Sunday, November 27, 2011

Innovative Heating and Cooling System Control Offers Homeowners the Personal Touch

Bryant Heating and Cooling Systems launched a newly redesigned control for its state-of-the-art Evolution® home heating and air conditioning system. The Evolution control features a sleek exterior design, enhanced functionality and improved set-up functions to personalize and optimize comfort and help homeowners save money. New customizable features include font and screen color options.
The new Evolution control is the brains of a Bryant Evolution comfort system, which includes a furnace, fan coil, air conditioner or heat pump, and accessories such as humidifiers and advanced air filtration products. The communicating device allows consumers to continually monitor and manage their homes' comfort levels in up to eight separate zones by regulating temperature, humidity and air quality with ease. In addition, the interface has been outfitted with a new, aesthetically pleasing door.
"The Evolution control is one of the industry's most advanced comfort system interfaces," said Tom Archer, Bryant brand manager. "When paired with an entire Bryant Evolution system, the new control gives homeowners command over their indoor environment, offering numerous personalized features."
Functionality and set up improvements also aid the installer. The new control optimizes overall static pressure measurement and auto configures by accounting for duct work and filter media type. This eliminates guesswork by the installer and enables the homeowner to receive filter change notifications based on TrueSenseTM airflow measurements regardless of filter type. Additionally, the new control offers altitude settings to modify air flow for improved comfort.
The control can monitor up to 83 diagnostic points throughout an Evolution home heating and cooling system to maximize performance and provide overall comfort 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The system identifies potential issues by providing system alerts and can notify homeowners when it's time for regular service check-ups or filter replacements. Remote connectivity via a system access module mounted inside the home allows homeowners and dealers to receive real-time system status updates.
The programmable Evolution control can also help reduce heating and cooling bills compared to a conventional nonprogrammable thermostat. Features such as weekly and vacation scheduling, remote monitoring and zone temperature control allow consumers to cut their energy costs while efficiently customizing their indoor conditions.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Benefits of an Air Purifier

Indoor air quality is an increasing health concern. Pollutant levels (airborne particles, gases, chemicals, and volatile organic compounds) are actually higher inside the home than they are outside. Poor quality indoor air affects people to different degrees, depending on an individual’s age and relative health. There are different ways of protecting yourself and your loved ones against indoor air pollutants.

Indoor air mold
A most common indoor air pollutant is air mold. Mold exists wherever moisture and oxygen are present. Inside your home, molds can often be found in damp basements, closets, bathrooms, air conditioning systems, humidifiers, and any humid place. Here are some steps on how to improve the quality of air in your home.

Improving indoor air quality
  • The first step in improving indoor air quality is to attempt to control the source of the pollutant. If it stems from indoor air mold, smoke, or some type of chemical, you can actually remove it from your home through a thorough cleansing. On the other hand, some indoor air pollutants such as dust or pollen are not so easily eliminated.
  • The next step is to improve the ventilation in your home. Bringing fresh air into the house by opening windows is not only helpful but also very simple. However, opening a window on a high pollen-count day or in a smoggy city will probably worsen the air situation in your home.
  • Finally, you can purchase an air purifier. There are numerous types of air purifiers on the market—be sure to buy one that is well suited for the dimension of your home.
Types of air purifiers
Air purifiers are designed to clean and purify the air people breathe. They can reduce odors and airborne pollutants that contribute to poor air quality, and filter common allergens such as pollen, mold and dust. Cleaner air benefits everyone, especially those who suffer from allergies or asthma. Air purifiers can be conveniently portable or permanently installed.

Tips on choosing an air purifier

Area Coverage – Make sure the square footage recommended for the air purifier is close to or slightly greater than the square footage of the room where you intend to use it.
Air Changes Per Hour (ACH) – This number informs us how frequently the air purifier can exchange all the air in a given room in an hour. If you suffer from allergies or asthma, you will want a higher ACH rating.
Filter Replacements – Filters have to be replaced on many types of air purifiers. Be sure to find out the cost of the filters and how often they must be changed.
Noise Level – Some air purifiers are very quiet, while others can be quite loud. Ask for a trial demonstration of the unit before purchasing it.
Energy Usage – Because air purifiers operate on energy and run continuously, the amount of energy they consume will be reflected on your energy bill.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

New Pike Research Report Explores Emerging HVAC Innovations

Thermal Energy Storage, Underfloor Air Distribution, Chilled Beams, and Other Emerging HVAC Innovations for High Performance Buildings

Energy Efficient HVAC Systems 
Although the primary purpose of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in commercial buildings is occupant productivity, the objective of most changes to HVAC systems in the next five years will be to decrease energy cost. Because of rising energy prices and the drive to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with building operations, many building owners have begun to manage energy cost actively as an asset, rather than a fixed cost. HVAC accounts for almost one-third of the energy cost in commercial buildings, so these systems hold great potential for energy savings.

