How Tech Is Changing the HVAC Sector

heating and cooling tech

UPDATED 10/22/2020

All sorts of hardware and technology are used to keep a commercial building or a house running, and this technology includes climate control; that is, air conditioning units and heaters. These systems can not only cool or warm up a house, but also adjust the humidity as well, so a building can be more comfortable for everyone in it. Any business owner should stay on top of all AC repairs and air conditioning services for their building, and a young adult should know about this when they move into a new residence on their own. And like many other forms of technology, the field of residential air conditioning services is undergoing some changes and improvements, and HVAC services can offer some products and features that they couldn’t in years past. What is HVAC technology doing with all of this, though?

Increasing Energy Efficiency

What does an HVAC technician do that requires more energy efficiency? This is a trend that many sectors are seeing, not just for HVAC companies. A large-scale effort is being made to minimize the need for fossil fuel power plants, such as phasing them out in favor of wind farms and solar panels or making current utilities highly energy-efficient to reduce demand for coal-derived energy. This is an eco-friendly trend, and HVAC motors and systems are taking part in it. It should be noted that in a typical house, about half of that property’s energy goes toward the heating and cooling utility, so if that utility is not efficient, this drives up the electric bill in a hurry. No homeowner wants that, and guzzling energy like that goes against the eco-friendly drive to reduce demand for coal-derived energy. Short of never using the HVAC utility, how can a home cut down on energy use?

One way is to draw energy from solar panel arrays or wind farms nearby, and so, a given home’s HVAC utility is operating with clean energy. If a home has solar panels on it, then they are feeding power to the entire house (and only that house), and that includes HVAC. But if a homeowner doesn’t have this option, they can ask their local air conditioning contractors to install brand-new hardware and systems to make the system efficient. A homeowner can look up local heating and cooling system installation contractors nearby who advertise this on their company page and hire them for the job. A good HVAC installation firm will have a highly informative website complete with articles, videos, and photos that showcase their work, along with contact information.

An example of new, efficient HVAC technology includes smart HVAC technology, which is a part of the “smart home” trend. Smart homes are those that can sense and regulate themselves for just about anything, and they can alert the homeowner of outstanding needs at any time (often via smartphone). Some smart homes can even automatically contact local contractors or repair crews if there is an issue. When it comes to HVAC technology, this smart home tech can sense when there is an issue, such as the need for air conditioning duct repair, and send automated messages to local contractors right away. This means that the air leak will not last long, while a homeowner might not notice the problem on their own for quite some time. Some homes across the U.S. might have air leaks for weeks or months without the owner realizing it, but the home itself can sense the problem faster.

A smart home’s HVAC technology can do more to increase efficiency. It can also sense whether or not the owner is currently in the home (or the owner can tell it), and the system will not activate heating or cooling while the owner is out of the house. While the owner is away, they can still have some control if they want; via their smartphones, these homeowners can manually adjust the home’s HVAC system and have it turn on the heat or air conditioning, so the home has the desired temperature right when the owner returns. Commercial buildings can also do this, where they only activate their heating and cooling utility while people are inside (as opposed to the middle of the night, for example). And in many cases, such smart HVAC technology can even sense whether a particular room is occupied or not, and turn the hot/cold air on or off accordingly. In that way, the house can compartmentalize itself and not bother heating up an empty room, and commercial structures can do the same to cut down on energy consumption.

Smart home technology can go a long way in streamlining a structure’s energy consumption for HVAC, but that alone isn’t transforming the industry. What are some other features an air conditioning contractor can offer for an interested client?

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps have existed for decades, but they are becoming more efficient than ever, and HVAC companies can install modern, ultra-efficient ones to help a homeowner use less electricity while heating the home. Most often, these are dual pump models that make use both of an electric heater and a gas-powered furnace, not unlike how hybrid cars use both fuel and electricity to move. In this case, natural gas is used to power the heating system up to a point, and after that, the electric system takes over and finishes the process. This dual approach cuts the electric bill somewhat, and while such a system has a significant up-front cost when HVAC services install it, this system pays for itself over time. After several years of efficient work, such a system can recoup the initial costs and continue to be efficient for years after that.

Ice Air Conditioning

This type of air conditioning unit is still a work in progress; such systems cannot yet operate for a full day. But they have, so far, proven able to cool a home for about six hours per day, and they are energy efficient during that time. How does it work? This system will chill and freeze 450 gallons of water inside a tank overnight, and then use that ice to cool the structure (often a commercial building) for about six hours the next day. By the time all that ice melts, the building’s regular air conditioning system will take over, making this a dual system. This can reduce the structure’s energy consumption overall, and business owners who live in a warm area of the nation may contact local air conditioning contractors if they offer this sort of cooling unit. They are often found in California in particular, where this technology is being pioneered. As for terminology, the overnight freezing process is the “ice charging” mode, and during the day, that system switches to the “ice cooling” mode.

Geothermal Solutions

It is possible for some HVAC companies to offer geothermal air conditioning and heating, by using underground hardware. How does this work? What is HVAC technology doing with this? An earth loop, or a series of underground pipes, will take advantage of how the earth’s temperature is consistent even if outdoor temperatures become very warm or cool. Water runs through those pipes and assumes the temperature of the underground soil, and fans and compressors allow air to get cooled or warmed by that ground-temperature water and distribute it to the house. In short, the earth’s consistent temperature is reflected in the house’s own circulated air. Geothermal pumps like these have been used since the 1940s, but the technology has only recently gained widespread attention since it plays a role in the “green technology” trend, and this system can provide free hot or warm water for the household as a bonus. Some air conditioner repair technicians say that this system can be as much as four times more efficient than electric heating/cooling systems for a house.

