The LG Art Cool Inverter is one of many innovative products in the air conditioning market, with the ability to cover a ductless A/C unit with a piece of art or a picture.
The LG Art Cool Inverter is one of many innovative products in the air conditioning market, with the ability to cover a ductless A/C unit with a piece of art or a picture.

With many manufacturers adding certain amounts of sizzle to their offerings, modern HVACR units are evolving into much more than just comfort machines. That sizzle is coming in the form of rapidly evolving smart functions, as well as technological features that add extra utility to
the product.

LG Electronics USA Commercial Air Conditioning is one company doing just that, releasing two duct-free units — the Art Cool Gallery and the Art Cool Gallery Inverter. Both units are not just duct-free air conditioners, but they allow consumers to display a piece of artwork or a photograph on the front of the unit.

“People react to the look and feel of a product,” said Lorie Quillin-Bell, go-to-market director, commercial air conditioning, LG Electronics USA.

“One of the reasons we offer things like Art Cool Gallery is that it’s a very functional product, and it’s pretty. It has a really nice aesthetic, and that’s appealing to the consumer. They want to be comfortable, first and foremost, but given the choice of being comfortable and then being able to be comfortable in an environment that is pretty to look at is something you’re starting to see consumers start to demand.”

Quillin-Bell said response to the product has been excellent because of its uniqueness, with people coming into LG’s booth at the 2013 AHR Expo asking specifically to see it. She said LG prides itself on creating products that have a high sense of style and design.

“We kind of all think about air conditioning as being a very functional product, but there’s no reason you can’t marry that function with form and create something that’s aesthetically pleasing,” Quillin-Bell said.

“ArtCool has been very successful for us, and now adding the inverter, we’ve been able to make it a much more efficient product offering a beautiful visual appeal at the same time.”

In South Korea, LG is taking things a step further. The company is nearing release on the Whisen, a 6-foot-tall air conditioning unit which is capable of accepting voice commands from as far as 16 feet away. The unit also includes a video camera that has remote-access capabilities.

The beta system won’t come cheap, as the full-scale model carries a price tag of nearly $50,000.

Trane also is taking steps to add innovative features to its product lineup. Karl Mutchnik, product manager, connected home solutions, Trane, said the company is particularly excited about the ComfortLink II Control and Nexia Home Intelligence.

“Our ComfortLink II Control features a 7-inch, high-definition color touchscreen display — when you see it for the first time, you can’t help but say, ‘wow,’” he said.

Mutchnik added that the unit offers a preset schedule for home comfort, a five-day weather forecast with real-time radar, and the ability to track the HVAC system’s runtime. “It is compatible with virtually all forced-air cooling and heating systems, so it’s extremely versatile,” he added. “You can even customize it to match your home décor or display photos as a digital picture frame.”

But he said when the ComfortLink II Control is added with the Nexia Home Intelligence system, that is when the real amazing things happen.

“For instance, if there’s a sudden cold front heading toward your hometown while you’re away on vacation or business, all you have to do is open Nexia on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop and make adjustments to your home’s temperature accordingly,” Mutchnik said.

“You can also set up high- or low-temperature alerts so the system will send you emails or texts in the event that your HVAC system is not working as expected.”

Moving Too Quickly?

With technology rapidly advancing, are manufacturers rushing to create the latest and greatest product just for the sake of doing it?

Quillin-Bell said it certainly seems the industry is moving “a lot faster than it did when we were younger.”

That said, though, Quillin-Bell believes LG’s 15,000 engineers are creating new and exciting products at a good pace, which sometimes comes by simply “setting really talented engineers loose,” she said.

The innovations, though, have brought mostly good news for both contractors and customers due to new diagnostic features.

“The most outrageous thing we’ve seen at Trane is the remote diagnostic capability that is included with our ComfortLink II Control. Everyone is amazed that we can be hundreds of miles away and access a customer’s ComfortLink II system in real-time to diagnose the problem in minutes,” Mutchnik said. “In the past, this could take hours or days of back and forth through phone and email. Needless to say, our customers are very excited about these new capabilities.

“In the future, remote diagnostic capability will evolve and allow for local diagnostic capability, placing the best available tools to perform maintenance and service in the hands of technicians in the field. We think this will provide even better service for homeowners.”

These advanced diagnostic capabilities are making things easier on contractors, as well.

“There are things coming out that can do way more stuff,” said Jerry Unruh, president, ABC Cooling & Heating, Hayward, Calif. “We can get a notification if something is not right on the system, and it can contact us as their provider and we will know before they do that the system requires service.”

Publication date: 5/27/2013 

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