The HVAC industry in the United States changes slowly. Most commercial space is in small and medium-sized buildings and is heated and cooled by packaged units sold as commodities. Because of intense price sensitivity in the market, new features are only added as necessary for regulatory compliance and market differentiation. In large buildings, new construction and retrofits are designed for energy cost savings in the range of 20% to 35%, with incremental changes in conventional practices. While unconventional HVAC engineers achieve HVAC energy cost savings well over 50% with improved occupant productivity, at comparable prices, this practice is rare and appears unlikely to spread rapidly. At many levels, from national, state and local governments to corporate boardrooms and ratepayer-sponsored Demand Side Management programs, energy policies have a major impact on the market, driving innovations which would not otherwise occur, while also preventing other innovations which might have occurred.

This Pike Research report explores emerging HVAC innovations for the commercial building market, including building energy management systems, underfloor air distribution, active and multiservice chilled beams, and onsite ice-based thermal energy storage. The study includes an examination of market drivers and challenges, technology issues, profiles of key industry players, scenarios for market adoption, and forecasts for each sector.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Brave New Thermostat: How the iPod’s Creator Is Making Home Heating Sexy

“You’re going to build a what?”
That’s what Tony Fadell’s wife, Dani, said to him in 2009 when he told her his idea for a new company. Fadell is one of the most sought-after talents in the world of gadgetry—he designed the hardware for the iPod, and headed Apple’s iPod and iPhone division before leaving his VP post to spend time with his wife and two young children, living an idyllic year in Paris.
But even before he moved back to the U.S. he was mulling over his next step. Many assumed that the 42-year old technologist would continue his brilliant career in consumer electronics. He might even become a contender to run an existing multi-billion dollar business—in electronics, in mobile, maybe even Apple.
Instead, he told Dani, he was going to build a thermostat.
Fadell explained his concept: Untold tons of carbon were being pumped into the air, with people losing billions of dollars in energy costs, all because there was no easy, automatic way to control the temperature. But what if you could apply all the skills and brilliance of Silicon Valley to produce a thermostat that was smart, thrifty and so delightful that saving energy was as much fun as shuffling an iTunes playlist?
You could revolutionize an important but neglected tech backwater—and significantly improve the environment. Within 15 minutes, Dani got it. As did the others Fadell would talk to over the next few months. These included a dream team of Silicon Valley engineers, designers, and computer scientists who became the first employees of Nest Labs, the company Fadell founded.
Investors were equally enthusiastic, and though Nest won’t disclose the size of the total stake, it is reasonable to assume that upwards of $50 million has come from a consortium that includes Kleiner Perkins, Google Ventures, Lightspeed Ventures, Shasta Ventures, Intertrust, and Generation Investment Management (backed by Al Gore, who was enchanted with a demo that Fadell gave him at TED in 2011.)
“In other green startups, ideas are incremental—we haven’t found breakthrough ideas,” says Kleiner Perkins partner Randy Komisar. “But this breaks the mold.”
Today comes the payoff, when Tony Fadell’s company introduces the Nest Learning Thermostat. It is available for preorder at Best Buy and, and will ship in November. Units are already streaming from assembly lines in the Chinese factories that churn out advanced digital gadgets.
The Nest is the iPod of thermostats. A simple loop of brushed stainless steel encases a chassis of reflective polymer, which encircles a crisp color digital display. Artificial intelligence figures out when to turn down the heat and when to jack up the air conditioning, so that you don’t waste money and perturb the ozone when no one is home, or when you’re asleep upstairs. You can communicate with the Nest from your smartphone, tablet or web browser.
Fadell promises the Nest will pay for itself within a year or two of use, and ultimately save you up to 30 percent of your utility bill. And its presence on your wall will be less an artifact of the industrial age than a piece of high-tech art.
Can the unloved thermostat become an object of techo-lust? Will the Nest really save its users an aggregate billions of dollars? Can it spare our beloved pale blue dot endless tons of unwanted carbon?
Tony Fadell is about to find out.
Fadell got the idea for Nest Labs when he was building a green home in Tahoe. A long-time aficionado of architecture, he threw himself into the details of house design. His domicile would be as gorgeous as the products he worked on at Apple, endowed with the same love of detail. When it came to HVAC — the industry acronym for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning — he worked with architects to drill sophisticated geothermal wells to regulate temperature. Everything was looking great. And then the architects presented him with the options for the thermostats that would adorn the walls of his perfect home.
They sucked.
“What was wrong with them?” he now says. “They were ugly. They were confusing. They were incredibly expensive. They didn’t have half the features you would expect for a modern thing. None of them were connected, so they didn’t talk to each other. I wasn’t able to remotely control them. In Tahoe, you want to be able check on the temperature of the house or turn it on before you get there. Because it’s really cold in the winter. I couldn’t do any of that, and I was like, Why is this?”
So Fadell started researching.
Thermostats, he found, had not changed much in decades. The most popular model is known as the Honeywell Round, a white sphere circle with tiny meters indicating actual and desired room temperatures. When legendary designer Henry Dreyfus designed it, it was an instant hit — but that was 1953!
More recent, upscale programmable thermostats were not only hideous — displays were straight out the DOS era — but programming them was reminiscent of getting a 1970s VCR to tape a football game. In 2008, after a study that concluded that homes with programmable thermostats used more energy that similar ones without them, the Energy Star label was stripped from the entire category. A recent Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study found that “as many as 50 percent of residential programmable thermostats are in permanent ‘hold’ status.”
According to Alan Meier, the scientist who performed the study, “A large fraction of people didn’t know how to use them and didn’t have patience the learn.” The government estimates that the average home has a $2,200 energy bill, half of which is under the control of the thermostat. That means every household was losing hundreds of dollars because of that oblique gizmo on the wall.
It was an industry ripe for disruption. “Thermostats are made by very large companies with no incentive to innovate,” Fadell says. “Their customers are contractors or HVAC wholesalers, not consumers. So why spend to make them better? It’s a good business.”
How good was that business? Fadell ran some numbers. On the back of an envelope, he figured there might be 100 million homes in the U.S. Each one had between one and two thermostats — that’s 150 million. In light commercial spaces — small offices, restaurants, retail — there’s another 100 million, or so. Add 10 million more in hotel rooms. That’s a quarter billion thermostats already, and that doesn’t account for those in bigger commercial spaces! He looked deeper. Every year, 10 million thermostats are sold in the residential space alone. “That’s more than refrigerators, dishwashers, dryers; almost as much as bicycles are sold,” says Fadell. “It may not be the iPhone, but it’s bigger than most other businesses.”
On a trip back from Paris, Fadell shared his idea with former colleague Matt Rogers, who started at the company as Fadell’s intern and rose to manage teams on the iPod and iPhone. Rogers was enthusiastic, and the pair began due diligence to discover whether anyone else was working along the same lines.
“We assumed there might be someone, even some small company or startup, innovating along these lines,” says Rogers. “There was nobody.” And so, Nest Labs was born. The duo rented a garage in Palo Alto, on Alma Street near downtown, and began recruiting.
One of the first people they approached was a cell phone engineer named Shige Honjo, who was then the program manager for the iPhone. It was a dream job; Honjo worked with great people to make a hugely popular product and was making bundles of money. But when Matt Rogers invited him to the garage on Alma Street, Honjo was startled to find his old boss Tony Fadell there. That was a Friday. On Saturday Honjo told his wife that they had a decision to make: Should they follow through on the big beach house they were about to buy, or he should join a startup and save the world?
On Monday Honjo quit Apple. “The choice was to save the world,” he says.

