High-tech HVAC heating up

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Clear the air: Indoor Air Quality products trap dust and allergens from escaping into the home while the heat or air conditioning runs. | Photo by Mary Compton

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This is not your grandfather’s thermostat.

Featuring a digital touchscreen display, the icomfort WiFi thermostat from Lennox looks more like an iPhone than a control panel for a home’s furnace and air conditioning units. The seven-inch, high-definition display not only allows a user to adjust the home’s temperature, even from a remote location via any web-enabled device, but also sports a five-day weather forecast and can even host a family picture as its screensaver.

The icomfort thermostat is just one of the many high-tech products Scott Burdette, co-owner of Merts Heating & Air Conditioning, a 61-year-old business with customers across the south suburbs and Northwest Indiana, has seen enter the market in recent years.

“The way technology has advanced in the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) industry over the last couple of years is just amazing,” Burdette said.

As technology pushes its way into every corner of our contemporary lives, from the cars we drive and the TVs we watch, to the phones we carry and even the shoes we wear, it’s no surprise that innovative technology is redefining the home experience as well.

In the HVAC world, the icomfort thermostat symbolizes high-tech’s grand entry into an evolving space. The Lennox product, launched last year, uses Cloud connectivity to grant homeowners remote access to their thermostat from anywhere in the world, an important cost-saving feature as heating and air conditioning comprise more than half of a home’s energy consumption.

“No matter where you are, you now have the chance to adjust your thermostat and lower your energy costs,” Burdette said.

In addition, the thermostat’s Cloud connectivity continuously updates the system’s status to ensure up-to-date features and capabilities. It also sends e-mail alerts and reminders to both homeowners and their assigned service technicians whenever the system needs service or maintenance.

“This means any problem is addressed in quick time,” Burdette said.

Clearing the air

The icomfort thermostat, however, is far from the only high-tech offering dazzling the HVAC landscape.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) products, including humidifiers, media filters, ultraviolet lights and cold plasma generators, are leveraging technological advancements to produce cleaner air in a home.

While new homes are being built tighter and tighter in the name of energy efficiency, the improved construction processes also trap dust and allergens in the home. IAQ products, Burdette explained, clean this up and create a healthier environment for all of a home’s inhabitants.

“We’re even seeing some of these [IAQ] products installed in schools, and some studies are showing that absenteeism rates drop because the kids are in a cleaner, healthier environment,” Burdette said.

There’s also the continued emergence of high-efficiency furnace and air conditioning units sporting tech-infused terminology like variable-speed blower motors and modulating gas valves, which allow a furnace to run at a cruise control-like speed for more consistent home temperatures and a more comfortable environment.

Giving credit

Best of all, Burdette said, these high-tech, high-efficiency products produce both immediate and long-term cost savings. While more efficient equipment will decrease a home’s energy usage, and thereby its annual energy expenditures, IRS tax credits up to $500 as well as Nicor, ComEd and manufacturer rebates up to $3,200 for high-efficiency furnace and air conditioning unit installation lessen a homeowner’s initial investment.

“The advancements we’ve seen in HVAC equipment are delivering significant energy savings, but also bringing consistent comfort to the home as well,” Burdette said.

More information about these products is with Merts Heating & Air Conditioning at (708) 754-4768 or www.mertsheating.com.

By Daniel P. Smith for Merts Heating & Air Conditioning