The earliest HVAC system prototypes that emerged at the start of the 20th century relied almost exclusively on mechanical components. Throughout the 1900s, these miraculous mechanisms evolved along with most other major technologies to incorporate more electrical components, producing more effective, efficient and advanced HVAC systems with each new year. Around the turn of the new millennium, a similar evolution prompted the incorporation of computers, software engineering, Internet technology and eventually WiFi connectivity – all of which helped to usher in the most sophisticated era of climate-control technology to date with the smart HVAC system.
Smart HVAC Systems use advanced home automation and wireless internet technology (Wi-Fi) to connect to, communicate with and establish control between your system’s sensors and other smart devices in your home like phones, PCs and tablets. There are different types of smart HVAC systems and various components of your system wherein smart tech can be incorporated, all of which we’ll get into in this article, but the main thing that distinguishes smart systems from traditional systems is the Wi-Fi connectivity.
Smart HVAC systems provide increased control, comfort, convenience and energy efficiency. Additionally, they can help you save a ton of money on short term and long term costs, and increase the overall lifespan of your HVAC system.
The core mechanical and electrical components of a smart HVAC system – ie. the air conditioner, furnace, vents, fans, filters, etc. – all function basically the exact same as they would otherwise in a traditional system. With the addition of smart technology, however, these basic functions are analyzed, supplemented and ultimately optimized by the addition of internet connectivity, remote control capabilities, advanced automation features and increased energy monitoring.
As stated earlier, the feature that distinguishes and drives smart HVAC tech more than anything else is it’s ability to connect and communicate via wireless Internet (Wi-Fi). This Wi-Fi connection gives you the power to access and control your system like never before, and it allows your system’s components to work in sync with one another to produce quicker, more effective and more precise results.
By connecting your HVAC system to your home or building’s Wi-Fi network, smart systems allow you to access, monitor and control your system and its settings remotely via your smartphone, tablet or computer. This saves you from having to get up and walk over to the thermostat, which is nice, but more importantly it allows you to easily adjust your settings from virtually anywhere outside of your home.
When they say these HVAC systems are smart, they mean it. In addition to allowing you to customize, schedule and remotely control your system’s settings, smart systems also have the ability to learn, adapt and automatically adjust to your comfort needs based on sensor input from changing conditions and prior customized settings or parameters.
The advanced connectivity and sensor technology present in smart HVAC systems allow for more precise energy monitoring. This in turn allows for increased precision over energy use and dispensation, and a significant overall increase in your home or building’s energy efficiency.
There’s a ton of upsides to investing in a smart HVAC system for your home or building, but for the sake of space (and our readers’ time), we’ve boiled our list down to the five biggest. These benefits include energy efficiency, cost savings, comfort control, system lifespan and smart home integration capability.
As mentioned, the advanced energy monitoring of smart HVAC systems will inevitably increase energy efficiency, but it’s not the only factor that contributes in this regard. The climate zoning capabilities of smart systems, for example, help to reduce wasted energy by allowing you to deprioritize energy use in unoccupied rooms.
Another huge benefit to smart HVAC systems is the enormous cost saving potential. In addition to increasing energy efficiency and thus decreasing monthly utility costs, smart systems can also save you money on long term costs like maintenance, repairs and system replacement by monitoring maintenance needs, detecting problems in your system and increasing the overall lifespan of your system, the latter of which is a benefit in and of itself.
If you think of an HVAC system like a human body, a smart system is like somebody with a built-in FitBit that constantly monitors their health, performance and energy levels, then automatically adjusts their diet, exercise and lifestyle habits in order to optimize those metrics as much as possible at all times. In addition to all the immediate benefits this provides by way of increased system performance, it can also pay off in the long term by increasing your system’s overall lifespan by several years.
By combining precision monitoring, remote Wi-Fi connectivity, customizable comfort scheduling and smart home automation, smart HVAC systems allow you to take control of your comfort like never before. Plus with the zoning capabilities of a smart system, you can adjust the temperature, humidity and air flow to attain peak thermal comfort for yourself in one room without sacrificing somebody else’s in another or wasting energy in unoccupied rooms.
Smart HVAC systems can also be connected with and integrated into larger smart home systems and building automation systems. These integrated systems allow you to monitor and control multiple separate systems like lighting, security, HVAC and more all from one centralized hub. In addition to added convenience and control, this type of integration significantly boosts the energy efficiency of your entire home or building by allowing these various systems to connect with one another and allowing you to monitor your energy use between systems.
