Choosing the right air conditioning system- How can I make my existing or new air conditioner smart?
US market is flooded with a huge variety of air conditioners from multiple manufacturers. The air conditioner types range from central systems to stand-alone air conditioners. With the advent of summers and the expected temperature hikes, you must be in the process of deciding to improve the existing cooling system or straightway going for a new system.
Here is the dilemma. Should I upgrade the existing system or should I go for a stand-alone system to create cooling zones in my home or at my business? The decision gets further complicated in deciding about the brand to go for and how much you need to spend. The rapid adoption of smart controls is also impacting the air conditioning industry and your choice of system is also dictated by the fact that how you can achieve the smartness from a new system or smart AC up-gradation of your existing system.
I will try to give you the brief about various options of cooling but my main focus would be on stand-alone air conditioners owning to their better efficiencies and zoned cooling capabilities. I will also be discussing in detail how you can make your AC smart and the smart air conditioner options for your existing air conditioners or your new buy. So let’s start with various types of air conditioning systems available in the market or being used in your premises.
- Central air conditioning systems
This is the most common type of cooling system being used in North America. Owning to large cooling capacity, the central systems are mostly used in large homes and business premises. These systems circulate cool air through supply and return ducts. These systems are controlled through a thermostat. The controlling thermostat can be analog, digital or smart. Companies like Goodman, Panasonic, American Standard, Lennox, and many more companies are providing central cooling systems to both residential and business customers.
- Ductless mini split air conditioners
Ductless mini-split systems are fast becoming a popular choice for cooling. These systems require no extensive ducting and are easy to use. The biggest advantage is their superior efficiencies and great value to the money spent. These systems provide you the option to install them in parts of home instead of cooling the whole home. These systems have an outdoor compressor and an indoor handling unit. They are a great choice for individual room cooling. Popular brands in the market include Mitsubishi, LG, Mrcool, Pioneer, Perfectaire, JCI etc. Some ductless, mini-split systems can have multiple indoor connected to the single outdoor unit.
- Window air conditioners:
Window AC is the unitary system where the compressor and fan are housed in the same casing. It was popular in old apartments but you have to create a hole in the wall to house this unit. The system is power hungry and if you have got any existing window unit, you have to make it smart for better efficiencies. Famous brands include LG, Whirlpool, Frigidaire, Danby, and Toshiba.
- Portable air conditioner:
Portable air conditioners are also popular in homes and the unit is equipped with an exhaust pipe. The unit takes in air from the room and cools it, then directs it back into the room. The warm air is vented outside through an exhaust hose that is installed in a window. Popular brands include LG, Movincool, Frigidaire, and Delonghi.
- Geothermal Heating & Cooling:
The geothermal systems are common in residential areas of Northwest. These systems do not require a lot of lands and only have minimal effects on building premises. Geothermal air conditioning systems are considered efficient and long-lasting than other types of cooling equipment. Popular brands are Trane, Daikin, and Mitsubishi.
What is a smart air conditioning?
Any air conditioner which is connected to the internet and controllable through your phone from anywhere with some intelligent features is known as the smart air conditioner. Smart air conditioning is a relatively new trend in the market and more and more customers are converting their existing air conditioners into smart air conditioners. The biggest advantage of a smart air conditioner is its energy-saving potential. The trend of smart air conditioners is being adopted by a large number of customers. The features of control from anywhere, intelligent scheduling and location-based air conditioner control are even driving the vision of tech thought leaders.
As per Elon Musk, the Tesla car connected smart air conditioning should be like, “ It should predict when you are going to be home and then cool the rooms you are likely to use with a little bit of intelligence. We are not talking about a ‘genius’ home — just basic stuff.”
The smart features provided by some smart HVAC companies even surpass the wish of Elon Musk.
Energy savings with a lot of user convenience is a hallmark of any smart air conditioner.
