Years from now, when futureNewseditors look through back issues to trace trends for the magazine's kajillionth anniversary issue, they may well consider 2004 the year of the thermostat.

Perhaps no one product in the HVACR market today has evolved so much, and seemingly so quickly, as residential thermostats. The innovations in this market are nothing short of astounding. Some of the changes have carried over from the commercial controls market. Others were developed to meet specific needs in the residential market.

We know these technologies didn't crop up overnight. They have been developing for decades. But the ability to apply the technology to residential systems is a fairly recent phenomenon, and many new and innovative products have been introduced over the last two to three years.


Take the Talking Thermostat, for example. York introduced it this year and it has been traveling around the country in a Coleman display vehicle, making the rounds of HVACR wholesalers so that they and contractors could try out a functioning unit. I got to try one myself on a trip to the Coleman plant in Wichita this year, and it is impressive.

The goal of the product is to make program changes easier for homeowners who are not comfortable with digital displays and prompts.

It adds another dimension to the thermostat's ability to communicate, a very meaningful one. Some people just think better with verbal prompts than with visuals.

It is not the first talking thermostat on the market. Some even talk to homeowners via the telephone, which is handy when you want to call home and set the temperature. But that is for a different breed of customer.

Still other thermostats feature built-in flexibility that allows contractors to stock fewer types of stats for a multitude of systems, multiple speed as well as single speed. Some include controls for ancillary products, such as whole-house air cleaners, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, and UV lights. They are designed for ease of readability.

Perhaps one of the most significant residential thermostat developments has been in the area of humidity control. Willis Carrier's first air conditioners primarily controlled humidity, and the company that bears his name has made a big return to that concept. Other manufacturers have, too.

Product Snapshot

The sweeping changes in the thermostat market make this issue a very good one forThe Newsto introduce a new feature of our own: Product Snapshot.

This issue's feature is called "Product Snapshots: Cool Controls, Hot Features" and it gives you, dear reader, an intense look at one of the hottest product areas in the market.

We will continue with another Product Snapshot section in the Oct. 11 Hydronics and Radiant Heating Products issue. After that, we will place this new feature strategically in issues where the product category and its new developments hold the most promise for our readers and advertisers.

Please check out Product Snapshot and let us know what you think. Just like HVACR technology, The News as a product is a work in progress. We look forward to your input to help us develop the Product Snapshot feature to its maximum potential for the benefit of the HVACR community.

Barb Checket-Hanks is service/maintenance and troubleshooting editor. She can be reached at 313-366-7093; 313-366-7972 (fax);

Publication date: 10/04/2004