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Published On: Tue, Dec 23rd, 2014

Will Tech Interlopers Topple HVAC Industry Household Names?

Big players in the tech game, such as Apple and Google, have recently made investments in the home appliance sector. Take Google’s purchase of Nest, makers of smart carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, or Apple’s interest in smart home thermostats. Could these tech giants, already well established in the mobile phone, computer, software and Internet browser arenas, win the “smart home” battle over traditional big names in HVAC, like Emerson or GE?

photo Stefan Krause, Germany

photo Stefan Krause, Germany

How Tech Giants Are Getting In On the Game
The HVAC market has traditionally been ruled by companies like Emerson and GE, who have been making thermostats and other HVAC products for decades. But now with the emergence of partnerships such as GE and Quirky, learning thermostats like the Norm are entering the market that can be controlled through an app to provide scheduling, climate control and usage tracking of the user’s home heating and cooling system, according to Apple Insider.

The smart home market is a booming one—one that Apple and Google are looking to tap into. In fact, the smart home industry is projected to grow from $33 billion in 2013 to $71 billion by 2018, says The Motley Fool. Those tech giants aren’t going to lose out on nabbing a share of that market and will do all they can to capture a piece of the pie. To facilitate this, both companies have partnered with energy companies to produce their own versions of home automation platforms. To that end, in 2013 Google bought Nest and Apple unveiled HomeKit.

Energy Efficiency
The emergence of all these technological gadgets has prompted leaders in the HVAC industry to introduce more cost-efficient and energy-efficient home heating and cooling options for today’s savvy consumer. But while tech giants like Apple are coming out with innovative software to control HVAC equipment, major manufacturers like Honeywell are still in charge of the actual equipment, and they’re making their models more energy efficient too, in order to keep up with the more advanced software their competitors can offer.

Take heat pumps, for instance. They’re up to 200 percent more energy efficient than they were just three decades ago, according to Washington Energy. In addition, the air conditioners of today use 50 percent less energy than they did 40 years ago. Plus, homeowners still need qualified HVAC professionals to tune up, repair and maintain those heating and cooling units, ventilation systems and ducts in order to help the smart home devices actually work to their potential. It’s up to today’s HVAC professionals, then, to educate themselves on these new technological wonders so they can assist their customers more effectively. A smart home thermostat doesn’t do much good if no one can troubleshoot it or fix it when something goes wrong. This is where the HVAC industry can capture and retain its own little piece of the pie: knowledge and the ability to fight against obsolescence in an industry that is trying its best to push them out.

Who Will Win?
While Apple and Google have the money, the will, the tech savvy and the influence to be serious contenders in the smart home automation industry, they may win a few battles, but it’s unlikely they will win the war. This is because they still need the genius of big energy names like GE and Emerson to lend their expertise in the energy sector of which they’ve been a part of for decades. What is more likely to happen, then—in fact, what has been happening already—is the industry will see many of the tech giants partnering with the energy giants in a virtual alliance and joining of skills.

Hey, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

Guest Post: Lolita Di

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  1. Jarrod says:

    I work in this industry and the typical pay back on the “energy efficient” equipment and IAQ accessories (thermostats, filters, etc) can be upwards of 30 years. So you basically spend 10-15k on equipment and the energy savings can take decades to recoup the initial cost.

    The best thing you can do is keep everything clean and in working order. Change filters regularly, keep ducts and equipment clean. MAINTENANCE is the name of the game people.

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