ORLANDO, Fla. — Energy efficiency, integration with smart home technology, and the ongoing impact of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) regional efficiency standards are major trends influencing products in the residential air conditioning market.

Tom Goodnight, senior manager of residential product management, unitary products group, Johnson Controls Inc., said the market is working to adapt to the new regional aspect of the efficiency standards that became effective Jan. 1, 2015.

“This regional component is an effort to provide a balance between reduced energy usage through exceptional efficiency and low initial equipment cost, but it has significantly changed the enforcement dynamic between regulators, manufacturers, distributors, and contractors/installers,” Goodnight said. “The result is a continued, increased focus on equipment ‘as installed’ rather than ‘as manufactured.’”

According to Goodnight, Johnson Controls offers air conditioning designs for each DOE region to provide consumers with equipment that meets the new higher-efficiency standards at a cost that is optimized for each efficiency requirement.

At the AHR Expo, Johnson Controls exhibited its new York LX Series residential split-system air conditioners, models 13 SEER YCD and 14 SEER YFE. According to the company, features of the new units include reliable operation, thanks to robust compressor technology proven in an extreme, five-year accelerated test facility; a quiet, direct-drive fan design that minimizes vibration and noise; efficient heat transfer with optimized coils for effective airflow and refrigerant circulation; and a compact cabinet.

“Contractors will see smart technology gain momentum in 2016,” said Mike Smith, senior marketing manager, residential, Mitsubishi Electric U.S. Cooling & Heating. “Smart technology is integrated into our systems. For example, our i-see Sensor™ 3D operates as an occupancy sensor that detects human heat signatures to gauge occupancy. We are also able to control with smart technology through our kumo cloud™ app and third-party thermostats.”

According to Smith, another trend contractors and technicians will notice is smaller and more discrete units matched with ductless designs, such as Mitsubishi Electric’s new FH06 6,000-Btuh wall-mounted indoor unit.

“All these trends and our product solutions contribute to the widespread movement toward the passive house and net-zero building and provide customers with the comfort they are demanding,” Smith said.

Dave Garvin, product manager with Nortek Global HVAC, noted that variable refrigerant flow (VRF) and mini-split systems seem to gain momentum every year, and 2016 looks to be no different.

“High-efficiency levels and quiet operation make these systems great choices for residential add-ons all the way up to large industrial structures,” Garvin said.

In 2016, the company intends to launch a line of residential mini-split systems in the Gibson brand with capacities ranging 9,000-48,000 Btuh.

Farooq Mohammad, director, product management, Rheem Air Conditioning Division, said Rheem aims to continue building upon the success of its inverter-driven product line.

“Inverter-driven technology employs more advanced and sophisticated controls technology that results in a quieter, more efficient, longer-lasting system,” Mohammad said.

On the consumer side, Mohammad said home automation and connected controls will continue to be the most sought-after integration of technology for the HVAC industry.

At the AHR Expo, Rheem spotlighted its line of 20-SEER fully variable-speed air conditioning and heat pump units. According to Mohammad, the new line will be available for distributors and dealers to sell to their customers for the 2016 cooling season. The line also will feature Rheem’s EcoNet-enabled controls, which provides homeowners with the ability to control whole-home efficiency and comfort.

“EcoNet allows contractors to integrate Rheem’s lineup of high-efficiency heating, cooling, and water heating products to create fully integrated heating, cooling, and water heating systems,” Mohammad said. “The Rheem EcoNet Smart Home System enables homeowners to customize and manage home air and water systems based on lifestyle habits via Wi-Fi-enabled smart-home technology and the free EcoNet mobile app.”

Publication date: 2/22/2016

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