The Best New HVAC System Technology

By Lyle Weischwill | Oct. 01, 2016 4:31 pm PST

Technology innovations in both conventional and mini-split systems can make heating and cooling your home easier and more efficient.

You know that thermostat on your wall? The thing you squint at while adjusting the dial up or down depending on the temperature — and yet, you’re always too hot or too cold?

Those days are gone.

Get smart

Thermostats have gotten smarter — so smart, in fact, that they’re communicating with your HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system to not only raise and lower the temperature but to help diagnose problems. Heck, some will even tell you when it’s time to change your filter. And if you want to warm up your house before you get home from work, for instance, you can have control over that via smartphone. Welcome to the new world of HVAC.

Both Kenmore’s and Carrier’s conventional HVAC split systems (an indoor furnace or fan coil with an outdoor condensing unit) offer these capabilities, says Russ Katsov, a HVAC expert for Sears Home Services. “And the thermostats are touch screens — no buttons or dials.”

The only downside to smart thermostats, according to Katsov, is that many consumers “lose interest or don’t know how to reprogram the system if it needs to be reset.”

Eventually, though, the technology will become easier to use.

Carrier now has a thermostat that can call or send an email to a pre-designated agency to let them know there’s a problem—a step in the right direction.

Keeping things quiet

Not everyone has space for a conventional ducted system, and the use of the ductless mini-split system is on the rise. Instead of a having a ducted fan coil inside your home, you have a ductless fan coil that hangs on the wall and cools a room.

“You don’t have to put in a noisy wall unit anymore,” Katsov says. “This is very quiet and efficient.”

It gets better: There’s been an evolution in ductless mini-split HVAC systems, he adds. “Now you can have as many as eight ductless fans that work off a single condensing unit outside.”

Each fan cools a particular zone. Mitsubishi’s mini-split system is one of the most popular.

“Initially these mini-splits may be more expensive than a conventional system, but there’s less labor to install it, and the efficiency is much higher,” Katsov says.

The other advantage a mini-split system has over conventional HVAC is the new inverter compressor technology. With the conventional technology, the compressor has one or two stages. For example, if it isn’t extremely hot outside but you need to put on the air conditioning, the compressor goes to the first stage at less than 100% to take care of the load and save on electricity. If it gets too warm inside again, the compressor switches to the second stage.

The inverter, on the other hand, is a variable speed technology.

“The system senses what load is needed. It may be only be 40% or 42%,” Katsov says. “It manages itself to fit the load correctly. The efficiencies are going through the roof.”

No more boiler room

Innovation extends to your boiler, too. Banging, clanging, monster-size boiler units are going to be a thing of the past. Kenmore, for example, has a wall-hung boiler “that’s probably the size of a large suitcase,” Katsov says. It’s 95% efficient, meaning that “95% of the fuel being sent to the boiler is being used for heat and not going up the flue pipe. They’re also easy to install and repair.”

Learn more about the latest HVAC systems, including our Kenmore Elite lineup with its proprietary SmartComfort and QuietComfort features.

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