HVAC Industry Trends: Technology That Is Improving Efficiency
Technology is changing our world on an almost day-to-day basis and the HVAC industry is being affected as much as any industry. Technology and a focus on green design are driving:
- Reduced heating and cooling loads due to green home design
- Tweaks to conventional HVAC systems that increase efficiency and sustainability
- Greater popularity of HVAC systems that employ alternative technologies
- Smart HVAC systems that can optimize operation and integrate with other systems
The pace of change is not likely to slow in the upcoming years. In fact, it is almost certain to increase. Your future success will depend on understanding and meeting your customers’ expectations in terms of product and service efficiency.
HVAC Technology That is Shaping The Industry
In a green-built home, heating and cooling equipment can be smaller, less costly and less complicated. Green HVAC design starts with considering the effects that solar orientation, insulation, window design, ventilation systems, even landscaping, have on heating and cooling loads. Optimizing these factors can reduce the size of a home HVAC system by as much as 30 to 40 percent. We are getting better and better at calculating the complex interactions of these factors precisely and using that data to choose efficient systems.
R22 refrigerant became illegal to manufacture on January 1, 2020, due to its potential for damage to the planet’s vital ozone layer. The manufacture of air conditioning units that use R22 was banned in 2010, but if you have service customers with older units, they now will need to retrofit their existing unit to work with the new R-410A refrigerant (which operates at higher pressures) or replace it with a new unit. The good news is that, not only is R-410A less toxic for the environment, but it is also more energy-efficient than R22.
DeVAP stands for Desiccant Enhanced Evaporative and is a relatively new form of air conditioning developed in the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. It can eliminate the use of environmentally harmful chemical coolant while reducing energy costs. DeVAP is an evaporative cooling system (“swamp cooler”) in which water runs into a honeycomb media. A fan blows through the honeycomb, evaporating the water and cooling the air. DeVAP improves on earlier evaporative coolers by passing the cooled air through a liquid desiccant cycle to absorb excess humidity, thereby providing cool, dry air like that offered by traditional AC units. Because its absorption cycle is much more energy-efficient than a traditional AC’s refrigeration cycle, DeVAPs can save homeowners 40-80 percent on operating costs.
Solar & Geothermal HVAC
Solar and geothermal HVAC systems both take advantage of naturally occurring heat and energy to reduce or eliminate fossil fuel usage. A solar HVAC system uses thermal energy gathered by solar paneling to heat a fluid, usually a mixture of water and antifreeze, which is run through a heat exchanger to heat the air. Solar cooling systems use evaporative cooling methods, like DeVAP technology, powered by solar energy.
Geothermal HVAC systems transfer heat to and from the earth. They use a system of pipes buried underground, called an earth loop. Water runs through these pipes and is heated or cooled, depending on the time of year, by the ground’s constant temperature (ground temperatures remain fairly steady below six feet). An indoor fan, compressor and pump deliver the conditioned air throughout the home.
Although both solar and geothermal HVAC systems have been available for decades, new technology and installation practices are reducing costs, making them more affordable and popular with homeowners.
The Internet of Things (IoT) — Smart HVAC Technology
The Internet of Things refers to the vast network of objects that are connected together via the Internet. The IoT lends itself well to the HVAC industry and sensors have been used in much HVAC equipment for years. Now, these sensors can be connected to the Internet either through wired connections or wirelessly by WiFi, Bluetooth, etc. to transmit data that can be analyzed and used to improve operational efficiency.
Applications can calculate the most energy-efficient configurations automatically. They can optimize parameters such as fan and pump management thresholds, water temperature setpoint, scheduling, etc. and set controls to minimize energy consumption. Smart controls can use the latest AI (artificial intelligence) technologies to learn homeowners’ preferences over time and adjust the temperature, fan speed, etc. automatically to their comfort level.
There are even more benefits to be gained by integrating HVAC systems with other internal and external systems, and this is undoubtedly a trend we will see grow in the future. By integrating smart HVAC controls with motion sensors, for example, a system can lower its power usage when a home is unoccupied for a period of time and ramp up again automatically when homeowners return. Incorporating other data sources can make responses even more sophisticated. Future HVAC systems may connect to weather information and anticipate a temperature change by gradually adjusting itself to sustain occupants’ comfort level in the most energy-efficient way. One day, HVAC systems may even access a homeowner’s calendar and adjust in advance to times when the homeowner will be present, arriving home after work or a child’s soccer game, or hosting multiple guests in the home.
Looking For More Ways to Improve Efficiency with Technology?
Customers today expect efficiency in their HVAC service as well as their HVAC equipment. SupplyPro GM for HVAC professionals is a cloud-based construction software system that enables you to manage residential projects from work order creation through approvals and payments, with visibility, consistency and efficiency. Feature-rich and built for mobility, this effective SaaS (software-as-a-service) solution gives you real-time information and control in every part of your business, so you can increase productivity, profits and client satisfaction.
Learn more about how SupplyPro GM can help you manage your HVAC company more effectively or schedule a demo today.