Smart Home Products Disrupt HVAC Contractors
Product sampler gives insight to current market
The 1999 Disney movie “Smart House” helped usher smart home technology into pop culture. Katy Sagal voiced the personal applied technology home, better known as P.A.T., bringing familiarity to a new age of home automation and communicating technology. What followed in the 2000s was a rapid advance in smart home devices and an introduction to the IoT — not to mention three “Matrix” movies warning that technology will one day take over.
The Nest thermostat, which is now owned by Google, launched in 2011 and brought the smart home technology game directly to HVAC contractors. It was not only a technological disruptor, but the device also disrupted the HVAC market as direct-to-consumer sales caused issues with installation and service. In 2014, Google purchased Nest Labs outright for $3.2 billion, but the brand remained autonomous. In 2018, Nest announced that Google would be taking over the brand, which had grown way beyond thermostats, and as of May 2019, nest.com has moved to the Google Store and been rebranded as Google Nest.
Looking ahead to 2022, Statista reports that the smart home market is forecasted to reach $53.5 billion worldwide. That revenue splits into several categories, including smart home security, home entertainment, and connected home products. The result has HVAC companies contemplating how far they should venture into the smart home market and where they should draw the line.
To help answer that question, here is a sampling of current smart home products, complete with photos and descriptions. This sampling will help contractors understand some of the reach that connected devices have and the potential they provide for them as well as their residential customers.
Ring Stick Up Cam
This product allows users to add security anywhere it is needed. The HD security camera connects to a smartphone, allowing homeowners to see, hear, and speak to anyone on their property from anywhere, per the company. It features motion detection, live view, and night vision. The weather-resistant camera has multiple power options, including battery, plug-in, solar, and power over Ethernet.
Amazon finalized its acquisition of Ring in 2018 and committed to working together to accelerate Ring’s mission to reduce crime in neighborhoods through home security products and services, stated a press release. At the time, the companies dropped the price of the Ring Video Doorbell to $99, where the price point remains. Ring focuses its products on allowing customers to see, hear, and speak to people on their property from anywhere. Customers can now choose from a large selection of home security products, cameras, and solutions under the Amazon umbrella, including Ring Video Doorbells, Ring Spotlight Cams, Ring Floodlight Cams, and all Ring Accessories.
Carrier® Infinity® System Control
Described by the company as a command center for enhanced indoor comfort, this control puts homeowners just a few taps away from customized heating and cooling. As part of a complete Carrier Infinity system with an Infinity gas furnace or Infinity fan coil and Infinity outdoor unit, homeowners will have control over indoor temperature, humidity, airflow, comfort schedules, and energy usage. When matched with Infinity system products with Greenspeed® intelligence, subtle adjustments to adaptable-speed components can be made as conditions change. Homeowners can choose their comfort settings, walk away, and leave the control in charge. Advanced smart setback ensures smooth and timely transitions between programmed settings for added efficiency and comfort. Occupancy sensing automatically sets the system back for savings when occupants leave, then resets the system for comfort upon their return. The Touch-N-Go® feature allows simple, one-touch access to programmed comfort settings so homeowners can quickly switch from current levels as their needs change. With the Wi-Fi connected Infinity System Control, home comfort is accessible using the free, downloadable mobile app for iOS® or Android® devices.
EMERSON CLIMATE TECHNOLOGIES
Using 10 Wi-Fi connected smart sensors, this product proactively analyzes a system’s performance and brings vital information to help extend system life. The proactive maintenance technology allows contractors and homeowners to be confident that service is complete with the right parts the first time, reducing callbacks and helping contractor firms increase technician efficiency.
The device is also helping multifamily firms manage their facilities with installations of a suite of products, including Sensi™ Touch smart thermostats, Sensi Manager multi-thermostat system, and Sensi Predict smart HVAC. A recent 100-system installation in Tampa, Florida, helped to optimize performance in more than 40 percent of the monitored units at the community.
