Decades ago, owning a home with a central heat and air system meant you lived with the absolute pinnacle of technology that controlled your indoor comfort level day in and day out. Since then we’ve not made many significant strides in home comfort systems, but that’s about to change — the future of HVAC is upon us and things are about to get wild. From new ways to interact with our HVAC systems to innovative ways to save money on climate control, the next few years promise to be filled with lots of changes.
The concept of “going green” has been embraced by almost every industry in America, from grocery stores and fast food chains to publishers and garbage haulers. This new-found interest in using fewer materials and fuels and saving more money hasn’t been lost on the HVAC industry. Things are already changing and more changes are in store to increase the efficiency of your home air conditioning unit in the near future.
In 2010, the last air conditioners containing R-22 rolled off manufacturing floors. The refrigerant in these units was damaging the ozone layer, so it is now being phased out in favor of a safer, greener refrigerant. You’ll still be able to charge your R-22 systems until 2020, but at that point, if one of these old systems needs a recharge, it’s going to have to be scrapped.
These policies may seem draconian, but they’re helping HVAC technology move forward. The new refrigerant, R-410A, is able to be compressed further than R-22 ever could have been, allowing more efficient air conditioning units to be constructed. As SEER ratings go up, your electricity bills will go down, and that’s great for everyone. Today, a new air conditioner must have a SEER rating of 13, but by 2015, that will increase to 14 SEER for homes in the southeast and southwestern United States.
Making Systems Smarter
Not only will systems become more efficient, they will also become smarter. Thermostats that can be controlled with a SmartPhone app and thermostats that can tell you all about the energy they’ve saved (known as learning thermostats) will become the new norm. These technologies are currently available, but the price of the technologies has limited implementation. As prices drop, you’ll see them appear in more homes, making 14 SEER air conditioners even more efficient.
Learning thermostats, like Nest, program themselves to adjust the temperature in your home based on your preferences. They’re smart enough to learn your schedule after only a week’s worth of training and can determine when you’re absent for an extended period of time. (They can put themselves into away mode to save you even more money on climate control.) While you’re away, you can check in with your SmartPhone and review reports about your usage and savings or kick the air on when you’re getting close to home so it’s cool when you walk in the door.
If you don’t trust your thermostat to learn your schedule, you’ll still save a ton with the newest generation of programmable thermostats. Besides controlling your air conditioner, they’re designed to will alert you to any extreme temperatures in your home. They even remind you to change your filters — all via your tablet or smartphone. These thermostats feature touch screens and remote control options that allow you to control the temperature from anywhere you might be.
Techie thermostats are neat, but they’re only a drop in the bucket compared to what HVAC professionals will have access to in the near future. Smart air conditioners that can perform self-diagnostics, alert your regular air conditioner professional to problems, and even communicate with the rest of your air conditioning system to better coordinate the way your home is cooled are all just over the horizon, and will soon be in homes everywhere.
The future of HVAC is bright, filled with lots of gadgets that are fun, smart and designed to lower energy usage as fuel prices continue to climb. By adopting this technology as it becomes reasonably available to homeowners, you’re not only going to save yourself a bundle of money, you’ll also be helping to save the environment, too.
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