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Fischer’s wish list includes technology advances in HVAC equipment to enable networking features like maintenance reminders and remote diagnostics. He envisions a kind of OnStar for the furnace, but says a lack of standards for such technology among HVAC suppliers puts that capability years out.
He also cites strong resistance among builders and HVAC contractors to open their minds to new climate technology. Climate control is an afterthought for most consumers, who are largely happy with the systems they use today. It follows that innovation in HVAC control isn’t likely to start on the thermostat side when there’s little mainstream demand for it, Fischer says. The challenge for enterprising C-businesses is to change the mentalities of HVAC vendors and contractors, because they have more influence over what homeowners buy versus what system integrators are able to sell, says Fischer.
“A lot of integrators tell us they can’t sell our stuff because the HVAC contractor doesn’t know enough about our product,” Fischer says. “We have to do a better job at educating the HVAC contractor so he can grow his own business and be able to assist in integrating the HVAC and remote diagnostics and status of heating and cooling.” He says HVAC contractors’ resistance to new technology is often based on false assumptions that must be set straight. “We hear things like, ‘If we connect a control wire, that will void the warranty’ (which it won’t) or ‘this control system won’t work with’ our thermostat,” Fischer says. “Our thermostat is a standard thermostat—just with another wire that connects to a control system.”
‘Clients Get It’
Opportunities for residential HVAC control have been largely untapped, agrees Andy Grant, principal of AMG Consulting in Cincinnati, who consults homeowners and architects on the benefits of integrating HVAC, lighting and security on the bases of aesthetics, energy savings and convenience. “Homeowners are used to hearing about saving money and maximizing the economics of their homes with HVAC control,” he says. Grant takes it a step further with clients who have second homes and want to keep an eye on one home while they’re at the other. “They can have cameras to see what’s going on, and when the temperature goes below a certain threshold, they get an e-mail notification,” he says. “That way, they can catch things as they’re happening rather than after the damage is done.