Find a New Comfort' Zone with Smart Technology

Find a New Comfort' Zone with Smart Technology

There's a saying in the sales business, "If you don't own it, you can't sell it." That also applies to contractors interested in advanced HVAC technology.

One HVAC business that lives by that motto is Modern Service for Home & Business, Ft. Myers, FL.

Bill Byars, vice president, installed a new Maytag 21SEER air conditioning system with iQ Drive in his own home and at the company office, to evaluate the system's humidity control capabilities.

Byars believes a trial installation at an employee's home or in the business office is an ideal, hands-on training experience, without the time pressure and customer scrutiny often associated with a real-life home installation.

Bill Byars: learn the new technology, and you'll be successful at selling it.

Al Reifel: smarter systems use less energy.

Nordyne's iQ drive system slows down when nearing the desired temperature setting, while it continues to modulate and condition the air.

Martin Edwards: entire contractor segment must appreciate new technology.

"Everyone can benefit from the learning experience, and see what potential challenges we'll encounter," Byars says.

"Anytime you use something new, no matter how much instruction you've received, you'll encounter something unexpected in the realworld installation. You'll want to eliminate some of those occurrences, so everyone's familiar and comfortable with the technology, and understands it. Then, when you're in front of the customer, it's easier to sell, explain, and install."

Smart Technology Yields Silent, Energy Efficient Systems
Maytag's iQ Drive uses inverter rotary technology developed by Nordyne and Panasonic to achieve a high level of efficiency.

"Inverter technology has been used for many years in Japan, and is making inroads into the U.S. market, but iQ Drive represents the debut of modern inverter technology in a unitary air conditioning system," says Al Reifel, Nordyne's vice president of engineering.

According to Reifel, a driving force behind the iQ Drive system was data which showed that it was possible to achieve 23-SEER efficiency and, at the same time, achieve low noise levels, system modulation, and dehumidification. Panasonic developed larger compressors and inverters, which were combined with a Nordyne chassis, system and coils.

The thermostat controller, inverter board, compressor and motors all communicate with each other, to constantly condition the air, while using the least amount of energy necessary. Traditional compressors just turn on and off, operating at 60 hz when running. However, the iQ Drive inverter technology provides modulation, for an even variance. It runs as low as 15 Hz, so it uses less power, according to Nordyne.

"The unit slows down when the temperature setting is reached, based on an algorithm we programmed into the software," Reifel says. "We modulate over a small temperature range so that the unit can slow to 40% of nominal, and up to 20% above nominal, which we call ‘turbo mode.'"

Changing Customer Impressions
Technicians can communicate in technological terms with ease; however, not many HVAC consumers care to know the details related to new comfort technologies, they just want to see and feel results in comfort and energy savings.

"They really don't want to understand how all this works as opposed to a standard air conditioning system," Byars says. "Occasionally, you might have someone who knows a little bit about refrigeration, and will have some questions, but most people don't get into the details of it."

Martin Edwards, residential and light commercial sales manager, Air Comfort, Beaumont, TX, has installed two iQ Drive systems. He says that the greater challenge in homeowner acceptance of improved technology involves breaking old habits, such as constantly adjusting the thermostat.

"With iQ Drive, it's more about controlling an indoor environment, so that by setting the thermostat at 74F, and the humidity at 48 to 49%, you're actually cooling the inside of the home without running the air conditioner at full speed," Edwards says.

"The challenge is in explaining to a customer that this is about total indoor comfort, not about blowing cold air."

Contractors: Get Into It!
Byars and other progressive contractors believe product education must continue throughout the HVAC industry, as a way to bring less-interested contractors into the 21st Century.

"The progressive contractors tell prospective customers about energy saving ideas and advanced technology, but if a less progressive competitor comes in and says ‘you just need the cheapest unit you can find', all that we've just told the customer is wasted," Byars says.

Technicians, too, can benefit by getting outside their own technology "comfort" zone.

"When we first started looking at the iQ Drive systems, I was a bit intimidated," Edwards admits, "but moving forward, to be able to compare ‘apples-to-apples' in making a proposal, more competing contractors will have to start offering higher efficiency systems. If we get more technicians, sales people, managers and owners offering and discussing higher efficiency, we'll be doing a good job of addressing it within the contractor segment."

Technological advances that Mike Zabadal, president, Zabadal Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning, Binghampton, NY, use include a Rheem Prestige 90 modulating furnace with contour comfort control. It features a seven-segment LED for system diagnostics and provides a diagnostic history for troubleshooting.

"Its key advantage is the comfort level it provides," Zabadal says, "and the payback in saved electricity alone will offset the initial expense. You've made up the difference in two to three years."

Zabadal's services an area that is heavily populated by engineers. Those who are his customers are fascinated by the technology, and are ideal prospects for state-of-the-art systems.

Zabadal is also impressed by Dunkirk's Quantum 95M, a 95% efficiency boiler, which contains an advanced microprocessor control that monitors supply and return water temperature, adjusting boiler output to match building load.

A sampling of smart HVAC innovations

The Rheem and Ruud Comfort Control System allows service technicians to use push-button fault modes to check fault code history, and pinpoint possible problems. The heart of the Comfort Control System is the on-board relay that replaces the traditional mechanical contactor. The relay package uses a switch and optical photo-sensor feedback to control the switch opening, virtually eliminating contact arcing.

The UltraTech Unitary Control, from Emerson Climate Technologies, a business of Emerson, is an integrated network of components that work together to enable HVAC systems to deliver ideal comfort performance. A two-stage Copeland Scroll UltraTech compressor and variable speed blower motor are integrated with UltraTech's outdoor control board, indoor control board, and programmable thermostat. This enables the HVAC system to share information, for improved performance.

For commercial applications, the Newport iSE environmental monitor provides web-based remote surveillance of environmental conditions in computer server rooms, clean rooms, laboratories, museums, warehouses, or any remote facility. View and record temperature, relative humidity and dew point over an Ethernet network or the Internet, with no special software— just a web browser.

Honeywell's Telephone Access Module (TAM) lets home-owners adjust home comfort levels via telephone. The module is powered by EnviraCOM, a three-wire protocol for residential and light commercial applications. The TAM connects to a standard telephone jack, and an easy-to-folllow voice menu guides the setup. The TAM will interface with Honeywell's VisionPRO IAQ thermostats, the EnviraZone Panel, Damper Interface Module, and more.

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