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HVAC Systems In Smart Homes

What does HVAC stand for? A Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system is a complete system designed for the purpose of keeping indoor air safe and comfortable for the inhabitants of a home, business or other building.

This concept and the ability to carry it out has been around for more than 100 years; however, standards set in the latter half of the 20th Century have helped make home heating and cooling far more energy efficient and effective than in days gone by.

Today, another major leap is being made in the HVAC industry with the introduction of “smart” systems. In this article, we will describe the four basic types of HVAC systems available today. We will also offer valuable information about modern, new smart systems.

Traditional Types Of HVAC Systems

Although there is quite a bit of variation amongst air heating and cooling systems in terms of size and specifications, there are really just four elemental designs.

1. The Heating & Air Conditioning Split System

This is a classic design that is quite well known. With this sort of system, some components are housed in the building being cooled and heated and others are kept outdoors. Here are the basic components that are usually included in this system:​

  • A thermostat or control panel provides control.
  • An evaporator coil converts the refrigerant.
  • Refrigerant is cooled by an air conditioner.
  • A furnace warms the air as needed.
  • A fan circulates the air.

These are the basic components, but there are a number of accessories and features available such as:

  • Air cleaners
  • Air purifiers
  • Humidifiers
  • UV Lamps

These help enhance the quality of indoor air. These types of accessories can be had with any of the basic four types of HVAC systems. Naturally, the more “bells and whistles” a system includes, the more costly it will be.

2. The Hybrid Heat Split-System

This system is similar to the traditional split system, but it is much more energy efficient. This system includes a heat pump that supports the use of an electrically powered air conditioning system in combination with a gas furnace. The best of these systems include:

  • A furnace with evaporator coil converts the refrigerant and circulates the air.
  • A system of ductwork channels the air throughout the building.
  • A control panel allows adjustment and control of the system.
  • A heat pump manages refrigerant temperature.

3. Ductless Split HVAC System

This is a good option for buildings that just don’t have space for traditional ductwork. They can also be used in conjunction with ducted systems to extend and enhance performance. A ductless system includes:

  • Refrigerant tubing and wires that connect the fan coil with the exterior unit.
  • A control panel or a thermostat for adjustments.
  • Standard accessories to improve air quality.
  • A compact fan coil.

4. Packaged HVAC Systems

A packaged HVAC system is used for small spaces. This type of system can be a good choice for homes and buildings that do not have enough space for the components necessary for the installation of a split system. This type of system will usually contain:

  • A heat pump and air conditioner combined with a fan and evaporator all in a single unit.
  • A control panel or thermostat for adjustments.
  • Air quality enhancing accessories.

There are many different iterations of these four basic designs available in a wide range of prices and styles ranging from basic, economy units to very elaborate heating and cooling systems with a wide variety of accessories and enhancements.

One of the most recent and most exciting innovations in HVAC system is “smart” technology.

Why Are Smart HVAC Systems So Exciting?

All new smart heating and cooling systems simplify keeping your home or office comfortable. Systems equipped with smart sensors can save time, money and resources.

  • They can “learn” the habits of the occupants of a building to provide very customized heating and cooling service.
  • They can even monitor their own performance to enhance overall efficiency.

How Does Smart HVAC Work?

Smart home technology offers a way of “smartening up” existing technology by connecting it wirelessly (through WiFi or Bluetooth) with other devices. It makes it possible to control technology, such as your HVAC system, remotely and/or automatically.

For example, you might wish to install smart vents to control air flow in your home effortlessly and automatically. This single, smart upgrade would deliver myriad benefits, such as:​

Reduced Heating & Cooling Costs

Smart vents can be scheduled to open and close in various rooms depending upon your usual usage patterns.

Heating and cooling only the rooms you are using can result in savings as great as 30%.

Having this task performed automatically also helps you make better use of your own valuable time.

Comfort & Convenience

You can get a smartphone app that will let you control your smart vents and other smart home amenities no matter where you may be.

This means you could turn up the heat a bit before you get out of bed in the morning. Warm your house up just prior to arriving home after work. Open and close smart vents remotely as needed if there is a change in plan, such as a delay or an unexpected house guest.

Save Resources

Carefully monitoring and controlling your use of your heating and cooling system is a classic way to reduce energy consumption and save resources.

When you use smart vents and other smart functions to control your HVAC system, you will never forget to turn down the thermostat or close off vents to unused rooms.​

Smart HVAC Systems Interact With You & The Environment

Your smart HVAC system can sense various factors regarding the rooms in your home and the world outside. For example, smart vents can detect reduced temperature, changes in air flow and the temperature outdoors.

Armed with this information, your system can adjust itself to respond correctly and keep your home at the right temperature at all times.

Start Fresh Or Upgrade Your Existing System

Smart HVAC systems are available in all of the basic models we have covered, with the added advantage of computer technology that simply makes your life easier and more comfortable. If you are building a new home, getting a smart system is a simple matter.

