The smart thermostat and the Internet of Things could make our homes and workplaces more energy efficient and easier to maintain
Imagine an HVAC system that can “talk” to your entertainment system, creating an atmosphere that enhances the movie you are watching. Or consider how much more comfortable parties would be if your heating and cooling system could sense the average temperature of everyone in the room – and adjust accordingly for maximum comfort. Or think about how uncomfortable it is to walk into a stifling, hot house after a long day of work – and how much better it would be if you could simply use your smartphone to cool your home to the perfect temperature as you are leaving your office.
The Internet of Things (IoT) may be set to revolutionize the HVAC industry. Smart technologies are available or on the horizon that wasn’t even dreamed about a decade ago. Home automation platforms, remote diagnostics, connected ventilation systems, programmable thermostats, and mobile applications that enable homeowners to manage energy use remotely and take greater control of their comfort.
It’s estimated that 17.5 million homes will use smart thermostats like the groundbreaking Nest or ecobee models by the end of this year. By 2020, that number is expected to jump to 33 million.
There is no shortage of possibilities for smart heating and cooling systems. Read on to learn about the ways the IoT may change the way you control your climate:
What is the IoT?
In a nutshell, the Internet of Things is a vast network of everyday objects that are connected to each other and the outside world using the Internet. Devices are equipped with sensors, electronics, software, and network connectivity that give them the ability to collect and exchange data, be sensed and controlled remotely, and communicate with each other.
The IoT allows home HVAC systems to be closely monitored, analyzed, and controlled in real time from remote locations using a tablet or mobile phone – and even adjust on their own to their surroundings. Such systems typically use cloud computing to store their data in a secure environment.
7 ways the IoT is transforming HVAC systems
- Greater efficiencies. Thanks to smart sensors, the most advanced systems can measure temperature, humidity, and airflow throughout a structure – as well as external factors such as current utility rates, room occupancy, and the weather forecast to minimize energy usage. Daikin’s new EMURA indoor heat pump, for instance, uses intelligent-eye sensors to monitor a room for occupancy and adjust to energy-savings mode if it’s empty for 20 minutes. Buildings magazine reports that smart sensor technology can reduce an HVAC system’s use of electricity by up to 18 percent in commercial buildings, where heating and cooling typical accounts for 40 percent of annual energy use.
- Continuous comfort. No one wants to waste time constantly fiddling with the heat or air conditioning. Smart HVAC systems “learn” how much heat or air to bring to each part of your home to create an optimal environment based on your previous choices and external factors. Some even employ sensors to monitor movement and minimize direct airflow on occupants. Of course, everyday ductless mini splits already obtain some of this efficiency by virtue of the fact that the remote is the thermostat – meaning that wherever you are with the remote sets the comfort accordingly.
- An ability to adjust to surroundings. The smartest HVAC systems can proactively create a comfortable environment by learning to adjust their behavior based on their current or future surroundings. For instance, a smart HVAC system might receive information about an upcoming heat wave and cool your home overnight to reduce energy costs and create a comfortable climate when you wake up.
- Total remote control. Consider how many times you have left your heating or cooling system running while you weren’t home, wasting energy and money. Smart thermostats can enable you to use Apple or Android apps to control your HVAC system – even if you are thousands of miles away. These thermostats move beyond simple programming capabilities with the ability to “remember” and “learn” your comfort preferences and anticipate your settings based on the time of day. They include real-time weather notifications and predictions that can automatically alter the system’s settings. And many use multi-zone sensors that can detect occupancy and humidity levels – and even send safety alerts to your smartphone if the temperature reaches dangerous levels for your pets or it’s so cold that your pipes risk bursting.
- Predictive maintenance. Smart HVAC systems can analyze the performance data they collect and instantly report unusual occurrences or system failures. That leads to quicker response times and the ability to replace parts or make other adjustments before they cause more costly problems. Pressure and airflow sensors, for instance, can keep a watchful eye on flow rates and filter performance. Vibration and ultrasonic sensors can detect changes from previous readings and sound alerts about developing issues in real-time. This ability to nip problems in the bud as soon as they occur is expected to create an industry-wide shift from reactive to preventative service, reducing maintenance and repair costs over time.
- Remote diagnostics. Before the IoT, problems with an HVAC system were recognized by the homeowner but couldn’t be diagnosed until a technician was able to schedule an appointment onsite – forcing homeowners to sometimes endure lengthy waits for repairs. Connected systems can detect a change or issue and notify a technician within minutes of a problem occurring. This process allows technicians to review the data and issue a diagnosis from anywhere at any time so developing malfunctions can be immediately addressed before they become full-blown problems. It’s a win-win approach, with consumers enjoying better service and technicians having access to better information about the machines they service.
- Connectivity with other systems. Smart technology enables your HVAC system to communicate directly with other systems and devices in your home. For instance, your lighting system could share a set of occupancy sensors with your HVAC unit, operating in sync to reduce energy waste and provide an optimal atmosphere.
Smart technology is new to the HVAC industry and there are undeniably a few kinks to smooth out. Security is a concern that is continuously addressed, the as IoT can open new entry points to your private data and information about systems in your home. Sensors and other electronics necessary for the IoT also tend to have shorter lifespans than most HVAC equipment, requiring technicians to quickly get up to speed on how to access, disassemble, and replace devices set within the complex heating and cooling systems.
Even so, it looks like the HVAC industry is heading toward a connected future, with IoT technology having the potential to create better managed, maintained, and efficient heating and cooling systems.
ComfortUp is a provider of high-quality indoor and outdoor products and services that enable our customers to enjoy a more comfortable and energy-efficient lifestyle. Contact us to learn more about ductless mini split HVAC systems, and how we can help you gain control over your comfort.