As the pandemic continues to make people increasingly aware of their home HVAC systems, and as more and more people become aware of the value of energy efficiency, contractors have numerous options for offering homeowners solutions in energy management systems.
High-End Heating and Cooling Systems
High-end HVAC systems offer robust control of energy management, as well as the technology that benefits homeowners in other ways.
“High-end residential HVAC helps increase energy efficiency, as well as provides comfort and reliability for homeowners,” said Brandy Powell, general manager and vice president, residential air conditioning at Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions. “Offering greater connectivity and control over home comfort, high-end HVAC helps homeowners better maximize efficiencies to reduce and manage energy consumption and improve comfort throughout each zone of your home.”
She also explained that heat pump solutions are increasing in popularity — especially in regions where regulations are being used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, since heat pumps offer efficiency and an environmentally-friendly option to burning fossil fuels.
She said that when looking at high-end HVAC systems, homeowners should look for solutions that provide greater comfort, reduce noise, and increase connectivity.
“Moreover, high-end HVAC solutions not only improve system efficiency but also improve the health of occupants indoors,” she said. “Bringing fresh, clean air indoors can help reduce the risk of infection and help improve the health and wellbeing of occupants.”
Powell also said that homeowners should look for systems that connect with smart thermostats that can improve comfort and temperature control as well as search for systems with predictive and remote monitoring to aid service and maintenance. Modulating compressors in the systems can also be used to match the output of the system to the load of the building.
By offering a homeowner more control of the temperature of their home, intelligent thermostats can improve both energy management and comfort.
THERMOSTAT TIME: Dave Quam, global connected services director at Resideo, said that the right thermostat will have high interoperability with other smart products in the home.
“Smart thermostats offer homeowners simple control of their most important appliance — their heating and cooling devices,” said Dave Quam, global connected services director at Resideo. “Now more than ever, consumers are looking for their homes to be efficient and comfortable, and they use home automation to deliver that efficiently/seamlessly.
Whether using their phone or voice control, smart thermostats can help deliver the right temperature to the right room at the right time.”
This technology also aids the contractor, as it gives another solution to meet homeowners’ needs.
“As homes become smarter, so too are HVAC business operations,” said Quam. “HVAC service professionals are increasingly integrating IoT and better data into their daily operations, helping to simplify operations, offer value-added differentiated services, and ultimately enhancing the consultative dialogue with their customers.”
Quam said that contractors should ensure that the thermostats they sell to their customers will have high interoperability with other smart products in the home, and that the products have a customer support staff that can ensure the thermostats are installed quickly and function as expected.
Electrification offers another way for energy use to be managed in the home. Paul Sammataro, owner of Samm’s Heating and Air Conditioning, said that electrification frees the homeowner from pricing that is subject to fossil fuel market fluctuations. There is no concern of carbon monoxide poisoning, he said, and since there is no vent or gas piping, there is a reduced cost for an electric system installation.
He explained that the HVAC industry is trending toward electrification in the future.
“Utility rebates, government programs, and code requirements will drive the move to electrification,” said Sammataro. “Gas/oil systems installed in new buildings will start to diminish and trend toward all electric.”
He said that until fossil fuel pricing increases substantially, he does not believe that 100% electrification will lower utility costs unless consumers are installing high SEER/HSPF.
Devin Cooley, president of SunTrac USA, explained that concentrating thermal panels can harness the sun’s energy to lessen the load on an air conditioner’s compressor, which, in his experience, lowers cooling costs in a home by an average of 40%. BTUs from the sun are captured by the solar panels’ concentrators, which track the sun’s movement across the sky, and are piped into the refrigerant cycle of the HVAC system. Renewable technology is typically installed in the Sunbelt states — running from California to the Carolinas and south — in areas experiencing long summers, high temperatures, and high humidity.
“We’re tackling the largest energy hog of the home, which is the a/c,” said Cooley. “Our technology will also integrate easily with smart home automation.”
He explained that hybrid climate systems can add value that contractors can sell to customers, while also not being a product that would detract from their normal business competency. Integrating solar technology does not require any specialized personnel, processes, or equipment. At SunTrac, Cooley said it takes a two-day course to train an HVAC company in how to service and install its hybrid climate systems.
Dick Foster, president of ZoneFirst, said that he likes to begin conversations about zoning by relating it to light switches in a home.
IN THE ZONE: Zoning can have health benefits, as people have a greater control over their bedroom, where they can ensure the temperature is ideal for healthy sleep.
“You’ve got a light switch in every room in your house,” he said. “You wouldn’t put one light switch in for your entire house, but you do for your heating and cooling. Think of what your electric bill would be if you had to turn all of your lights on and off with one switch.”
Foster said that contractors have an excellent opportunity to sell a benefit that will serve homeowners, but some shy away from it because they try to sell solely on price. However, he explained that people are willing to spend money to save energy and they value comfort, as demonstrated by the fact that people have zoning in their cars. This can even have health benefits, as people can have a greater control over their bedroom, where they can ensure the temperature is ideal for healthy sleep.
“Low-voltage wiring and airflow are two critical things contractors need to know in order to put in zoning,” said Foster. He explained that if contractors do not have the proper skills necessary, zoning companies like ZoneFirst can help contractors get trained until they feel confident handling zoning systems.
How Exactly Do Smart Thermostats Lower Energy Usage?
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating and cooling account for nearly 50% of the energy consumption in a typical U.S. home — on average, costing homeowners about $900 a year — making it the most significant energy expenditure for most households. So, while energy-efficient light bulbs and high-efficiency appliances are essential, homeowners should focus on minimizing their heating and cooling costs for the biggest impact. Smart thermostats can help that in several ways:
- Energy-friendly software (scheduling and geofencing): Homeowners can easily set and update their heating/cooling schedule to deliver comfort when they are home and energy saving when they are away. Geofencencing is a feature that can trigger activity (adjusting the thermostat’s setpoint) depending on whether you’re home or away using the GPS on your smart device. Thermostats can also offer homeowners more advanced scheduling services, which dynamically adjust thermostat setpoints based on local weather. Since weather can change drastically and frequently, this is a great way to save additional energy while maintaining comfort.
- Smart room sensors: A thermostat with smart room sensors not only extends the reach of the thermostat beyond the hallway but also delivers the right temperature to the right room at the right time. It also can control humidification/dehumidification or ventilation for whole-home comfort. Homeowners can have comfort in the rooms they use most during the day and energy savings while they are away. And to ensure the optimal sleeping temperature, they can say, “Alexa, lower the temperature in the bedroom.”
- Demand response (or DR): Utility companies implement a variety of voluntary energy saving programs that incentivize consumers to reduce their energy use during periods of peak demand (summer heat wave or winter cold snap). Users sign up online by connecting their smart thermostat with their utility account. From there, the utility sends an alert through an app or on the thermostat when there is increased demand and adjusts their thermostats a degree or two to reduce the stress on the system. Utilities offer rebates and rewards to customers who participate. Every program is a little different, but in most cases, the homeowner can choose if they want to change their temperature — or, if they are about to have a house full of family for a child’s birthday party, for instance, they can choose to opt out.
Source: Brandy Powell, general manager, vice president, residential air conditioning at Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions.