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Grow Your HVAC Business: Sell Solutions to the Smart Home Customer

Nest Smart ThermostatThe Smart Home and all the various products that are available to connect the home’s HVAC, electrical, security and other systems was the biggest rage at the 2015 Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas. The big takeaway from the show was that we are moving rapidly towards a connected world and there’s really no way around it.

In the June 29, 2015 issue of ACHR News, Editor Kyle Gargaro talks about the Internet of Things (IoT) (http://www.wired.com/2014/11/the-internet-of-things-bigger/) and the move to have all HVAC systems electronically connected to house and building network and control system. This is being pushed by the Department of Energy and local utility companies also to enable connection to the smart grid, in order to better manage energy consumption. The IoT is coming and the Smart Home is already here. The successful HVAC contractor should embrace this incredible marketing and business opportunity. Since the HVAC system of a home is one of the biggest users of energy, it will be one of the most important elements to manage in the smart home. As a trusted HVAC contractor, you can assist your customers in making smart choices about smart home products such as thermostats, ventilation systems and home area network hubs. And they will reward your knowledge and assistance with loyal, repeat business and customer referrals.

Homeowners and building managers are increasingly looking to Wi-Fi enabled smart technology for efficient HVAC systems. Recent research from IHS Technology predicts that by 2018 homeowners will have installed 45 million smart home devices and services and that the smart home market will achieve around $12 billion in annual revenue within five years. (bit.ly/InetOfHome)

HVAC Contractors have a unique opportunity to become the smart home expert with their customers and provide much-needed education that consumers want on how a connected home works and what the benefits are. You’re also building your business as a reliable source for high-tech products and services for the younger generations. Millennials are now the country’s largest homebuyers and they are looking for professionals who understand their technology needs. When you can offer them tech-savvy, money saving products, you will become their contractor of choice.

Here are a few of the products and benefits you will want to keep in mind as you talk to your customers about creating a smart home:

  1. Smart Thermostats – One of the most important smart devices in the home is the smart thermostat. There are a wide variety of thermostats in the market. Smart thermostats break out into three categories:
  • Connected smart thermostats – The term “connected” refers to WiFi-enabled smart thermostats that allow users to control temperature settings remotely from a smartphone or computer. While models on the market vary, most also offer touchscreen displays that track energy usage in real-time and over given time intervals – providing useful feedback and helping users save. WiFi-enabled units are especially useful for homeowners who often forget to pre-set their programmable thermostats or have unpredictable or irregular schedules.

Many homeowners also consider scheduling their temperature levels to be more user-friendly on a computer, especially when compared to fiddling with tiny buttons on a standard programmable thermostat. Most “connected” models also come equipped with smartphone apps for an even more interactive experience.

  • Learning thermostats –  The newest type of thermostat on the market are “learning” smart thermostats. These thermostats claim to learn daily habits and automatically schedule temperature levels accordingly. In addition, these models often come equipped with features such as sensors that monitor motion, light and humidity. All learning models on the market are also WiFi-enabled. So, if you’re stuck at work later than usual, you can easily let your system know via smartphone or computer and prevent it from cooling an unoccupied home

One disadvantage to learning thermostats is that they require some semblance of regularity to function at their best. These models are better suited for users with fairly set schedules but who often forget (or simply don’t want to) fidget with their thermostat before leaving the house.

Like their “connected” cousins, learning thermostats can be pricey. If your customers are currently using an older, non-programmable thermostat, the energy savings they will reap from switching to a learning model could quickly offset its cost. However, learning units haven’t been on the market for very long – meaning it’s difficult to say for certain just how much energy you’ll save by making the switch. The bottom-line is: If the customer is already using a programmable thermostat properly, you’re unlikely to see significant savings by switching to a learning model. But if they tend to neglect their programmable settings, opting for a thermostat that adjusts automatically could be just what they need to cut energy costs.

  1. Smart Ventilation Systems – The new smart ventilation systems are revolutionizing the way an HVAC system provides the right amount of airflow to ensure maximum comfort in a home. Smart Ventilation systems communicate with the thermostat to manage the temperature and airflow in particular rooms throughout the home. These systems manage the flow of air room by room through the automatic control of the vents and allow a resident to turn the volume of airflow up or down in a particular room or area of a home based on a variety of factors. Smart ventilation systems are new in the U.S., but they have been used for years throughout Europe. There are several benefits of installing a smart ventilation system for your home/building owner, such as:
  • reductions in energy use and energy costs
  • equivalent or enhanced Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
  • reductions in peak load (or equivalently time-of-use pricing)
  • ability to respond to demand response events
  • flexibility that allows a wide variety of goals to be implemented on one platform, without expensive hardware/equipment changes, and
  • a cloud-connected platform that facilitates future adjustments to control behavior of airflow in response to ongoing changes in climate, regulation, energy prices, grid dynamics, or occupant behavior.
  1. Smart Home Network Hubs – With the myriad of devices in the home and the need to connect them all for ease of use and management, the smart home network hub has become the brain of the smart home system. It is important to understand how these hubs work with to make recommendations to your customers about the best network hub for their home and lifestyle. In addition, may hubs only work with their proprietary smart products, so it is important to understand the limitations of those types of network hubs.

In addition to homeowners moving toward a smart home, home and commercial builders are designing their homes and buildings with the IoT in mind. To take the lead in the “smart” building space, today’s HVAC contractors need to ensure they provide the knowledge and the products to their customers now and in the future, which means staying abreast of industry trends. Look to Carrier Enterprise to assist you in carrying products and providing the knowledge and information you will need to succeed in the connected building environment.