Do you remember the cartoon “The Jetsons?”

Of course you do. Who could forget the futuristic family of the 1960s (and later the 1980s) that inhabited a world full of futuristic gadgets and gizmos that, at the time, seemed fit only for two-dimensional fiction?

George; his boy, Elroy; daughter, Judy; wife, Jane; and space dog, Astro, navigated a world decorated with robot servants, smart watches, jetpacks, holograms, smart shoes, and more. And, while the creators of The Jetsons set the family in the year 2062, it appears they were 40 or so years late as many of the cartoon’s contraptions have become reality today.

Perhaps The Jetson’s most prolific presentation was the flying car. While not here yet, flying cars may be closer than you think. Kitty Hawk, a Silicon Valley company, piloted a flying car above a lake 100 miles north of San Francisco just last week.

BNP Media, parent company of The NEWS, has taken notice with the launch of Autonomous Vehicle Technology — a brand dedicated to covering the connectivity, advanced electronics, mobility services, and collaboration that will comprise the age of autonomy in automobiles.


While flying cars and robot servants may dominate the mainstream media headlines, HVACR is certainly not void of technological evolution.

Thermostats can now sense and initiate when homeowners are near, intelligently learn and adapt a home’s comfort schedule based on inhabitants’ daily routines, and respond to voice-controlled instructions via smart home hubs.

And HVACR-based technological advances stretch well beyond the thermostat.

Johnson Controls Inc. is one company further testing technology’s limits via its York Affinity™ Variable Capacity Residential Systems, which were recently unveiled during a live launch at its headquarters in Milwaukee. I was lucky enough to attend this event.

While the Affinity offers many bells and whistles — up to 20-SEER performance, inverter-driven variable capacity technology, integration with the Wi-Fi-enabled York Affinity Hx™ touch-screen thermostat, and QuietDrive™ sound-defeating, swept-wing fan blade technologies — I was most impressed with its Charge Assurance™ feature.

Charge Assurance technology features a 5-inch screen built into the condensing unit that provides a direct readout of high and low system pressures, suction and liquid line temperatures, and superheat and subcooling calculations all without connecting gauges, sensors, or accessories.

Yes, contractors, you read that right. All of these calculations are instantly accessible on a screen within the condensing unit at the touch of a button — leave the gauges in the truck.

As a journalist living in Detroit, I immediately began questioning the feasibility of a screen on the condensing unit. There’s no way this could withstand the Great Lake’s arctic winters or Arizona’s sizzling summers, right? So, I asked Liz Haggerty, vice president and general manager, unitary products group, Johnson Controls, that very question.

Her response blew me away.

“We partnered with 47 vendors and 75 locations and subjected these units to the strictest component selection process we’ve ever used,” she said. “We opened the control box 200 times to guarantee the wires wouldn’t pinch or wear. More than 360 units were subjected to rigorous, accelerated life testing, and these products went through 91 winters and 136 summers worth of testing per unit. Through all of this, we identified 552 items that we needed to inspect, identified 2,887 potential failures, and addressed them all.”

Jedidiah Bentz, director, advanced systems, controls, and technology, unitary products group, Johnson Controls Inc., called the Affinity’s Charge Assurance feature a game changer.

“Charge Assurance helps ensure the system is properly optimized for faster operation and service while extending its service life and providing contractors and consumers added peace of mind,” he said. “It wasn’t about adding a 5-inch capacitive screen on our outdoor unit because we can, it’s all about adding value in the form of factory-installed digital gauges for every Affinity system we ship out the door.”

As contractors struggle to find qualified work, why not consider installing units that keep track of their refrigerant measurements themselves? Let the unit do the work itself via self-diagnostics.

What a brilliant idea. Even George Jetson’s outspoken boss, Mr. Spacely, would be impressed by this innovation.

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