Sam Troyer, president of Comfort Zone Inc. in Cape Coral, Florida, was one of the beta testers for the Sensi Predict. He responded to an email sent to Service Roundtable members that explained the product.
“We know what’s wrong with every one of these systems before we get there,” Troyer said. “It allows you to send the right tech to do the job, and it allows you to make sure you have the parts.”
Nest Hub Max
Nest Hub Max is everything consumers enjoyed in Nest Hub — formerly Google Home Hub — and the Google Assistant. It provides personalized help, answers from Google, control for the connected home, and more. The product’s built-in Nest Cam features help users keep an eye on their home while away. They can also stay connected with friends and family with Duo video calling and its new messaging feature. The product features a 10-inch HD screen for watching YouTube and sharing photo/video with Google Photos. The device controls more than 40,000 devices from 5,000 partners, letting consumers turn on the lights, lock the door, and turn down their thermostat, all with “Hey Google.”
LG AIR CONDITIONING TECHNOLOGIES
LG Art Cool™ Mirror
Featuring a sleek, reflective finish, this product is a modern, high-design, duct-free indoor unit that can heat or cool an entire house or a single room. With a mirror fascia, the unit can be matched with almost any interior. Compatible with a range of single and multi-zone outdoor units, the Art Cool Mirror’s aesthetic means contractors can offer homeowners an energy efficient system without sacrificing style. With built-in Wi-Fi capability, the product allows homeowners the flexibility to adjust comfort settings via the LG ThinQ™ app on their smartphone, alongside other ThinQ-enabled devices in the home. Available for Android and iOS, the free LG ThinQ app delivers homeowners the ability to monitor and control the Art Cool system from anywhere, in addition to other LG home appliances like refrigerators, ranges, washing machines, and robotic vacuums. Users who have a smart speaker in the home can manage their comfort via voice control with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. With features like LG’s Smart Diagnosis™ Technology, consumers can easily self-diagnose, troubleshoot, and access any other information through their phones.
“LG’s cutting-edge advancements in home automation reflect our bigger picture understanding of the future of connected living,” said Lorie Quillin-Bell, director of marketing, LG Air Conditioning Technologies. “With LG’s Art Cool Mirror, homeowners can incorporate a truly complete, smart ecosystem into their home.”
Resideo Home App
Designed to provide homeowners with a unified platform that connects and manages the home, Resideo will enable the migration of the company’s 6.5 million connected customers, currently spread among its existing apps, into the Resideo Home app throughout 2020. Users of Resideo’s Buoy Whole Home Water Controller and Buoy Water Leak Detectors can begin using the new app and access its free features, or upgrade to premium services like advanced automatic water shutoff and leak alerts. In the coming months, Resideo will integrate air products, such as the T Series line of smart thermostats, into the app. By the end of 2020, the app will support Resideo whole-home security systems as well.
“At Resideo, we’re committed to helping homeowners make sense of their homes, and in the process, help professionals modernize and expand their businesses while giving a better experience to customers,” said Mike Nefkens, president and CEO of Resideo. “We do not believe that the critical systems of the home should be a do-it-yourself adventure. Through the new Resideo Home app, we’re going to bring the world of proactive, professional monitoring to the entire home, helping better protect the people inside and mitigating problems before they arise.”
Rheem® EcoNet® Smart Thermostat
The company spent three years researching and developing its next-generation EcoNet Smart Thermostat, which builds on its extensive work in sensor technology that began in 2012. The resulting product controls a home’s air conditioning, heating, and water heating appliances while managing 65 percent of the energy used in a typical home. Paired with Rheem’s patent-pending zoning technology, the thermostat maximizes energy efficiency, cost savings, and sustainability.
For HVAC and plumbing contractors, the EcoNet Smart Thermostat streamlines installation, setup, and service by providing in-depth system diagnostics and automatic equipment configuration. Its advanced sensor technology actively monitors Rheem’s connected smart heating, cooling, and water heating equipment simultaneously, giving end-users full control of system settings at the palm of their hand.
