I noticed a recent program on television that highlighted some new government-funded technology research to find new ways to save energy (lower our carbon “footprint”). And they did show some great new ideas, but I thought, “Hey, wait a minute, we already have all kinds of great energy-saving technology that is simply not being used!”

As I’m writing this article, I’m in the process of getting ready to go to Chicago to attend the 2009 AHR industry exhibition. And I know that when I get there, I will see hundreds of great energy-saving ideas that will never make it. Why not? Well, this is the story that contractors have to sell their customers: “Here is the price to replace your existing system. But if you’re interested, we have some great new technology that will further your energy savings. The only problems are:
  • They will double the installed cost, and will probably never provide you a payback;
  • They will probably not last as long as the system;
  • Parts probably won’t be available in five years, and if they are, they will be extremely expensive; and
  • In five years, no one will remember how to service them anyhow.”
Yes, that’s the story, because our energy-saving devices are mostly too complicated and too expensive! So, the government (and companies) need to fund the type of technology to create simple, inexpensive products that require little replacement costs if they fail - or make them infallible.

In the commercial building-control arena, someone came up with the great idea of creating standard protocols, so the parts could become commodities that are purchased from a broad range of providers based on price and features (but it really hasn’t worked out that way yet). However, to the best of my knowledge, there are no such standards in light-commercial and residential products. Why, a single thermostat for a manufacturer’s residential digital system can cost more than $600! So, where’s the payback?

The fact is, small-system digital electronics systems can be very inexpensive once the development costs are paid. And when anyone can produce the components, they become commodities which anyone can manufacture - at a lower price! So, do we need government funding for new technology that will never see the light of day, or government funding to standardize and lower the overall system and replacement costs, in order to lower our “carbon footprint” across the entire range of HVACR applications?

  • What about inexpensive discharge grilles (less than $50 each contractor price) that automatically sense whether a system is in heating or cooling mode, and can be set to be opened or closed in each room by its temperature setting?

  • What about simple economizers that come standard on all packaged systems, without adding significantly to their cost?

  • What about inexpensive, simple heat-reclaim devices that come standard on all air handlers?

  • What about electronic thermostats that communicate digital temperature and humidity information to all HVACR systems  and can communicate with each other so they are all in the same heating or cooling mode - for less than say, $50?

  • What about multi-zone, ductless-split HVAC systems that can be installed at a price that is competitive with standard ducted systems?

     I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.