3 Cool (or Hot) HVAC Automation Options

3 Cool (or Hot) HVAC Automation Options

HVAC is boring, right? Only it’s one of the most important systems in the home, affecting comfort, health and our bank accounts.

Heating and cooling still account for more than 40 percent of an average home’s energy costs, so saving energy here is paramount. And a great way to do that, besides using efficient systems, is by automating them.

Here are three HVAC automation solutions for previously problematic connections with variable refrigerant volume and flow air conditioners, electric radiant heat, and zoning dampers.

These systems make HVAC seem cool—or hot, depending on your season.


Master of Cool

Here’s a major problem with some of today’s more efficient air conditioning systems and heat pumps like those from Daikin, Mitsubishi, LG, Sanyo, Hitachi and Toshiba: Many of them don't work with home control and automation systems, especially those air conditioners with VRV (Variable Refrigerant Volume) and VRF (Variable Refrigerant Flow).

The control and monitoring of these systems, with their sophisticated control systems, is typically done by solutions provided by the HVAC companies who offer Central Controllers and the such. And what if you want a home control and automation system to control and monitor your air conditioning with VRV/VRF?

CoolMaster from Cool Automation is an innovative communication gateway that connects between the VRV / VRF air-conditioning communication and the home control/automation system for the monitoring and control of the air-conditioning systems’ most essential parameters.

CoolMaster is compatible with a variety of control systems such as those from Crestron, Savant, Control4, AMX, BitWise, RTI, Lutron, Vantage and Leviton Home Automation and Security (formerly HAI). Price is $1,968.

Cool Automation has announced the introduction of CoolRemote smartphone app for control and monitoring, with spiffy colored backgrounds that change by mode, such as auto fan, medium fan, and low fan. New CoolMaster gateways for use with most HVAC systems will be available in May.

Efficient HVAC Gets Stylish 

Electric floor heat?

How about controlling electric floor heat with what’s being touted as North America’s first Wi-Fi floor heating thermostat, the Nuheat Signature, which Nuheat recently launched at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

The Signature thermostat will give homeowners full access to all thermostat settings with wireless remote access through a smartphone app (iOS or Android) or a web browser.  Changing the temperature or schedule, or viewing energy usage will all be at the homeowners’ fingertips.

The Signature thermostat is a line-voltage thermostat and can be used with any electric floor heat. It cannot be used with hydronic floor heating systems (water/glycol mix in water tubes) which are controlled using low-voltage thermostats, according to Nuheat product manager Wally Lo.

Nest, for example, is a low-voltage thermostat that cannot control a line-voltage heating appliance such as Nuheat Mats or line-voltage baseboard heaters.

The Signature connects to a Wi-Fi network and has a 3.5-inch touchscreen and seven-day programmability. It can show energy usage and display weather. It is suitable for tile and stone flooring and has a temperature limiting (82°F) feature for laminate and engineered wood floors.

It will be priced at $265 and will be available for sales in spring 2014. Nuheat is accepting pre-orders on Feb. 1.

Vacation Home Beauty Brings the Outdoors In 

Automated Zoning

ZoneFirst’s Plug and Play Control Panels and dampers allow HVAC systems to be zoned so areas of a house can be heated or cooled upon need, saving energy and money. Zone Control panels with EZ Wiring have color coded wiring, push-in terminal blocks, plug-in modular cords to connect to dampers, LED status and troubleshooting and test buttons for easy installation. The Plug and Play damper motors that are used to close dampers to unused zones utilize 12V DC, consuming 80 percent less power than 24V motors.

Control Panels, installed near HVAC units, and can service up to three zones for single-stage, two- or three-stage systems.  Up to 103 zones can be controlled, and ZoneFirst says the systems are compatible with any forced-air heating and cooling systems. Remember, you’ll need a thermostat in each zone, wired or wireless.

ZoneFirst says the typical cost range per zone is less than $300 for a builder.

The video below is more focused on retrofit zoning, but shows the installation and how zooming can be sold.


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