Consumers are constantly searching for more cost-effective, energy-efficient, and convenient technology when it comes to HVAC systems. The HVAC industry has experienced a large shift in the last few years in the way HVAC systems are installed and powered. Some of these changes have happened out of necessity as we move away from heavy reliance on fossil fuels, while other changes have come in response to customer preferences and shifts in technology. Keep reading below to discover some of the innovations that are already available, or which are still being developed in the HVAC industry.
Improvements in HVAC Costs
Solar power is growing in popularity around the world. It’s relatively easy to harness and can drastically lower energy costs. This technology is nothing new, but it hasn’t gained much popularity because of the upfront costs. Solar panels must be installed in a home to power the HVAC system, and they’re an investment. However, the amount of money saved over time more than makes up for the upfront costs. A recent development in solar power is to combine it with natural gas, which kicks on when solar energy is low, almost eliminating electrical costs.
Engineers are working to develop an air conditioning system that is activated by movement, which slashes running costs because it’s only run when people are at home. Motion-sensing metal rods are suspended from the ceiling and can detect motion in the room. The rods will then send a signal to the thermostat to kick on the heat or air. Though the system will likely have a large upfront cost, the savings from not running the air all the time should add up pretty quickly.
Another interesting concept is the ice-powered air conditioner. The system works by freezing a large amount of water overnight, which will then cool a building or home for up to six hours as the ice melts. After the initial cooling, a traditional cooling system takes over. While the technology still has a long way to go, six hours of keeping the A/C off can go a long way toward reducing cooling costs.
The Ecovent, a technology that is already available, replaces traditional ceiling, floor or wall vent openings. This vent comes equipped with sensors that can automatically adjust the temperature, air quality or air pressure in the room. Because each room has its vents, it’s possible to customize settings in each room, making it possible to reduce wasted air in rooms that aren’t being used, thereby cutting energy costs.
Dual fuel heat pumps are another innovation that is available. The system works as a combination of a furnace and a heat pump. Heat pumps are more efficient than traditional furnace systems, but struggle to keep up when the weather gets very cold or very hot. In that case, the furnace side of the system takes over, using gas power to keep a home cold or hot in extreme weather. The system is pricey to install, but because the heat pump and furnace work in tandem, even the combined electric and gas costs would be lower than one or the other. A dual system like this can save thousands in energy costs.
Improvements in Efficiency
Variable refrigerant flow, or VRF systems, are popular options for HVAC systems in commercial buildings, but the technology is beginning to extend to residential properties as well. In traditional systems, the refrigerant goes from the outdoor compressor unit to the indoor furnace or pump through a line. The same amount of refrigerant is constantly pumped into the line when the system is running. A variable system, however, can fluctuate the flow of refrigerant based on how much cooling or heating is needed. Less energy is used in the cooling and heating of the refrigerant, resulting in a much more energy-efficient system.
Refrigerants themselves are being updated, with many manufacturers choosing to get rid of R-22 refrigerants altogether. R-22 refrigerant produces more harmful pollutants, so many systems are making the switch to R-32 and R-123yf refrigerants, which are more environmentally friendly.
Geothermal heating continues to evolve as HVAC technology continues to improve. The geothermal heat pump works by drawing heat from a pipe installed underground and circulating that heat back to the home. When a home needs to cool down, the pump draws heat out of the home and back underground. The system can also produce hot water at no cost, eliminating the need for a water heater.
Water bills can add up quickly, which is why a U.S.-based company designed a product that can recirculate used water back into a water heater. This technology not only reduces water waste but can also cut back on the time it takes for water to heat.
Improvements in Convenience and Comfort
AI technology is becoming increasingly popular in many applications, and HVAC is no exception. Companies are working to develop AI systems that can intuitively sense temperature and air pressure, and then adjust the system to meet immediate needs in each room. This technology can reduce the wasted air in traditional systems that heat the whole house.
AI can also sense issues that arise in the ducting or mechanical function of your heating and cooling system, which can prevent costly repairs down the road. They’ll even let you know when routine maintenance is needed so that you don’t have to wait for a problem to arise to get your system serviced.
Many homes are already integrated with whole house automation which controls everything from lighting to security systems to entertainment from an app on your phone. This automation can connect to a special thermostat to control heating or cooling from your phone as well. It’s predicted that in the future, HVAC systems will be more fully involved with this automation to the point where an HVAC unit can sense and adjust comfort levels from the analytics it gathers from every room in the house, without the need for human intervention.
Another neat innovation is a growing focus on indoor air quality. With pollution and viral diseases becoming more concerning issues over the last several years, companies are developing HVAC systems that include air quality sensors, germicides and cleaners. Air purifiers are already on the market, but investing in an HVAC system with these features built-in saves you the cost and space of buying a separate unit.
These systems can detect incoming pathogens or pollutants and eliminate them, as well as clean out any existing harmful air in the space. These additions can help people who suffer from respiratory conditions like asthma or allergies, or those who are particularly susceptible to disease. It’s also a great choice for public and commercial buildings.
A Brighter Future
While we don’t know exactly what path HVAC technology will take, the focus on creating less expensive, less wasteful systems is a step in the right direction. In the past, we’ve been reliant on fossil fuels, but these new options present a wide variety of heating and cooling sources. At Precision Heating & Air, we’re dedicated to finding innovative ways to heat and cool your home. We also offer air quality, dehumidifiers, water heaters and more. Contact us today for a quote!