The type of smart HVAC system you get basically depends on which components of your existing system you’ve chosen to upgrade and/or replace with smart tech. You can significantly improve your existing setup just by installing a new smart thermostat, go all in with a fully decked out smart system that with a smart AC unit, smart furnace and smart vents to match, or whatever other combination of components best suit your needs.
Smart thermostats are an important first step into the world of smart HVAC. Like traditional thermostats, smart thermostats function as the main data hub and dedicated control center for your HVAC system. Unlike traditional thermostats, smart thermostats use Wi-Fi to constantly receive, interpret and respond to data from highly sophisticated sensors throughout your home and system. The Wi-Fi connectivity also enables you to view, monitor and control smart thermostats remotely via other smart devices. Ironically, this eliminates the need for a dedicated control panel setup altogether, but most folks still prefer to have at least one wall-mounted panel.
Smart air conditioners perform all the same basic functions as traditional air conditioners – ie. pumping air in and out, getting it to temperature and so on. The big difference, thanks to the added power of smart tech, is that smart A/C units are able to take these basic functions to another level in terms of their performance. With the same precision monitoring, intuitive sensors and Wi-Fi connectivity used by smart thermostats to communicate with the rest of your system, having a smart air conditioner on the other end of your system produces an even higher degree of synchronicity, compatibility and efficiency between all the various parts and appliances that make up your system.
Similar to smart air conditioners but for heating, smart furnaces do the same job as normal furnaces – they just do that job a whole lot better, faster, cheaper and with a much higher degree of precision. Equipped with the same smart tech features as their cooling counterparts, smart furnaces work in sync with your smart thermostat and other system components to provide the ideal level of heat wherever it’s needed most, while simultaneously conserving and saving as much energy as possible. Since it typically takes more energy and money to heat a home than it does to cool it, smart furnaces are a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and your heating bills during the colder months.
Smart vents are an extremely handy technology capable of increasing your energy efficiency and producing an effect comparable to HVAC zoning (dividing one centralized system into multiple separate sub-systems with individualized climate control). Smart vents are essentially a series of dampers in your air vents that open and close precisely as needed in order to maximize control of your home’s air flow by diverting more or less air to one or more channels. In addition to working in tandem with your system to achieve your desired settings, smart vents also work intuitively to increase your system’s efficiency and decrease wasted air.
While there aren’t many downsides to smart HVAC systems in theory or in practice, there are a few things you should consider before investing. These include your existing system’s compatibility with smart system upgrades, the internet connectivity needed in order for those upgrades to function properly, and, of course, the initial cost of those upgrades.
In order for one or more smart HVAC components to function within a system, they must be compatible with the systems into which they’re being installed. While most modern HVAC systems will support the integration of smart components rather seamlessly in most instances, older and less advanced systems may not. In the latter case, you may need to make additional upgrades or even replace your system entirely in order to integrate any kind of smart tech.
Since smart HVAC systems rely on wireless internet connections in order to function, it’s also important to account for your home or building’s internet connectivity. To many homes and businesses nowadays, Wi-Fi access has become just as essential as running water, so chances are you already have the necessary internet setup. In some instances, however, like with structures in remote areas, or even in certain rooms of your house, weak or inexistent Wi-Fi connectivity could potentially pose an issue if you want to install a smart system.
Regardless of whether you’re just dipping your toes into the water with a new smart thermostat or diving into the deep end with a complete overhaul of your system, there will obviously be costs to consider. In addition to the cost of the equipment itself – which can be anywhere from a couple hundred to several thousand depending on what you get – you’ll also have to factor in the cost of installation. Keep in mind that lack of system compatibility and internet access can drive these initial costs even higher, but don’t forget that you’ll be saving money month-to-month and year-to-year with your new system.
To recap everything we covered in this article, smart HVAC systems are a great way to boost energy efficiency, reduce costs and increase your system’s comfort, control and convenience. While there’s a lot to consider before investing, including system compatibility, internet connection and initial costs, the rewards of smart HVAC systems far outweigh the risks.
Whether you’re looking to boost your home’s energy efficiency and decrease your monthly utility bills, optimize your system’s performance and extend its overall lifespan, or just make your life a little easier and get with the times, investing in a smart HVAC system may be the smartest thing you do all year. As the inevitable next step in the evolution of HVAC technology, it’s only a matter of time before smart HVAC systems become the new norm.
If you’re interested in learning more about smart HVAC systems, visit the links listed below to get additional info and browse smart home products from the brands we trust most.
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