Panel Picks: Contractors Share Favorite Smart, Connected Devices
The NEWS’ Advisory Board selects its preferred smart products
An influx of smart, connected products are steadily hitting the market. These products can be controlled through mobile apps via smartphones and tablets and can store personal data via the cloud. While smart thermostats, sensors, and other devices only make up a small portion of the smart products industry, they’re having a large impact in the HVACR world. So, we asked The NEWS’ Contractor Advisory Board to not only identify their favorite smart, connected products, but tell us why they prefer them over others. Here’s what they had to say.
Chosen by: Rob Minnick, owner of Minnick’s Inc. in Laurel, Maryland
About the product: Engineered for unmatched portability and ease of use, Apple’s iPad Air 2 offers a precise unibody enclosure of anodized aluminum for durability and a solid feel. The improved Retina display features a fully laminated design that brings images and content closer to a user’s fingertips, resulting in a personal and intimate experience. A custom-designed anti-reflective coating reduces glare for a clear display in the office or outdoors.
Minnick’s take: “The iPad helped us transition to electronic invoicing, which has been a huge internal timesaver. The client can now read the invoice, and there is no more guessing what the technician wrote, which is a huge benefit.”
Chosen by: Greg Crumpton, founder of AirTight FaciliTech in Charlotte, North Carolina
About the product: Ebullient’s two-phase cooling system achieves unmatched cooling efficiency while slashing operating expenses up to 90 percent. Ebullient directly applies its targeted cooling solutions to the greatest source of heat generation in data centers and distributed computing facilities. The patent pending modules mount directly on microprocessors and transport a low-pressure working dielectric fluid that, unlike water, will not damage sensitive electronics upon contact.
Crumpton’s take: “The science and technology behind this type of heat rejection is so far advanced of anything we have been historically doing in the mission-critical cooling world that it literally is like going from the rotary phone to the space shuttle. The capacities at which heat can be captured and then rejected to the atmosphere are crazy good. The Ebullient System reduces the energy required to capture and reject heat directly off the microprocessor. This blows everything else up.”
HONEYWELL PRESTIGE IAQ COMFORT SYSTEM KIT
Chosen by: Paul Ainsworth, owner of M.L. Building Technologies in Millsboro, Delaware
About the product: The Comfort System Kit features customizable service reminders, selectable staging options, assignable outputs for IAQ and staging control, and delta T alerts and diagnostics to inform customers when their systems are not operating as expected. The kit includes the Prestige IAQ HD Thermostat, Equipment Interface Module (EIM), a wireless outdoor temperature sensor, and two duct sensors for alerts and diagnostics.
Ainsworth’s take: “I just completed an installation of the Honeywell 9421R5101 smart home system where the homeowners wanted to integrate their whole-house humidifier and central HVAC system into one control from a centrally located thermostat. They also wanted alerts for discharge and return temperature deltas T’s as well as for a fan failure. The whole system installed in under three hours, and the setup was incredibly easy. The system gives homeowners peace of mind because of the RedLINK connection to the Internet. As a service contractor, I receive service alerts, which is helpful, especially when the home is a seasonal property. If there is a problem, I can take care of it before it is catastrophic. As a Honeywell contractor, I also know that if there are any problems with the system or any of its components, I can obtain technical assistance and warranty assistance without having to jump through any hoops.”
HONEYWELL PRESTIGE THERMOSTAT
Chosen by: Dave Dombrowski, manager of ARS/Rescue Rooter in Raleigh, North Carolina
About the product: The Prestige is a seven-day programmable, high-definition, color, touchscreen thermostat that is configurable for residential and light commercial applications and controls humidification, dehumidification, and ventilation. It works with RedLINK™ accessories, including the RedLINK Internet Gateway, Portable Comfort Control, Wireless Outdoor Sensor, and Wireless Indoor Sensor.
Dombrowski’s take: “The Honeywell Prestige Series, running on the RedLINK platform, is, by far, one of the most flexible and inclusive products from an HVAC standpoint. It’s not designed to lock your front door, but, with the included sensors mounted in the supply and return, it sends proactive data on the performance of the unit. As an example of its practical worth. I recently had my upstairs system turn off and open the windows. It began to rain and I was sent a message to my phone that the humidity level in my home exceeded the 80 percent limit I had designated, so I needed to check it out. I tie this into the portable remote thermostat, and I have comfort for those areas where I have a temporary increased load (large group at dinner) with zero hassle. This is a solid thermostat system if you care about comfort and reliability.”
HONEYWELL VISIONPRO 8000
Chosen by: Phil London, vice president of residential services for Thermal Concepts in Davie, Florida
About the product: The VisionPRO 8000 Thermostat functions like a mobile device with a touchscreen and menu-driven programming. The large backlit display makes it easy to select options and change or check reminders for filters, UV lamps, and humidifier pads. The VisionPRO 8000 is compatible with RedLINK™, which can add Internet and wireless capabilities to the thermostat. It provides a comfortable environment and saves a user energy while keeping convenience in mind.
