Tech in HVAC: Smart Vents

Tech in HVAC: Smart Vents

 

It seems like everything is “smart” nowadays. We have smart thermostats, smart fire alarms, smart carbon monoxide detectors…even smart sensors to tell you about the air quality in your home. For some of us, these devices can seem overly complicated – is all this stuff absolutely necessary? Well, no, but it could make your home a lot more convenient if you are a fan of using technology.

The idea behind having a smart home is that these devices work together to create an absolutely balanced environment for you and your family. There’s a new kid on the block that may help to attain perfection – smart vents. These devices are kind of cool, but could they cause potential problems with your current HVAC system?

 

What the Heck is a Smart Vent?

First things first – what exactly is a smart vent? You can add these devices your home’s current HVAC system by replacing existing vents with a smart unit. The smart vent connects to your Wi-Fi system, allowing the homeowner to control the flow of air in individual rooms with one of the devices. Why would you want to do this? Because it creates a semi-zoned HVAC system by opening and closing the vents. For instance, you can use your cell phone to close the vents in a room not in use, while at the same time telling the system that you want another room in your home set to a certain temperature. Instead of closing vents by hand, you can do it through the power of the internet.

Depending on the smart vent production company, extra bells and whistles go along with each device, such as air filters or the ability to add additional room sensors for the safety of your HVAC system. Right now only two companies are producing these types of vents, but as interest grows, you will likely see more devices similar to this coming on the market.

 

The Next Step for a Smart Home

If you think about it, having a smart vent is the next logical step in the progression of smart home technology. The public is in love with the idea of having extra control over their home’s environment, and why not? Monitoring with a smartphone or computer is one way to track energy uses and expenses accurately, even though initial investment in smart equipment is not cheap. It also gives you a better sense of how your HVAC system actually works – you can see, in real time, what the temperature is in each room of your house and how much air is flowing into it. And you can track all of this information over months and years, providing ideas for how to lower your energy consumption even further in the future.

Combining smart vents and smart thermostats and alarms takes all this control to another level. If these devices are connected, then homeowners have full control of the home environment even when they are not in the house. Take it one step further and add Wi-Fi enabled controls for lights and security systems, and you have a lot less to worry about when you are away for longer periods of time. You’ll know exactly what is going on even when you’re on vacation somewhere else.

 

Potential Issues

This new technology doesn’t come without its own set of problems, however. To those who say, “This is too complicated,” you’re not wrong. Having an integrated smart home requires some complex planning and decision making. Smart vents, however, are a stand-alone product that doesn’t necessarily have to connect to other smart equipment. They’re a way to produce a zoning-like control system without having to go through the process of zoning an existing HVAC system. But they still require an initial set-up cost, which is not inexpensive.

That quick fix can come at a price. We’ve spoken before about why closing vents on existing HVAC systems is not a very good idea. Properly planned and installed HVAC systems are meant to run as they are. Blocking vents can reduce the efficiency of the system, which can end up creating higher energy costs

There is also a (very remote) chance that closing vents can cause pressure problems for your HVAC system, which could lead to costly repairs. Some smart vents allow homeowners to run the devices in a manual-only mode, which allows them to close all the vents at the same time. Blocking all air flow through the ducts is a quick way to create a disastrous scenario for your HVAC system.

Also, there are some small annoyance issues associated with these devices. They run on batteries, so remembering to replace them is a necessity. Sure, it’s no big deal, but if you have a large home with many different types of smart sensors, those batteries and the time spent replacing them can add up. The Wi-Fi connection in your home also needs to be stable and strong enough to reach all the smart vents as well, so if you have a bad connection, these devices may not be right for you.

 

Bottom Line: Be Cautious Before Investing

Until these devices have been around for a while, it is hard to say whether they are worth the investment. We highly recommend talking to a professional and having an inspection of your HVAC system before opting for this technology. This way any potential pressure problems can be identified first, and you will have some information on how to handle the smart vents without harming your system. A tech will also be able to determine issues with rooms that are too hot or too cold, possibly leading to a fix that won’t involve investing in hundreds or thousands of dollars in new equipment.

For those seeking room-by-room climate control without having to worry about internet connections, there are options available! Call us or check out our blog for more information on zoning or mini-split systems that can provide more control without breaking the bank.

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