com) - The company said it has developed a breakthrough design for a smaller, smarter 5mm copper tube and aluminum fin condenser coil, called SmartCoil. Designed for units using R-410A refrigerant, the manufacturer said SmartCoil optimizes thermal transfer, achieving the same capacity and efficiency rating as coils with 3/8-inch tubing - while using less copper, aluminum, and refrigerant, and reducing the overall size of the air conditioner. The company noted that several patents are pending for the product and process required to manufacture SmartCoil.
• AmgFlex Duct, from QuietFlex (www.quietflex.com) -The manufacturer is introducing a flexible duct designed to improve IAQ by inhibiting and reducing mold growth, mildew, and bacteria. According to the company, the inner core of the new AmgFlex Duct uses cutting-edge biochemical technologies to inhibit harmful bacteria and fungi growth. An anti-microbial coating made of silver in the flexible duct is designed to interrupt the growth cycle of microscopic bugs that can plague traditional ductwork in warm, humid conditions. Formaldehyde-free insulation in the duct eliminates out-gassing of formaldehyde toxins, the company said.
• DMH900 whole-house air cleaner, from Amana (www.amana-hac.com) - According to the manufacturer, the DMH900 removes and destroys allergens, atmospheric dust, odors, biological pollutants and chemical contaminants throughout the entire house - all in a single-unit designed to reduce installation time, with no external ducting required. The company said the whole-house DMH900 uses a CinQuartz® Photo-Catalytic Oxidation (PCO), designed to decompose organic materials into basic molecules, such as carbon dioxide and water. Combined with UVC germicidal lights, the DMH900 is designed to prevent bacteria, viruses, mold, fungus, and microbial growth. It said a HEPA filter removes 99.97 percent of all air contaminants down to 0.3 microns, including allergens. Versatile installation options include duct-mounted, collar-mounted, or free-standing.
• SmartSense ventilation system, from Broan (www.broan.com) -The SmartSense system, combined with the company’s make-up air damper, is designed to provide a balanced ventilation system and a smart choice to meet ASHRAE Standard 62.2 and other related guidelines. The company said up to ten 80 cfm and/or 110 cfm Broan Ultra Silent™ Energy Star-qualified fans can be installed on one system. As the fans operate, they are designed to communicate with each other and the damper over existing power lines in the home; using the state-of-the-art LinkLogic™ System, powered by Insteon™. Run-time is automatically adjusted based on square footage and number of bedrooms. Manual fan operation is monitored and deducted from the overall home requirements. The damper provides a controlled location for fresh air to enter the home, and opens to balance pressure in the home when the fans are exhausting air. The manufacturer said the system is more cost effective and energy efficient than other ventilation strategies that require the use of the home’s air handler.
• Indoor units, from Daikin AC (www.daikinac.com) -The freedom of design and technological flexibility can make a contractor’s job much easier, explained Christina Trondsen, director of marketing, Daikin AC. She noted that Daikin has a choice of outdoor condensing units that can match with a wide variety of indoor units to make the most of any space or structure.
“For example, Daikin’s space-saving floor-standing units can be freestanding or wall-mounted, concealed or exposed,” she said. “The air distribution from these models will allow you to find the right balance for hotels, classrooms, hospital rooms, and office residential spaces.”
Daikin’s FXLQ (pictured) and the FXNQ models are ideal for installation beneath a window, require minimal installation space, and fitted with a washable long-life filter, explained Trondsen. At the same time, the company’s 4-way ceiling-mounted cassette 2-foot by 2-foot fan coil unit’s sleek design is designed to save contractors both time and money.
“It fits flush into a standard ceiling grid, so there is no need to cut ceiling tiles,” explained Trondsen. “It also features a built-in condensate pump, eliminating the need for subcontractors at installation.”
The FXZQ has powerful cooling and heating capacities, up to 18,000 Btuh (cooling) and 20,000 Btuh (heating). Contractors can also shut one or two flaps for easy installation in a corner. The 2-foot by 2-foot fan coil can be combined with Daikin’s VRV-S, VRV III, and VRV-WII.