Other Solutions

Some solutions to the question “how can we reduce energy needs for heating and cooling?” may sound a little odd, but they have potential. For example, 3-D printing technology can be put to use this way, and it has been suggested that a 3-D printed brick can be placed in a room, and that brick is designed so it can absorb the moisture in a room and thus cool it down somewhat. This won’t have much of an effect in a hot environment, but it could be a step in the right direction. It has also been suggested that waste heat from computers could, one day, be harnessed and fed to the house’s heating system or help generate electricity. Energy efficiency means wasting nothing, and an efficient HVAC system can make use of nearly anything to make itself run.

Efficient VR Training

what is HVAC technology

Meanwhile, the crews and managers at air conditioning service firms can do their part to be resource-efficient, too. What is HVAC technology doing for them? And what do HVAC technicians do that VR can help with? Not only can they install cutting-edge tech in a client’s building, but they can use VR technology for training sessions. When this is done, the trainees can develop their skills without needing physical hardware to work on, until they are ready to practice on real hardware to finish their training course. This reduces a variety of risks and also cuts back on costs. VR technology is fairly new, but it has proven itself useful for education, entertainment, and work alike.

Efficient Air Ducts

what is HVAC technology

Many of the HVAC systems mentioned above are quite helpful for reducing costs and avoiding waste of all sorts, but the single biggest factor may be the ducts themselves. There is more than one way to build an air duct for a house or a commercial building, and older models are finding themselves made obsolete with newer ones. Older air ducts are the square model, but they are bulky and somewhat inefficient and are rather prone to air leaks. They are not completely irrelevant now but suffice it to say, oval and spiral duct models are proving superior in many applications during installation and repair jobs alike.

For one thing, these spiral ducts are more compact than square ducts are, and this means they can be installed in cramped spaces or narrow buildings where square ducts won’t even fit at all. Square ducts are bulkier and need spare room for their joint attachments, but spiral ducts fit together in a different manner, giving them a narrower profile. Spiral ducts are also quieter when in operation, and won’t rattle or vibrate as much as square ones do, which helps keep an office space quieter. What is more, these spiral ducts allow for more efficient airflow overall, which reduces the demand on the blower fans and thus cuts back on how much electricity is used to cool or warm a structure. These spiral ducts, due to how they are attached to each other, are also somewhat less prone to breaking apart and developing air leaks.

These spiral ducts are compact, allow for great airflow, and are quiet, and better yet, they are more efficient to install for all parties involved. They use less sheet metal than older air duct types, and they cost less to manufacture, package, store, transport, and install for all commercial parties involved, making them an efficient example of HVAC technology from start to finish. Any construction company owner will like how these spiral ducts cut costs while also fitting into narrow spaces. And yes, these ducts can be installed in an existing structure later, if the building has no air ducts at all or if the old square ducts need to be replaced. Most likely, once these spiral ducts are installed in an existing structure, they will recoup their up-front costs with their efficient airflow and reduced maintenance needs, making them a financially sound option in most cases.

Overall, the HVAC industry is one that has long since been taken for granted, but now, heating and cooling technicians are getting some technology boosts to keep it on pace with the “go green” initiative nation-wide. An old, dirty, or damaged HVAC system is going to waste a lot of electricity and spread around dirty air, but if that system is swapped out for a lean, efficient, smart model, then the client can enjoy a precisely controlled and energy-efficient system that pays for itself over time. It’s likely that many HVAC companies will add smart home features to many new houses under construction, and do the same for commercial structures. That, combined with HVAC systems that are powered from alternate sources, can make all the difference for homeowners and the planet alike. What is HVAC technology doing for us? It looks like it could be doing a lot more with this kind of innovation.

Even in the relatively recent past, not all houses had air conditioning. In certain areas, it was extremely difficult to live without air conditioning, but it was still considered something of a luxury. This is less likely to be the case today. Some people might choose not to use their air conditioning systems in order to save money on the energy costs. However, it’s possible to find a central air cooling system outside of a luxury home, which was not always the case. Something as simple as a dehumidifier can make a room much more comfortable. People who get their air conditioning systems adjusted will often wonder how they ever managed to live in their current homes before that point. 

There are more cheap HVAC units on the market today, since so many people now have access to this utility. Now, there is also more demand for AC repair jobs. More people have air conditioners in the first place, and there will be more problems with air conditioning systems on a societal level. HVAC technicians will have a lot of employment opportunities since they certainly have a skill that is always going to be important. People who learn about HVAC technician professions will find that it is an expanding field. 

Eventually, even the most vigilant HVAC maintenance fails and you need to replace the HVAC unit. While they cost a lot, your best course of action is to shop around for a good price on a brand name item.

While we’ve talked about HVAC technician knowledge and expertise in maintenance, you also need to realize their knowledge of various HVAC systems provides your best source of information regarding the best electric HVAC system. Which systems do they service the least often because they make them so dependable that it rarely needs repairs? Their knowledge provides you an honest appraisal.

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Your local air conditioner service providers may favor one brand over another, but they typically support major brands. Whether an HVAC tech specializes in Carrier or Trane, they should provide straightforward advice on the purchase of a new system.

Think past simply considering the sticker price. You need to invest in an HVAC system that runs well over the long-term, so it requires fewer repairs. Why spend thousands on a new unit, just to pay for repairs a year or two later. You should purchase a well-made unit that requires only scheduled maintenance visits.

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