When replacing a central heating or air conditioning system in a customer's home, it's not as easy as just switching out the box. These are complex systems, and a lot goes into the installation, set up and configuration. Manufacturers want to ensure that their equipment is performing at the efficiency standards it was built for. Several major manufacturers are making systems with advanced communicating controls that allow for a more simplified set up. HVACR Distribution Business magazine spoke with two of them about their latest innovations in communicating controls.
“The Trane ComfortLink™ II is our communicating system,” says Tim Storm, controls and zoning product manager for Ingersoll Rand. “The whole goal behind communicating systems was making sure that we had a system that was easy for the dealer to install and set up so that we can deliver the best comfort and efficiency for the homeowner. We did that by putting digital controls on both the indoor and outdoor units, and the thermostat.” Storm likens plugging in new items to a unit with digital controls to plugging in a digital camera to a computer. “It automatically recognizes that there's a new piece of hardware. The same thing happens with our equipment.”
Bob Swilik, manager of product marketing for Carrier's Residential Systems, explains how the Carrier Infinity line of products uses the advanced control system. “Introduced in 2004, Carrier's Infinity line was the first communicating system in the industry. It automatically recognizes each of the components within the system, including the furnace, the air conditioner and any other components,” Swilik says. Then the control automatically configures the system for comfort and efficiency, depending on how it's set up.”
Before communicating controls, the set up of the systems was much more complex. “There may have been 20 or 30 diagrams that a contractor would have to go through to figure out how to wire a system properly,” Swilik says. “There would be nine extra wires if they were to add dehumidification to the system. The set up was pretty cumbersome and you'd have to be an expert to set it up. With communicating controls, all the installer has to do is hook up four wires and the system configures itself.”
Storm agrees: “The installer doesn't have to worry about the extra expense or difficulty in damaging the home trying to figure out where to drill holes for extra wires. ComfortLink II communicating systems only require two wires to the outdoor unit and three wires from the indoor unit to where the thermostat is installed. For the replacement market, that's really a great benefit for the dealer.”
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Another key benefit of communicating systems is that it gives homeowners more control of their comfort. “The homeowner can control temperature, humidity, air flow and adjust the continuous fan,” Swilik says. “The home-owner can also control up to eight different zones. The temperature in each room can be easily controlled by one central user interface. We have a website (myinfinity.carrier.com) that makes it accessible on the Internet. Users can set temperatures remotely from a computer or a mobile device.”
“Our new Trane ComfortLink II Control has a 7-inch color screen that gives the homeowner a better visualization of system status.” Storm explains. There's a green LED light in the right-hand corner of the screen that lets the homeowner know if the system is running properly. If a system fault occurs, there will be a pop-up message on the screen that will have the dealer contact information. The system also logs all the times and dates of the system errors so when the technician gets to the home, they will know the history of the issue. It makes the dealer more efficient and timely, and it's less cost to the homeowner for repairs because there is less time troubleshooting for faults.”
Trane has even taken it one step further by adding a security option for homeowners. “The ComfortLink II Control is compatible with Schlage LiNK, which allows them to have remote access, control and monitoring of their thermostats as well as digital locks, light and video cameras from an Internet-connected computer or smart-phone,” Storm says.
Benefits of Ducted and Ductless Systems
“Having a ducted system in a house allows for airflow in every room,” Swilik says. “When you close and open doors to different rooms, there isn't a big temperature swing in the house.”
“The primary benefit is that everything is hidden,” Storm says. “With ducted systems, the only exposed equipment indoors is the thermostat. A ducted system provides comfort to the entire home from a single system.”
Both manufacturers agree that ductless systems are a growing segment in the industry. “There are places for ducted systems and there are places for ductless,” Swilik says. “Typically, with most homes, if a ducted system is already in place, the best option would be to replace it with another ducted system. There are times when a ductless system is the better option, like in older homes that don't have a system in place or existing ductwork.”
Storm agrees. “If you add an additional room to the home, or close in a garage or patio and you don't have a way to put ductwork in, then a ductless system is the way to go,” he says.
Kate Kelly is an associate editor with Contracting Business magazine. Contact her at 216/931-9755 or[email protected].