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Cool Economy Encourages New Products

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This spring’s new products directly reflect consumer moods and buying patterns, say suppliers. “If you look at the economy from a consumer standpoint, homeowners are trying to hang on to cash,” says Michael Albertson, senior vice president, sales and marketing, WaterFurnace, Fort Wayne, Indiana. “They are becoming wiser in their expenditures. When they do spend money, more and more consumers are looking at the investment they are getting out of the asset, product, or service.”

For their HVAC investment, consumers are seeking energy efficiency to save on their bills and, on a larger scale, to help conserve fossil fuels and save the planet.

“Homeowners recognize that energy costs are not going down,” says Jim Fisher, marketing product manager,  split systems, Goodman Global Group, Inc., Houston, Texas. “The HVAC system is a fairly large consumer of fuels, so their counter to high energy costs is a more efficient product. If a contractor can easily install a high efficiency product, it’s a win/win.”

Dennis Laughlin, president, Arzel, Cleveland, Ohio, believes the green movement has helped stabilize the market in a shaky economy. “Obviously, the slowdown in the building products industry has been felt industry wide,” he says. “Balancing that, however, is the fairly strong green movement. People are still worried about the stewardship of the environment, and they’re trying hard to put products into play in their homes and offices that are energy wise.”

He insists that contractors who are successful in 2012 will “offer new and innovative solutions and not just the same old, same old to their customer base.”

Here’s a partial lineup of what’s new in the marketplace this spring:

Carrier is introducing the Infinity®20 heat pump with Greenspeed™ intelligence, which can deliver up to 20.5 SEER and 13.0 HSPF. “This variable-speed unit is a monumental leap in efficiency,” says Rob Lambert,   product manager. “The variable-speed capability enables the Infinity heat pump to match the heating or cooling requirements of a home during a wide range of conditions, allowing for improved temperature control and cooling dehumidification, regardless of the climate or region of the country.”

Developed through a partnership between the compressor manufacturer and Carrier, the system has completed testing and field trials to ensure reliability and comfort levels. Lambert praises the Infinity control, which he classifies as the “brains of the system,” because it communicates with the indoor and outdoor units and directs the system to operate at the optimal speed at all times.

Homeowners will appreciate two advantages of the system—efficiency and comfort. “It costs less than a standard system to operate because it is a high-efficiency heat pump with variable speeds that can smoothly  run within a range of 40 to 100 percent of capacity to match the cooling or heating requirements of a home,” Lambert says.

Installation may be easier than with previous models, according to Lambert. “The Infinity heat pump has a two-wire control connection to the outdoor unit and Infinity control diagnostic capabilities, which really increases the scope where this unit can be easily installed without ripping out walls. Some existing homes only have two wires available. Any time installation time can be saved for the contractor, it’s a good thing.”

Soon to be unveiled by WaterFurnace are two new geothermal products. “Our 7 Series is a variable-speed geothermal heat pump that incorporates inverter technology, allowing us to match the load of a home and provide significantly enhanced dehumidification and superior cooling efficiency,” says Chris Manz, director of product management. “The variable-speed compressor offers maximum efficiency while providing even temperatures in the home because it can run at a lower speed most of the time.”

He adds that the soft -start compressor gives homeowners a quiet startup and shutdown and decreases the light flicker commonly associated with large tonnage air conditioning units.

Also new on the market will be the 5 Series, a high efficiency, dual-capacity product that uses a two-stage compressor, instead of variable speed. “It’s innovative because of the new control systems that we have in this product,” Manz explains. “Its communicating controls allow us to know how the system is operating and monitor performance and energy consumption of the equipment.”

This feature will be handy for people with second homes or those who travel extensively, adds Albertson, because they can monitor their HVAC systems, change the set points, or place a service call via their smart devices.

This spring, Arzel, Cleveland, Ohio, is emphasizing the CoolMizer™, an economizer/ fresh air intake system offering field-proven commercial technology that has been adapted to the residential market.

“If you follow what’s happening in indoor air quality for homes and businesses, there is a lot of discussion about being able to bring in fresh air intelligently,” Laughlin says. “Contractors can use our support online to help determine the size of the outdoor air opening and how to work the setting. The contractor has the ability to say ‘Here are the ranges of temperatures and humidity that are going to work for my customer.’ The contractor can

then deal individually with the needs of the building or homeowner.”

Once installed, the system offers homeowners fresh air, as well as reducing carbon emissions. “The system pays for itself by letting nature replace the air conditioner,” Laughlin says. “2012 will be the growth year for this product.”

Arzel is also highlighting the control features of GTPro, a geothermal heat pump. Sensor technology monitors the loop temperature of the geothermal unit, saving money and energy in operations. “Right now, we’re seeing a great deal of interest in the geothermal line because of the continued tax rebate that exists for geothermal applications through 2016,” Laughlin says.

Jackson Systems is launching FilterFetch, a new automated service that reminds customers when it’s time to change their filters. “We wanted to help contractors get back into the marketplace for replacement filters,” says Kurt Wessling, director of sales. “Some contractors really struggle with being able to sell their clients replacement filters, which is recurring revenue. Typically, they’re touching their clients twice a year at least with maintenance calls and checks. We felt like this was a natural fit.”

He explains that contactors place a coded decal on the equipment so the filters can be ordered online and  delivered via UPS or FedEx right to the user. “That’s important to the contractors because they can cut costs by
eliminating filter stock or inventory within their buildings. It also helps them prevent filter damage. A lot of times when they carry filters on their vans or trucks, the filters get damaged. We eliminate that problem.”

In late spring or early summer, Jackson will also unwrap the T-32-TS, a new Comfort System™ touch-screen thermostat that is dual-fuel compatible. Wessling describes the touch screen as “user friendly and very intuitive.” He adds that pricing is competitive so “contractors will be able to offer an upgraded thermostat to clientele who otherwise may not have been able to afford an energy-efficient thermostat.”

At Goodman Manufacturing, several products will receive star billing, including the new ComfortNet™ indoor communicating control system. “Through several partnerships, we are developing a communicating control system that will offer more options to both dealers and homeowners,” explains Jim Fisher. “It’s designed to work with both Goodman and Amana brand high-efficiency equipment.”

A big plus for contractors, he says, is the ease of installation. “You’ll never need more than four wires to hook it up. Once you put the control on the wall, it automatically configures the equipment so it virtually eliminates setup. From a wiring standpoint, it makes a multi-stage, high-efficiency piece of equipment as easy — or easier — to hook up than standard equipment. From a diagnostic standpoint, you get feedback from the equipment on the control.”

Goodman is also releasing a new line of air handlers, the ARUF and ARPT, which feature smart frame technology. “All of the components inside the unit are mounted without any screws penetrating the outside of the cabinet,” Fisher says. “This is a big benefit when the units are located in humid applications because the screw holes can create condensation.” The units also feature aluminum evaporator coils to prevent against premature coil leaks.

Margo Vanover Porter
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Posted In: ACCA Now, Residential Buildings

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