If you want to smarten up your existing system, things get a little more complicated.​

Here are a few of the things you’ll need to do:

  1. You must have an HVAC professional review and inventory your existing equipment to identify inefficient, outdated components and draw up a comparison between your existing equipment and more modern, energy efficient equipment.
  2. Your HVAC professional should also perform an energy audit of your home or building to identify and clarify existing energy problems and determine how much energy (and money) you could save by upgrading to a smart system.
  3. Once a thorough inventory and audit have been performed, you will be able to make more informed selections in new equipment and improvements.

When you are working with an older system, you may not be able to fully optimize every element for complete “intelligence”, but you can make a number of simple alterations that can greatly improve efficiency and service.​

Small Changes Make A Big Difference

Here are some of the components you might add or improve to make your HVAC system smart:​

Smart Vents​

smart vents in ceiling

Add a few smart vents. A smart air supply and ventilation system has sensors so that it can tell whether or not a room is occupied and adjust temperature, humidity and air circulation accordingly.

Sensors also allow the system to discern problems and tampering (e.g. blocked vents).

Better Compressor & Air Pumps​

Improve the compressor and the air pump. The compressor is an electric pump which serves the purpose of compressing refrigerant.

The air handler circulates air over heating and cooling coils. Both of these components can be real energy hogs, so optimizing them can save you a lot of money in energy usage.

Optimization may take the form of completely replacing the equipment and/or systems can be put in place to control how often they run.

If these big energy consumers only run on an as-needed basis, a large amount of resources and money can be saved.​

Smart Thermostats​

smart thermostat on wall

Add a smart thermostat and save between 12% and 15% on your heating and cooling costs.

Whereas old-fashioned HVAC thermostats only measured temperature, smart thermostats can read and adjust other ambient factors.

SEE ALSO: Ecobee vs Nest

This innovation takes the place of old-fashioned thermostats and control panels and adds in the ability to measure a number of factors that contribute to the habitability of a home or building. Among them are:​

  • Temperature
  • Occupancy
  • Humidity

When these (and other pertinent factors) are taken into account, a smart thermostat can “decide” the right temperature and humidity levels for various rooms and areas in a building.

For a smart thermostat to work well, it must be properly positioned and the information that is initially used to set it must be accurate. This is why it is so important to perform a building audit first.

Smart HVAC Systems Improve Quality Of Life

A well designed smart HVAC system is “aware” of conditions throughout a building at all times. It will be able to keep air temperature and quality at optimum levels at all times. This helps improve quality of life for occupants in a number of ways ranging from improved health and physical well-being to more efficient use of time and resources.

Your Whole House Can Be Smart!

When you smarten up your HVAC system, you will surely realize that smartening up your whole house is a very wise thing to do. Here are a few of the smart changes you can make to optimize your money and energy saving capabilities while maximizing your own comfort and convenience.

Power Conserving Sockets Eliminate “Vampire” Power Consumption

Many appliances continue to consume energy even after you turn them off. Adding smart plugs to your home is a simple and easy way to put a stop to this. Eliminating the draw of vampire energy can significantly reduce your electric bill.​

Add A Smart Power Strip

You probably already use a power strip/surge protector for your computer and associated devices. Replacing it with a smart power strip can save you money.

Many people leave a number of peripheral devices running even after turning off the computer. A smart power strip signals the socket it’s plugged into to turn off when the item plugged into its master socket (i.e. your computer) is turned off. This is another effective way to get control of vampire power consumption.

Smart Hubs – Keep Tabs On Your Electric Usage

Energy hubs are simple devices that plug right into your breaker box and monitor your energy usage. The information gathered is forwarded to a central hub where you can access it via the Internet.

This allows you to keep a close eye on your home’s energy consumption through your PC or smartphone. The hub can also be used to control smart plugs and other smart devices in your home.​

SEE ALSO: Wink vs SmartThings​

Automate Your Energy Savings

Passive energy management systems are also available. These systems can be used to control your water heating and home heating systems automatically via wireless hub. You set up the system by inputting information about your regular, daily routine. You will provide information such as:​

  • The time you leave and arrive home
  • Preferred temperature settings
  • Room usage
  • Bedtime

The system will record that information, and once you initiate it, it will monitor your usage, learn your habits and make precise adjustments to anticipate and carry out appropriate home temperature functions.

Smart Technology Gets Better Every Day

Around the world, more smart home devices and appliances are made available every day. Simultaneously, power grids are being updated to interact with smart devices and smart homes.

Many utility companies are installing smart meters to help you keep better track of your electricity usage and to help them provide better and more efficient service.

Now, more than ever before, making good use of our resources is a wise and necessary choice. Taking advantage of the cutting edge technology offered by smart devices, appliances and heating and cooling systems is an effective and efficient step you can take to save money, make your life easier and make responsible use of our natural resources.​