BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Unitary system diagnostics are a fact on a few high-end systems. What are the benefits that will drive future market acceptance? That was the question turned around and examined at an ASHRAE Winter Meeting Forum, "Achieving Market Acceptance of HVAC Fault Detection and Diagnostic Systems."

According to one manufacturer, a big box retailer is looking at ways to design such diagnostics into its equipment line. For a price, apparently, the homeowner can have the peace of mind of knowing that whenever a fault is detected, a technician will be dispatched to service it before the homeowner is even uncomfortable.

For the industry at large, the benefits of such systems could include being able to troubleshoot problems quickly, efficiently, and correctly; having improved payback on long-term warranties; and for utilities, placing less stress on the grid by improving system operation on a very large scale.

Some participants were quite cynical. "The home already has a fault detector," said one engineer. "It's activated when the homeowner comes home and house is too hot."