When it comes to learning about the new, smart options available in the HVAC marketplace, some savvy contractors are taking their quest for knowledge to a new level. Instead of just reading the literature or talking to their distributor about the product, they’ve literally brought their work home with them by installing these products inside their own residences.

And contractors utilizing this try-it-before-you-buy-it approach are leveraging their personal experiences to clarify consumer communication when it comes to intelligent HVAC options.

Smart and Simple IAQ

Fred H. Kobie, president of Kobie Kooling, Fort Myers, Fla., is one contractor who believes in testing out products at home. One product he has installed in his home is the Guardian Air PHI cell, which is manufactured by RGF Environmental Group Inc.

“I have four systems in my home, and I installed the PHI cell in the largest common area system. It has a cross-effect to the rest of the spaces,” he said.

And Kobie has been very pleased with the results, explaining that the technology behind the product is very intelligent, yet simple
and effective.

“The photohydroionization cell attacks bad biologicals and VOCs [volatile organic compounds] without hurting other things in the space. It seeks out the problems instead of passively reacting,” he said.

Since he has noticed the difference the Guardian Air made in his own home’s IAQ, he’s confident when recommending it to customers.

“It has lived up to the claims,” he said. “We have been so impressed that we promoted this IAQ change over all other products combined.”

And, he continued, “I do share this information because people trust that if I use it, then it must work. And, it does work.”

Wi-Fi Thermostat

Russ Donnici, president of Mechanical Air Service Inc., San Jose, Calif., is another contractor who has tried out smart products at home — most recently, the Nest thermostat.

“The Nest thermostat is a great product with its motion-sensing ability, active learning ability, and Wi-Fi access,” he said. “We have installed a bunch of them and have had no issues. I use one on the radiant heating system in my home.”

Donnici’s roots with Nest Labs run deep. “I was fortunate to meet one of the Nest founders, Matt Rogers, and have been a contractor consultant to Nest since the beginning of the company, which now has almost 300 employees,” he said. “Both founders are ex-Apple engineers and are extremely smart and very focused on the customer experience.”

And, he pointed out that Nest is continuing to develop innovative, intelligent products. “Their newest product, which is a smoke and CO alarm, is Wi-Fi enabled and will turn your furnace off if it detects CO in the home, which no other detector will do,” Donnici said. “It has several other features that make it stand out as an intelligent product. They continue to think outside the box.”

Intelligent System Installs

In Portland, Ore., Travis Smith, owner and general manager of Sky Heating & Air Conditioning, has tested out products at home in the past — and will continue to do so as he builds his new home.

In his current home, he installed a Trane XL15i heat pump and a Trane XV95 gas furnace with a Trane Clean Effects system, as well as a Navien America Inc. tankless water heater and an Aria Brands Inc. Lifebreath HRV system.

Smith explained that when he installed the Trane system in May 2008, “It was fairly intelligent for when it was installed, since it was a dual-fuel heat pump with electronic air purification.”

Plus, he upgraded to the tankless water heater and HRV as they came out on the market. “I also recently switched my thermostat to a Honeywell Prestige HD with RedLINK adapter so I can change my temperature and schedule from my phone and adjust the humidity control in the home,” he added.

“I am proud of what I have installed in my home and always let customers know what my choice was and what I would change if I were to do it again,” Smith said.

And he’ll even let customers visit his house to see the equipment in action. “I have had numerous people stop by to see my XL15i heat pump and hear how quiet it is. I always show customers my phone and how I can change my heating system settings from anywhere with it, too,” he said.

Currently, Smith is in the process of building a new house, which he also intends to outfit with an intelligent HVAC system.

“I am currently in the process of building my new home and will be putting in WaterFurnace’s newest ground-source heat pump, the 7 Series, with a NSW025 domestic water heating system,” he said. “My new home system should hopefully be getting installed around June of 2014 as the building progresses.”

And he’ll continue to use his home as a tool for helping customers learn about the smart options available on the market. “At the new home, I plan on showing our ground-source heat pump customers what is possible by having all the top-of-the-line and newest products available for demonstration and live energy logging,” he said.

Of course, his home can’t be installed with every cool new product on the market. For that reason, Smith said, “I take videos of customers’ homes so people can hear and see what others in their situation have done.”

Publication date: 12/16/2013 

Intelligent System Installs

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