HVAC

Keeping the HVAC running, the smart way

While upgrading a home furnace, the option to upgrade to a smart thermostat also was under consideration
By Amara Rozgus July 19, 2019
Photo courtesy: McKenzie Burns, CFE Media

Several years ago, my home furnace died. It was the middle of January, which was not an ideal time to try to rough it without heat in Chicago. Climate zone 5 is not a place you want to sleep without a working furnace or boiler. For anyone who has been to a winter conference in Chicago at that time of year, you can imagine the panic that set in.  

Our heating, ventilation and air conditioning contractor responded quickly; we needed a completely new unit. We were looking at a replacement that would cost several thousands of dollars, and we didn’t want to wait too long.  

The knowledge I’ve gained from several engineers over the years pushed me toward a high-efficiency unit. While more costly upfront, the long-term payback would benefit me. Plus, with variable-speed motors, overall comfort would improve. The order was placed, and I was told I had to wait only two days for the new furnace. 

Photo courtesy: Katie Spain Narel, CFE Media

Next on my list: A smart home thermostat. As long as we were upgrading to a high-efficiency unit, why not take it to the next level? We already had a programmable thermostat, but it wasn’t quite as smart as I wanted it to be, nor could I control it from afar. 

“Absolutely not,” said my husband. He’s a data center network engineer for a local college, and deals with firewalls, security breaches and network and hardware failures all day long. He was not ready or willing to allow the temperature of our home to be controlled via a device with an internet protocol address that could be improperly accessed by others.  

While I respect his opinion — and have seen the stories about home networks breached — I am still in favor of a smart home thermostat. Much like sensors in commercial buildings, a device with sophisticated controls as well as occupancy sensing capabilities seemed like it would add to our efficiency levels.  

Building intelligence has improved dramatically over the past several years, and the quality and pervasiveness of these products continue to grow. Lighting occupancy sensors, HVAC controls and a host of other technologies are giving engineers the ability to design commercial buildings with smarter and better tools for their occupants.  

While some of these smart buildings have extraordinary control systems designed into them, others have simpler options that control just a couple of key factors, enhancing their efficiency either way. 

I’m going to continue my personal quest to add more smart technologies to my home, with an attempt to ensure my husband is completely comfortable with each new system we introduce.


Amara Rozgus
Author Bio: Amara is the Editor-in-Chief/Content Strategy Leader for Consulting-Specifying Engineer.