The programmable thermostat has five operating modes — Heat, Cool, Auto, Emergency Heat, and Fan Only — along with a full-color glass capacitive touchscreen. It is equipped with features such as humidity control and hands-free voice control with Amazon’s Alexa. Additional features include built-in Wi-Fi and a six-day weather forecast. For optimal energy savings, Rheem’s EcoNet Smart Thermostat’s vacation scheduling allows users to program or adjust settings while away.
TACO COMFORT SOLUTIONS
0018e ECM, Bluetooth® Circulator
This product features Bluetooth communication to a mobile app. It provides real-time control, diagnostics, and reporting on installation history, power consumption, performance, and runtime. The installer can select between multiple constant speed, proportional pressure, and constant pressure modes as well as activeADAPT™, Taco’s self-adjusting proportional pressure mode. Features include a BIO Barrier® that protects the pump from system contaminants, especially black iron oxide that otherwise tends to collect around strong ECM magnets. It also has SureStart®, which automatically unblocks a locked rotor and purges air from the circulator.
“I use this circulator so that I can fine-tune the proper flow rate through each zone via the pump’s Bluetooth app,” said Keefer Rader, owner of Outlaw Mechanical, Albuquerque, New Mexico. “By perfecting the flow rate through each zone, this circulator reduces callbacks. By fine-tuning the flow rate through each zone, I can maximize performance and efficiency, which lowers the customer’s utility bills. Using this circulator allows me to reduce the number of SKUs on my truck because it can replace a number of different circulators. It adapts to almost any residential application.”
Trane XL824 Smart Thermostat
This thermostat works with most traditional HVAC systems to optimize whole-home comfort and may be used to enhance cooling dehumidification when installed with Trane’s variable-speed indoor products. It may also be used to control up to two IAQ products, such as a whole-home humidifier, dehumidifier, and fresh air ventilation system. Users can connect and control the device from a smartphone, tablet, and computer. With the XL24’s Nexia smart home built-in bridge, consumers have the flexibility to remotely monitor and control over 200 smart home devices including a home’s lights, locks, and garage door from virtually anywhere with the Nexia app. It is also compatible with Amazon Alexa or Google Home enabled devices. Nexia can monitor the HVAC system in real time with the Nexia diagnostics and alert a Trane dealer if there is an issue. With the customer’s permission, real-time information is easily accessible for the dealer so they can remotely view details on how the heating and air conditioning systems are performing.
This product gives users one-touch access to information to help manage their energy usage. The one-touch dashboard provides access to intuitive drop-down menus displaying enhanced weather information including forecasts, detailed runtime graphs, complete sensor overview, listing of any active alerts, and HVAC equipment configuration details. The Wi-Fi enabled thermostats are compatible with the company’s free Skyport® Cloud Services. This allows users to use Venstar’s free Skyport Mobile App on their Apple iOS and Android mobile devices or directly from the Web to remotely access and control multiple thermostats at numerous locations. The thermostat is compatible with the company’s wireless temperature sensor, which allows it to gather information from all sensors on the network. The sensor can be configured to be a remote, outdoor, supply air, or return air sensor. In addition, the product can now access information from these sensors for temperature averaging to improve indoor comfort.
Hx™3 Communicating Zoning
This technology provides a customizable zoning solution to build a smart, high-efficiency home comfort system for all YORK® Affinity™ indoor and outdoor communicating systems.
The system provides up to eight zones, resulting in customized control. It uses dampers to control airflow with a proprietary system design that eliminates the need for bypass or barometric dampers. The entire system is controlled by the Hx3 thermostat with selectable controls and sensors for individual zone controls. Using the remote app, homeowners have the ability to adjust and monitor their system through the Wi-Fi enabled Hx3 thermostat. With the homeowner’s permission, contractors can monitor or diagnose the system remotely using the Hx Pro mobile application — providing an all-new level of personalized service and support. Customers can pair the Hx3 zoning system with a variable-capacity air conditioner and modulating furnace to create a comfort system that adjusts to maximize whole-home and individual space comfort while minimizing both sound and energy bills.
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