Like every other field, the world of HVAC is constantly evolving with emerging technologies and advances. And just like every other field, it’s important for managers and techs to keep abreast of these innovations as they reach market phase.
It can mean the difference between having a thriving business and having one that’s always a beat behind and struggling. That’s why it’s more important than ever for any forward-looking company to stay up to speed with their HVAC training and teaching content for their techs and managers.
4 HVAC innovations you should learn about:
1.Movement-Activated Air Conditioning
The concept is elegantly simple: air conditioning that only activates and kicks on when people are in the room. Engineers at MIT have been developing this design that involves sensors along aluminum rods suspended from the ceiling. These sensors can then detect movement and activity in the room and turn on the system, then deactivate the system again when a room is unoccupied.
As it stands now, motion-activated HVAC (also known as occupancy activated) is best for commercial use, because most homes are a collection of small rooms and would require more investment on the front end to install numerous sensors in each room. Occupancy-activated systems can also be wired to control lighting as well as comfort conditions, and some include switches that automatically disable the system if a door or window is open for more than five minutes.
In an environment where even an hour of HVAC run time is more important than it ever was before, motion-activated HVAC is promising. Also, a network of passive infrared sensors and a logic-controlled system is proven technology that would make sense for a building like a church, office park or warehouse, while a homeowner might balk at the initial cost.
2. Dual-Fuel Heat Pumps
Why should a heat pump HVAC system be reliant on only one source of power? A dual-fuel heat pump works with a furnace, switching between natural gas and electricity. In hotter months, the unit will work like any high-efficiency central HVAC, and will provide cost-effective heating in mild spring or fall weather.
When outside temps fall below 35 degrees F, the pump will shut off and the furnace takes over. These hybrid systems are a good choice for a home that has an existing forced-air gas furnace and its associated duct-work.
Anyone who’s familiar with HVAC principles knows that heat pumps are efficient because transfer of heat is easier than producing heat. When conditions are ideal, a heat pump can transfer as much as 300 percent more energy than it consumes, compared to about 90 percent efficiency for a gas furnace. Studies have shown that the added front-end costs of a dual-fuel heat pump can be recouped with just a few years of lower energy bills.
There are trade-offs that go along with dual-fuel heat pumps, like with any system, but natural gas is a cheaper commodity than it’s ever been before and many homeowners report that dual-fuel units enhance indoor comfort in cold weather.
And like any other system, a dual-fuel heat pump can present challenges with maintenance and repair of hardware and controls. As technology changes, many service managers are having a lot of success in keeping their employees up to date with online HVAC simulation training, which walks them through different scenarios for troubleshooting and repair of heat pump components and systems.
3. Ice-Powered Air Conditioning
It seems like an idea from 100 years ago: overnight, the system freezes water in a tank which is then used to cool the building the next day. Under ideal circumstances, they can cool a home comfortably for 5 to 6 hours, at only 5% of the cost of running the full HVAC system; after that, the conventional HVAC system takes over.
Ice-powered units can be seamlessly designed to work with a building’s cooling system, either with duct-work or ductless mini-split setups. They’re also compatible with smart grids, when the utility partners with the provider.
It might sound simple, but these units use a combination of circuits that monitor and control supply and return air temp, control housing temp, AC compressor on/off status, outside ambient temp and other factors.
For smart grid use, the units can be remote controlled with instructions on when to make or melt ice, charge/discharge cycles, cooling volume and other demand-related tasks. The systems are secured with a private wireless network that features end-to-end encryption.
4. Fully Automated Homes
Smart home technology has been in development for quite a few years, and fully automated homes are the next logical step. These home designs would tie in some of the tech outlined above, like movement-activated HVAC and smart grid-enabled ice-powered air conditioning, and integrate it with the home’s automated appliances, lighting and other systems (all of which can be controlled with a smartphone).
That’s not to mention smart thermostats that learn the homeowner’s schedule of comings and goings and can even learn to recognize a phrase like “it’s warm in here” and use that command to adjust temperature. But again, there will be a big learning curve with these systems.
Some of these innovations may seem out of reach, but just consider what a big-screen TV or a smartphone cost 10 to 15 years ago. The model is always the same: a new technology breaks and is pretty expensive when it’s introduced. Then, market phase and economy of scale kick in and the products soon drop in price as well as becoming better, more reliable and more efficient. It’s a no-brainer that things like smart homes and super-efficient HVAC systems will come down in price and become more common, especially if cities and agencies offer rebates and incentives to adopt them.
The latest trends in HVAC are introducing more technology and even more sophisticated systems into the industry. Due to this, it’s essential that HVAC businesses stay on the cutting edge by providing their teams with ongoing HVAC training that’s just as innovative. Nowadays, Online HVAC Simulation Training and Virtual Reality are the latest ways for businesses to up-skill their workforce competencies in the face of these changes.
For more information on how you can keep your techs and installers up to speed on the latest trends with online HVAC Simulation Training, contact our sales team to setup a demo. Find out what Interplay Learning can do to help you and your company keep a competitive edge.