Smarter Thermostats Satisfy the Needs of Smarter Customers
More than just boxes and circles
LAS VEGAS — The thermostat market has evolved to cater to modern customers’ ever increasing needs. Today, people look to their smartphones for nearly everything, including banking, home security, and, of course, the ability to manage their indoor comfort levels.
Many manufacturers showcased their latest thermostats and smart controls and explained how these intelligent devices meet the needs of their customers at the AHR Expo.
Thermostats are no longer just white boxes or gold circles on walls.
The KONO-Smart from Lux Products Corp. offers a new take on thermostat design. Featuring different, interchangeable color and design swatches to customize the appearance of the thermostat, the KONO-Smart can be an attractive part of a home’s décor.
“When something is displayed so prominently in your house, you need to have something that can either blend, contrast, or complement the décor,” said Rob Munin, CEO and president, Lux Products. “It’s our belief that a lot of the smart thermostats look like hi-fi devices, and we wanted to make it a little more personal.”
LG Electronics USA Inc. has developed an intuitive control panel with a customizable screen and configurable functionality to meet the requirements of each installation with its new LG MultiSITE thermostat.
According to Kevin McNamara, senior vice president, air conditioning technologies, LG Electronics USA Inc., this thermostat’s “LG MultiSITE Communications Manager integrates the power of LG VRF [variable refrigerant flow] technology into an existing third-party building management system. This controls framework directly integrates with a VRF system, which eliminates the need for a gateway. LG MultiSITE VM3 is a building management solution that maximizes the sophistication of control in each building system for cohesive building operation and synergistic performance.”
Wi-Fi connectivity has become almost a necessity for new thermostats entering the market.
According to Ed Blittschau, vice president of marketing, White-Rodgers, Emerson, “Smart home products were a key theme at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show and mainstream consumers are increasingly looking for opportunities to make their first smart home purchases. Due to their attractive features and benefits as well as successful history, Wi-Fi thermostats are the gateway to the smart home for many consumers.”
The Sensi thermostat from Emerson includes detailed in-app instructions, contractor branding, and precision temperature control. Additionally, the unit integrates with smart home platforms, such as Wink and Amazon Echo.
“We continue to add compatibility as these smart ecosystem platforms come out,” said Blittschau. “We just won a J.D. Power Award for a smart thermostat, and we are really proud of that.”
Beyond Wi-Fi, being able to connect with the thermostat throughout the home is also a new trend that Honeywell Intl. Inc. is capitalizing on with its Lyric T Series of thermostats. With the Lyric app, homeowners are able to control comfort levels and no longer have to be in the room with the thermostat to do so. Furthermore, it utilizes geofencing technology, which allows users to set home and away settings.
“When a homeowner leaves the home and crosses the geofence, the thermostat will go into energy savings mode and return to the preferred setting when the homeowner returns,” said A.J. Smith, vice president and general manager, Honeywell Intl. Inc.
Ecobee Inc. unveiled its ecobee3 lite. The unit uses the outside temperature to always keep customers comfortable in their homes. It adjusts to a preferred “away” setting, when the user leaves the house.
Furthermore, many new thermostats are looking to ease the installation and sales process for customers.
Johnson Controls Inc. unveiled the York touchscreen thermostat that provides early indicators of system faults or potential issues that assist in educating and identifying where efficiency losses in the system may be occurring.
“Traditional big-box, off-the-shelf thermostats simply send one-way signals to equipment and make assumptions from there. If your system is operating in a fault condition, or not operating at all, a noncommunicating thermostat doesn’t have the intelligence required to know and react. The best and only way to get full integration of the most important system in the home is with communication. The York touchscreen thermostat provides the true integration required to get the most reliable, comfortable, and efficient use of your system,” said Jedidiah Bentz, director, advanced systems, controls, and technology, unitary products group, Johnson Controls Inc.
Robertshaw Climate is looking to ease the sales process for contractors when it comes to selling smart thermostats.
“Our new RS456CONNECT Wi-Fi module gives contractors the ability to sell a Robertshaw Climate RS4000, RS5000, or RS6000 Series thermostat and offers customers an on-the-spot upgrade to Wi-Fi connectivity. There are no separate set of SKUs to clutter up an already full service truck, just one module does it all,” said John Brower, general manager, Robertshaw Climate.
Overall, connectivity was key in the thermostat market this year, and each company provided its own take on the trend.
“Interconnectivity with smart products within the home continues to be a major trend for the HVAC community. Contractors and wholesalers alike need to be a part of this Internet of Things (IoT) trend, otherwise they risk the chance of losing relevance and revenue. More than ever, homeowners have a connection to their comfort, and this opens up a massive opportunity for HVAC professionals — one that will also shut them out if they don’t offer smart solutions,” said Munin.
Publication date: 2/27/2017