Jun 02 , 2020
We live in an age where innovative air conditioning has become the norm. Since the mid 20th century, residential AC has gotten progressively more affordable and effective. The first centrifugal refrigeration compressor is now a museum piece, while high-efficiency systems and environmentally-friendly refrigerants now whir away in millions of homes worldwide. But what advances are leading the next wave of HVAC innovation?
Ductless Split Systems
Ductless split systems are a heating and cooling solution that uses separate wall-mounted units to regulate the temperature in various zones of the house. This is especially useful for homes where running ductwork is difficult if not impossible, or for families who have trouble agreeing on the thermostat setting. Each wall unit can be set to its own temperature.
A ductless mini-split is one outdoor unit paired with one indoor unit. In a ductless multi-split, multiple indoor units feed out to a single outdoor unit.
Even greater flexibility can be found with Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) systems. These systems can have a much greater number of indoor units connected to the outdoor unit (up to 48 interior units, as opposed to eight on a multi-split system). Even more impressive, a VRF system can heat some areas while cooling others. Although the installation cost of VRF systems puts it out of reach of most homeowners, it’s likely to show up in more homes as the price drops.
Fiberglass-lined ductwork, flexible ductwork without the “ping” of expanding and contracting metal, and variable-speed fans all contribute to air conditioning systems that run with less noise and greater efficiency. If you’ve ever experienced the sudden, almost spooky silence of a home during a power failure, you know how much ambient noise your electronic devices and mechanical systems can produce.
UV Light Filters
HEPA filters allowed homeowners to remove a greater percentage of dust and allergens, making for a more comfortable and healthier environment. The next step in this evolution may be UV filtration, a supplement to traditional filters that eliminates germs and microbes the same way a traditional filter removes dust, pet hair and airborne debris. On the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, interest in this technology is likely to grow.
The Wired Home
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a phrase used to describe home technology that is networked and connected to the Internet. This goes far beyond tablets and laptops to include everything from refrigerators and televisions to doorbells and thermostats. A properly maintained smart thermostat and air conditioning system allows you to cut utility bills and discover potential issues long before they lead to pricey service calls.
Using Mother Earth
Geothermal technology uses the constant temperature of the Earth to condition your home’s environment. The concept is similar to a traditional heat pump. But instead of running outdoors, a geothermal system plunges downward, vertically or even horizontally, using the land that your home sits on to maintain your ideal temperature. Though most often seen in new builds, where digging trenches for the loop runs is easier, it’s possible to retrofit an existing home to geothermal technology. Not every lot is suitable for a geothermal HVAC system. But if yours is, you could enjoy comfortable temperatures for minimal operating cost.
Ice-powered air conditioners work by freezing hundreds of gallons of water during the coolest part of the day (usually overnight) and then circulating air over the ice during the hottest hours. That way, the greatest energy use occurs when it is least demanding. This is especially appealing to homeowners in hot, heavily-populated areas that often endure rolling blackouts or price spikes during high-usage periods.