Smart AC controls for room air conditioner:
Room air conditioners can be mini splits, windows or portable ACs. These systems are ideal if you want to cool a particular room or a zone inside your home or business. The popular companies which provide smart controls for RACs include Cielo, Ambi Climate, Airpatrol and Honeywell.
Choosing the best control for your stand-alone AC:
While choosing the smart control for your stand-alone air conditioner, you should be considering the following factors:
- Compatibility with your air conditioner
- Ease of Installation
- Ease of setup, registration, and use
- Availability of native apps for Android and iOS
- Energy saving features
- Compatibility with other smart controls being used inside the home
Top ten features of a really smart air conditioner?
The smart air conditioner should have the following features to be worthy of your purchase.
- Plug n Play Smartness
The smart controllers for stand-alone AC should be plug n play so that you do not have to spend extra money on installation services.AC peripherals installation cost is huge and a DIY product in the hands of the customer can be a great advantage.
- Temperature & Humidity monitoring & display
Few smart controls for ACs come with a display screen where you can see actual room condition right on the screen. This is possible due to the built-in temperature and humidity sensors in the smart device. Built-in temperature and humidity sensor ensure that your set point temperature is the temperature you are getting. This feature is very important to ensure a comfortable environment inside the room. Companies like Cielo and Ambiclimate are providing smart controls with great temperature and humidity sensing.
- Intelligent scheduling for energy savings & comfort
Scheduling is very important for your comfort and savings. Daily/weekly schedules help you achieve your savings goals without compromising your comfort. An intelligent schedule means that you can schedule temperature, time to temperature, fan speed and modes, right from your mobile phone.
- Location-based Controls
So often we forget to turn off our air conditioners when we leave in a hurry or we find a hot and humid home when we come back from the office. These situations affect our energy savings and add inconvenience to our daily lives. Automatic turn off your ACs once you have left and auto power on at set conditions before you arrive is possible through location-based controls and geo-fencing. This is a must-have feature in any smart air conditioner.
- Voice-activated HVAC controls
Compatibility with voice controls like the Google Home and Amazon Alexa are also important and you can actually talk to your AC. Taking convenience to the next level. Now, this is smart. Giving commands to your AC from your bed without raising your finger or even eyebrow.
- Monitoring of Air filter status
A dirty AC air filter results in bad room conditions and also AC consumes more energy. Few equipment providers like Cielo has come up with this clever feature, where you can monitor live AC air filter status and get a timely reminder to clean the air filter.
- Group Control of multiple air conditioners
This feature enables the user to power on/off all the connected ACs with a single push of the button on their mobile apps from anywhere. This is a very useful feature for hotels, schools, and hospitals.
- Zone creation
The smart AC control must give you the power to create multiple zones through a smart app and then control these zones from a single app. This is more useful in bigger homes and hotels.
- Usage History for effective consumption tracking
Usage history enables users to keep track of their saving goals. Daily, weekly or monthly usage history information helps you plan your future use and enable you to achieve your energy-saving goals.
- Temperature Range control
This is a great feature if you are using the smart controls for your hotel or vacation rentals. You can set a range of temperatures within which your ACs are bound to operate. Clever way to save energy and keep your AC cost down.
Apart from the above features, the security and latency of communication are very important. While choosing the smart control for your AC you must have knowledge of backend cloud. The latest IoT specific clouds from companies like Amazon, Microsoft or Google is a big plus for any smart AC control.
At the end of the day, the saving through smart Air Conditioner controls is in your hand. You have to apply all the smart features in such a fashion that you minimize your energy consumption and maximize your comfort.
Top 3 smart air conditioning products in the market for stand-alone ductless air conditioners?
Following are three of my personal favorite smart AC controllers based on my personal use and features they offer. You can always conduct your own online search to find a few others. Right now you have to bear with my choice. Here is the brief detail:
The smart control by Ambiclimate is a simple plug and play device. They claim it to be AI-powered. The company is based in Hong Kong. The features include scheduling, location controls, voice controls and off-course control from anywhere. The communication is Wi-Fi based. The product connects to AC through infrared communication. The product is powered up through a 5V adapter. The product is wall mounted.