A good ergonomic strategy makes good business sense

The value of a good ergonomics strategy goes beyond health and safety. A good ergonomics strategy can add value to your company’s business and ultimately contribute to your goals of higher profits. An ergonomics strategy can affect profit drivers like cost minimization, productivity, quality, delivery reliability, responsiveness to customer demands and flexibility. The evidence for a good ergonomics strategy is abundant in countless studies in North America and Europe that clearly illustrate the connection between profitability and healthy working conditions. Larger organizations take ergonomics seriously and have been at this game long enough to know where to look for ‘bottom line’ benefits.
The trick to making ergonomics work for your business is to look for items that contribute to business performance and that also carry inherent risk. In terms of business performance, this means looking at risk and assessing opportunity. One aspect of ergonomics that enhances efficiency is mechanization. If the job carries risk for a human operator, (and the associated cost of a lost-time injury) then look to mechanization to lower risk. By removing hazard in the workplace (or substantially reducing it) you increase labor productivity, lower costs associated with injury and increase your profit. 
Moving heavy hot water heaters, boilers and other goods is inherently hazardous due to the real potential for lifting strain. A back injury can put a good worker out of commission, permanently in some cases. Even strong young backs will suffer over time with repetitive exposure to the same types of strain. Really heavy loads often require more bodies to move safely. If these loads were confined to the factory floor no one would be lifting them using brute strength alone, this risk of injury is too obvious. So why do contractors expose themselves to such risk day in and day out?
The solution to this particular risk is to mechanize the process with a powered hand truck like a PowerMate. The business benefits are many; reduced exposure to risk for your installers (and the reduced costs associated with lost-time injury), labor savings, increased productivity and higher profits. "Since time is money in our business (the PowerMate) has allowed us to get these heavy objects in and out of jobsites as quickly as possible. This has led to increased revenue and better job efficiency. Now instead of sending two technicians to move an old boiler or set a new one in place we only send one. Not only is management happy about this change but he technicians are as well."
In terms of ergonomic strategy, acquiring a PowerMate makes perfect sense if you move heavy objects in and out of buildings as part of your business model. The people that move those goods are often your technicians and they have value beyond being just movers.