The ComfortNet communicating control system — recently launched by Goodman Global, Inc., Houston, TX — is helping HVAC contractors leave behind the time-consuming (and potentially confusing) wiring arrays frequently associated with high-efficiency residential HVAC systems.
ComfortNet supports various Goodman® and Amana® brand HVAC products. With a ComfortNet communication control system, an HVAC technician will never need to use more than four control wires to connect a gas furnace or air handler to the control system. Additionally, a transformer is included with the control kit; the transformer can be installed in the condensing unit, reducing wiring requirements to just two wires.
Gary Clark, senior vice president, marketing, says Goodman wanted to ensure that ComfortNet's sophistication wasn't overshadowed by complication. The easier it is to install, the better.
"Traditionally, higher efficiency, HVAC products are more complicated to install than minimum efficiency systems," Clark says. "Goodman doesn't think that’s a good formula. We want to provide a high-efficiency system that's as easy to install as our base model. The basis for this reasoning is the result of customer feedback, but was also intuitive: if a product is easier to install, you're likely to sell more of them, especially during peak business seasons."
Jim Fisher, Goodman product manager for ComfortNet, gas furnaces, and indoor air quality (IAQ), says ComfortNet's design is helping to guide the logical evolution of residential HVAC systems.
"It's the type of technology that can advance the HVAC industry's approach to indoor climate control," Fisher says, and adds that ComfortNet's built-in installation advantages work on multiple levels to assist installation technicians.
"In many situations, just needing four wires, instead of seven or eight, brings a considerable time savings and simpler installation," Fisher explains. "Technicians often must pull new control wires to accommodate higher efficiency, multi-stage equipment. ComfortNet includes an option that allows you to run only two wires to the outdoor unit, even when installing an 18-SEER, two-stage, dual-fuel system. In most cases, you can use the existing thermostat wire in a change out."
Furthermore, ComfortNet virtually programs itself, thanks to its auto-configuration features. Once the low voltage wires and the ComfortNet control are in place, it performs a search for the HVAC system's indoor and outdoor components. Next, the control system uses shared data programming to automatically setup airflow and all operating characteristics, based on the capacity of the indoor and outdoor system components.
The ComfortNet control system actively monitors and analyzes the entire HVAC system for irregular conditions. If it detects any such conditions, the control will take appropriate action, and display the results in the diagnostic menu on the ComfortNet control unit. The 12-sq.in. touch screen display and oversized touch keys simplify programming. An intuitive menu —with audio prompts and color-coded temperature touch keys — allows for quick adjustments.
Other ComfortNet features include dedicated programmable or non-programmable modes, a selectable energy management recovery program and battery backup. The communication system is dual-fuel compatible out of the box, as the outdoor unit includes the balance point temperature sensor.
Clark says ComfortNet is available at a time when dual-fuel systems are becoming more popular, and homeowners are trying to maneuver through the changing energy landscape.
"In the past, one of the impediments to dual-fuel was that you'd have to run a lot more wires to the outdoor unit. With ComfortNet, you don't have to worry about that. You take away one of the big barriers to the transition, and give the homeowner increased flexibility: if natural gas prices increase, they can shift to the heat pump, and vice-versa," Clark says.
Goodman is confident that ComfortNet's sophistication and simple installation will help HVAC contractors close bigger and better home comfort system sales. — Terry McIver