London’s take: “Lately, our go-to smart device is a Honeywell 8000, which offers remote-access humidity control. As you know, South Florida is known for high temperatures and humidity, a combination that increases the opportunity for mold and/or mildew conditions. As such, many of our high-end condominium owners reside in other parts of the U.S. or even out of the country. The fact that these unit owners can remotely access and control not only temperature but humidity conditions makes this device a great resource for them and a selling point for contractors.”
JOHNSON CONTROLS METASYS
Chosen by: Rich Morgan, president of Magic Touch Mechanical Inc. in Mesa, Arizona
About the product: Metasys® makes buildings smarter and more efficient by providing essential instrumentation and control, which saves energy, lowers operational costs, and enables productive and secure environments. It connects HVAC, lighting, and security and protection systems and gets them all “talking” to each other in a single language on a single platform. These attributes give building owners or managers information to make better decisions, save money, and improve the way a building functions. The new user interface presents information in a simple, intuitive way to help quickly identify potential problems. The system is mobile-optimized and can be managed from anywhere, on any device.
Morgan’s take: “My favorite smart product is the Metasys building management system or the building automation system because it helps building owners and managers make smarter and more intelligent decisions. Not only are there good margins in the installation of a BMS, they attach us to the client [building owner] via managed services and monitoring. Building management systems create the ultimate commercial maintenance agreement.”
LENNOX ICOMFORT S30 THERMOSTAT
Chosen by: Butch Welsch, owner of Welsch Heating & Cooling Co. in St. Louis
About the product: Lennox’s iComfort S30 thermostat features scheduling capabilities to reduce energy use when a user’s away, pollen monitoring based on zip code to improve air quality, adaptive moisture control to remove excess humidity, and advanced diagnostics to predict potential problems before they arise. The product also allows technicians to save time and effort with a remote set up, remote monitoring, and performance reports.
Welsch’s take: “The most predominant intelligent item we’re selling is the iComfort S30 Wi-Fi thermostat. Consumers, especially those under 45, really love the ability to adjust their home’s temperature from outside the structure. This is an especially nice thing for those who have lake houses they visit virtually every summer weekend. They set the thermostat temperature up when they leave, but can’t use the programming feature to turn the thermostat down or the a/c on because they don’t know what time they will be returning. With a Wi-Fi thermostat, they can lower the temperature when they head home or raise it when they’re on their way there.”
SPORLAN SMART SERVICE TOOL
Chosen by: Aaron Pierce, service technician for Capstone Mechanical in Waco, Texas
About the product: The SMART Service Tools are compact, convenient, and can be used with most refrigerants and oils. The kit includes lightweight wireless sensors that conveniently sync with the SMART Service Tool Kit app via a mobile device. This enables technicians to read a system’s real-time pressure and temperature without using cumbersome hoses or manifold gauges.
Pierce’s take: “Many smart devices are used in the world today. Most are used for entertainment, allowing you to connect a device to other devices or networks. What about our careers? Though entertainment is comforting, our careers consume a significant portion of our lives. Not many smart devices have been made for occupational use, especially for construction and service use. The SMART Service Tool from Sporlan is a perfect tool addition for a commercial HVACR service technician. The refrigerant gauges and temperature clamps are rugged and are capable of withstanding constant 40-plus hours of use each week. Maintenance of the refrigerant gauges is simple and the gauges can be maintained on the job quickly. The SMART Tool can be used to troubleshoot or analyze one or many air conditioning and refrigeration systems. The most beneficial aspect of the SMART Tool is its ability to have all the measurements of the system presented as a snapshot. No time is wasted trying to tape K-type probes to suction and liquid lines to measure line temperatures or pressing buttons to scroll from superheat temperatures to suction line temperatures, as with all modern refrigerant manifolds. The SMART Tool snapshot provides all of the measurements at the same moment so the measurements are more precise, since the system physically changes within seconds.”
TRANE TRACER™ BUILDING AUTOMATION SYSTEM
Chosen by: Tom Borowske, vice president of operations for Environmental Conditioning Systems in Mentor, Ohio
About the product: Trane’s Tracer BAS technology provides an intuitive, mobile platform that gives building owners or managers the power and flexibility to manage their buildings more efficiently, which reduces cost and provides a better indoor environment and smaller environmental footprint. The system includes a complete family of Trane sensors — wired and wireless models — dedicated to providing accurate, reliable sensing that is critical to keeping HVAC systems running at optimum levels.
Borowske’s take: “Wireless controls system sensors cut down on installation labor and allow for sensor location mobility and installation ease in an office or cubical environment. Wireless communication links also help cut down greatly on installation labor. Both of these have become more affordable and reliable recently, via Trane’s Tracer BAS products. We’ve been using them with success where they fit, and I can see us using them more often in the future.”
Publication date: 12/14/2015