OEMs are In Control
ACHR News, June 22, 2015. Image credit: Life-Of-Pix
There are numerous third-party smart controls available — including the Nest thermostat, which some feel initiated the trend toward smart controls — but control platforms offered by OEMs can often lead to more robust system performance. As Scott Evans, EcoNet product manager, Rheem Mfg. Co., noted: “OEMs have a deeper knowledge of low-level functions and fully understand the role of the equipment within an ecosystem. For example, our Control Center operates both air and water systems and provides diagnostic information that’s unique to us, making it difficult for a third party to connect and make that information available to homeowners.”
Rheem’s EcoNet smart home system connects and controls a home’s Rheem or Ruud high-efficiency heating, cooling, and water-heating equipment, and homeowners can control settings and regulate temperatures through an app on their smartphones, tablets, or Web portals. The system’s Control Center acts as both a thermostat and a remote control for connected water heaters. It features a simple touchscreen interface to make temporary temperature modifications, create weekly schedules, or plan for vacations.
“EcoNet is a fully communicating system that is designed to get the maximum efficiencies out of an HVAC system, and, without the detailed equipment knowledge, third parties can’t do this as accurately,” said Evans. The EcoNet system uses a proprietary protocol, and enabled products are connected through standard HVAC wiring. Contractors can then add an EcoNet Wi-Fi kit, allowing homeowners to access everything remotely and securely through a free mobile app or mobile-friendly website.
Third-party smart controls also don’t work as well with geothermal heat pumps, said Tim Litton, director of marketing communications, WaterFurnace Intl. Inc., because they have to be more general in order to be compatible with multiple technologies, equipment, and brands. “Geothermal heat pumps don’t operate in the same way as traditional furnaces, air conditioners, or air-source heat pumps, and trying to shoehorn control schemes onto geothermal units often results in higher operating costs.”