Airpatrol is a Europe based company and they provide multiple smart products including a smart controller for stand-alone air conditioners. The device is plug n play and has got all the smart features required to call the connected AC as a smart AC. The communication is Wi-Fi based. The product connects to AC through infrared communication. The product is powered up through a 5V adapter. The product is wall mounted.
Cielo is a US-based smart HVAC company. They have complete product basket of smart controls for stand-alone air conditioners tailored to specific needs and budgets of end customers. Cielo is offering three models of smart AC controllers:
- Cielo Breez:
Smart Wi-Fi AC controller with an LCD screen and the on-device temperature buttons. Powered up through a 5V adapter. It can be wall mounted or placed on a table stand. Works with Wi-Fi. Compatible with almost all AC brands (Mini splits, window or portables).
- Cielo Breez Eco:
Smart Wi-Fi AC controller with the on-device power button. Powered up through a 5V adapter. It can be wall mounted or placed on a table stand. Works with Wi-Fi. Power on/off without Wi-Fi.Compatible with almost all AC brands (Mini splits, window or portables). Most affordable option.
- Cielo Breez Plus:
Smart Wi-Fi AC controller with a full range of on-device local controls. Powered up through a 5V adapter or can be hardwired through 24V AC/DC. Wall mounted or placed on a table stand. Works with or without Wi-Fi. Compatible with almost all AC brands (Mini splits, window or portables).The best option for hotels, vacation rentals, schools, hospitals, and other business premises.
Few of AC manufacturers have come up with their own brand smart ACs. The biggest problem with these smart AC is that you have to stick to a particular brand and they can’t do anything to make your existing AC smart. Plus, you have to be content with whatever smartness they are offering. In most cases, they are just providing a connected AC with little or no smartness.
Rebates on a ductless air conditioner
Many utilities in the US are giving huge rebates on ductless air conditioners as they are efficient and result in less load on the utility grid. While choosing your air conditioner for this summer, you can always benefit from the offered rebates. Rebates are given in the form of initial purchase rebates and use rebates. Almost all ductless AC OEMs in the US has got some models which qualify for rebates and end customer like you can benefit from these rebates by opting for those particular models.
Maximize the air conditioning rebates with smart air conditioning?
In the case of a central system, rebates are given on smart thermostats also. Thermostats from Nest, Ecobee, and Honeywell are leading smart thermostats that qualify for these utility rebates. In the case of stand-alone systems, utility rebates are recently introduced and in the year 2019, it is expected that smart controls for ductless systems would also be eligible for wider rebates. You can keep your fingers crossed.
The future of air conditioning?
Air conditioning has surely evolved over the years. The appliance OEMs have managed to increase the efficiencies and seasonal efficiency ratings. Government and utilities are employing new tactics and bringing out new legislation to further improve the efficiencies. With the advent of smart home technologies, innovative HVAC products have also shown great market inroads. Intelligent product features and emerging technologies have propelled the growth of the heating and cooling industry, resulting in efficient air condition in unison with a lot of convenience to the end user.
The smart thermostat has changed everything on the central cooling systems. Now people are saving more with a lot of conveniences. Utilities are benefiting from smart technologies to alleviate the load from the grid. Utilities are also transferring these benefits to the end customer through financial rebates. On the stand-alone air conditioning side, the smart controls are speedily entering the market and their benefits are already more than visible.
Smart air conditioning is the future of the AC industry. Already the smart controls have made great inroads into the HVAC market. The trend is bound to establish and further thrive. The benefits of smart air conditioning are huge and these smart controls are already benefiting the OEMs, end users, utilities and even governments.
The race is on for a smart AC solution provider. At the end of the day, it is users like me and you, who will decide the winner in this race. For a smart solution provider, the formula is simple. Give ease to your customers. Ease in the form of installation, setup, use, and benefits.