Having options is an amenity both helpful and harrowing to the high volume builder. Once all the choices are presented, the most important question remains—which option is best?
This is certainly true when it comes to energy efficiency and even more so for HVAC systems and indoor air quality (IAQ). Considering the wide range of products that are either too expensive or too limited in their abilities, production builders have a lot to consider when heating and cooling for the mass market.
What should builders look for?
First and foremost, builders need to make sure they are integrating a smart thermostat from a reputable manufacturer.
The best way of doing this is looking to see whether the thermostat carries the Energy Aware label.
Stemming from the Energy Star rating, which applies to energy-efficient appliances such as stoves and washers/dryers, Energy Aware is currently the only nationally recognized certification for thermostats.
Builders can find a list of qualified products on the Energy Aware website, which includes names such as Honeywell and Braeburn. The label helps builders to identify and purchase a programmable thermostat that is designed to reduce energy bills without sacrificing system performance and comfort.
Builders should also pay attention to trends happening in the industry such as the continuous high volume appeal of elements such as room-by-room temperature control, remote connectivity and remote monitoring of these systems.
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What systems are best?
In order to manage this type of control, most production builders have been drawn to platforms such as Z-Wave and Zigbee. However, this isn’t always the best way to go, says Earnest Morgan, business development executive at Emerson Climate Technologies.
This is especially true if builders are working with a Wi-Fi based system, such as Emerson.
“When a homebuilder selects that technology, they take control out of the buyer’s hands for future needs. If a product is Zigbee or Z-Wave, that’s all that they can do,” says Morgan. “There are many more flexible platforms that are out there, and homebuilders are starting to look at these more.”
For high volume builders using Wi-Fi systems, carefully selecting options will work against the dangers of DIY and help them avoid limiting automation potential for their clients’ homes. Morgan points to Wi-Fi communicable platforms such as Wink, Samsung SmartThings, Apple HomeKit and Amazon Alexa, the latter of which has seen a significant spike in the industry.
“Homeowners are really engaged with that particular platform currently,” says Morgan. “I would have said something different a year ago, but we are learning and finding that products connected to Amazon Echo are really resonating with homebuilders and homeowners.”
Morgan adds that the voice control options found in Amazon Alexa appeal to many different markets that the production builder often deals with such as Millennials or active adults who may have limited mobility. Also, with the different protocols being created for Alexa, it is beginning to work with more and more devices each day.
Products such as Alexa and others offer uncomplicated solutions for builders, relying less on wiring and rather a simple Wi-Fi connected setup. Even more importantly, they offer flexibility to the buyer.
“Builders that are locking themselves into a certain platform such as Zigbee or Z-Wave are doing a disservice to their buyer,” says Morgan.
Being a Wi-Fi based system, Morgan and Emerson Climate Technologies certainly lean towards this type of solution, but there are arguably benefits to wired and closed protocols depending on the desires of the builder and their client.
Making sure there are options for both the builder and the buyer is key for the high volume market.
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