Admittedly, by the general public, HVACR isn’t thought to be the most cutting-edge industry out there. The winners inThe NEWS’Dealer Design Awards residential controls category - the ecobee Smart Thermostat (gold), icomfort Touch™ Communicating Touchscreen Thermostat by Lennox Industries (silver), and BalancePro from Arzel Zoning Technology (bronze) - are advanced products helping to solve people’s comfort concerns.

GOLD WINNER: The ecobee Smart Thermostat has a full-color, touchscreen display, and WiFi connection.


The ecobee Smart Thermostat is a residential programmable thermostat and energy management system that has a full-color, touchscreen display, and WiFi connection. Thermostat operation, utility demand response, real-time energy display, and social networking is integrated into it. The system also has vacation programming, a full five-day weather forecast, and easy programming and installation wizards. The wireless Internet connectivity allows the homeowner to control the thermostat remotely. The Smart Thermostat also has an iPhone and iPod touch app that can be downloaded for free from the iTunes store to allow the homeowner and contractor even greater control. New features are regularly uploaded to the Smart Thermostat.

The Smart Thermostat is easy to install; it is a four-wire install, virtually eliminating the need to run wires. The installation wizard provides a checklist for configuring the thermostat that assists contractors with everything they need for installation. Technicians can also view a number of wiring diagrams on the thermostat at any time throughout installation. Any upgrades or updates to the unit can be done over the air automatically. This also decreases service calls because contractors do not need to visit their customers to upgrade their thermostats. Contractors can have access to a personal Contractor Portal free of charge.

This web tool allows contractors to manage all of their Smart Thermostat installations remotely and can locate their thermostats on a Google map to help plan service calls and keep track of thermostat locations. Contractors can upload their customer information into a personal customer database so all the information they need is available immediately. They can also upload their company logo and contact information so that it appears on all alerts and service reminders sent to their customers’ iPhone, e-mail, thermostat, and web portal.

A judge stated, “This is a forward-thinking application by delivering relevant information and remote control/monitoring without a full-blown building management system. This is a pioneer-type product.”

Another judge said that it is a “T-stat of the new generation. All features are moving in the direction people want. It’s an excellent product.” Yet another judge opined, “It looks like a neat product that is ahead of the forthcoming governmental regulations on intelligent t-stats.”

SILVER WINNER: The icomfort Touch Communicating Thermostat recognizes and connects to all icomfort™-enabled products.


The icomfort Touch™ Communicating Touchscreen Thermostat synchronizes Lennox’ best heating and cooling products with a sleek, menu-driven touchscreen thermostat, said the company. System components exchange information as needed to optimize performance. The icomfort Touch control is an easy-to-use touchscreen thermostat, which is the brain of the system, sensing the environment and optimizing Dave Lennox Signature® Collection heating, cooling, and humidity control products.

The icomfort Touch Communicating Thermostat re- cognizes and connects to all icomfort™-enabled products to automatically configure and control the system. Also, it recognizes model and serial number information for icomfort-enabled products to simplify system setup. Certain additional conventional (not icomfort-enabled) IAQ comfort controls can be added to the system. An installer can also run tests on the complete system or individual components for easy maintenance and troubleshooting.

There’s only four wires and setup is done at the thermostat instead of using dip switches at the indoor unit. Setting up an icomfort™ system is similar to installing software on a computer: the control walks the tech through the entire process of adjusting system parameters.

If a problem occurs with a thermostat installation, the system offers diagnostics and error codes so the tech knows what the problem is before he arrives at the site. Scheduled maintenance alerts, system warnings, and troubleshooting are also displayed in English on the thermostat screen.

“The use of four wires is a plus in replacement situations where running new wire is difficult. The ease of programming onscreen is a benefit as well,” said a judge.

BRONZE WINNER: Arzel Zoning Technology’s BalancePro is a fully adjustable, retrofit-friendly, manual balancing damper.


Arzel Zoning Technology’s BalancePro is a fully adjustable, retrofit-friendly, manual balancing damper designed to enhance the performance of forced-air duct systems. The BalancePro damper can be installed in both new and existing applications and can improve comfort while correcting cfm discrepancies. The BalancePro offers precise adjustment and will stay where it is set.

It is modeled after the EzySlide damper, easily installing in any existing application, according to the manufacturer. To install, the contractor cuts out a small triangle section of the existing ductwork and, using an EzySlide template, slides the BalancePro in place. Once the BalancePro is installed, the contractor adjusts the damper to the desired settings and locks it in place. The position guide on the bottom of the damper allows a contractor to select exact positioning of the blade for balancing accuracy. Since the BalancePro installs in the same opening as the EzySlide damper, the transition from manual air balancing to an automatic multithermostat system is made easily.

According to the manufacturer, there is virtually no maintenance required by the contractor on the BalancePro due to an absence of electronic parts and the damper’s durable design.

The damper can be readjusted when homeowners have changes in lifestyle patterns or need to have the damper seasonally readjusted.

A judge remarked on the product, “This is a clever work-around to a complete retrofit of a zoning system. A good design thought was having it interchangeable with their automated version of a shortcut damper retrofit.” Another one of the judges commented, “A nice product idea, and in some high-end applications it would look nice.”


Gold Winner:
The ecobee Smart Thermostat

Silver Winner:
Lennox Industries
icomfort Touch™ Communicating Touchscreen Thermostat

Bronze Winner:
Arzel Zoning Technology

Publication date:07/12/2010