When you’ve been in the business of home systems integration for as long as Michael Cogbill, it takes a lot to impress. During his 30 years developing, installing, and configuring smart home technologies, he’s seen companies come and go, innovations succeed and flop. Few, says the current chief engineer at ETC in West Palm Beach, Fla., have exhibited the staying power as formidably as Aprilaire.
Cogbill is a long-time installer of Aprilaire products and his understanding of the HVAC industry runs deep. As CTO of Enalysis Corp. in California he led the development of a computerized HVAC diagnostic and monitoring system, and collaborated with Enerzone to develop one of the first communicating thermostats. Under his guidance, Enerzone created a communications protocol that is still in use today … and is the foundation of Aprilaire’s line of smart thermostats.
Today, Aprilaire offers an entire line of Home Automation Wi-Fi thermostats with IAQ control, which continues to validate the importance of controllable HVAC to a complete smart home system.
“Using stats that are compatible with home systems is something that we [integrators] must do,” Cogbill says. “It’s impossible to provide clients with a complete, comprehensive automation system if it’s missing HVAC control — and that boils down to the thermostat.”
Since the introduction of that first communicating thermostat, the options for smart HVAC control have exploded. Smart thermostats now run the gamut and offer many practical benefits, but Aprilaire continues to lead in innovation, Cogbill believes. “They continue to refine their thermostats to keep pace with the changes in the HVAC industry.”
He notes efficiency improvements like ever-increasing SEER ratings and variable-speed air conditioning systems as pushing the implementation of new features into thermostats. Many of these new features are being pioneered by Aprilaire and are available in its new line of Wi-Fi-enabled smart thermostats. Here are some of those attributes noted by Cogbill:
Circulate Mode: This mode joins the “Auto” and “On” selections to ensure that the fan runs at least 30 minutes every hour. This can smooth out the effects of short cycling on an AC compressor unit. Short cycling, which happens when an oversized system repeatedly runs in short bursts, can decrease the life of an AC compressor by 30 percent, Cogbill says. The Circulate Mode found on Aprilaire thermostats also balances energy savings with frequent air circulation that helps filter and clean the air.
Integration: Back in the day, the smartest thing a smart thermostat could do really well is run the HVAC on a customer-defined schedule. While this capability still exists, families rarely adhere to a rigid schedule, making integration with other systems a more practical way to automate an HVAC system. Aprilaire thermostats are integration-friendly, and are able to take their cues from virtually any brand of professionally installed automation systems.
Setup: Aprilaire thermostats boast a wealth of options for adapting to a particular installation or application. For example, a Lockout setting requires a security code to change the setpoint or cool/heat mode. Maintenance reminders to change the filter or service the dehumidifier can also be incorporated. The thermostat can even be configured to control humidity and other IAQ products while still controlling temperature.
Remote Sensors: Aprilaire was one of the first to offer a flush-mount remote sensor. “We often have high-end installations where the designers don’t want to see the thermostats in elegant spaces. With a remote sensor that mounts flush and virtually disappears, we can hide the thermostats in the equipment room and control everything with a smartphone or tablet,” Cogbill says. At CEDIA Aprilaire be introducing a flush mounted temperature and humidity sensor.
Direct Internet Connection: To communicate remotely with some IoT (Internet of Things) thermostats requires passing signals through the cloud. Aprilaire thermostats have a standalone app that does use the cloud, but communication with an automation system is directly on the LAN (Local Area Network). “Direct communication with a thermostat is less likely to be hacked than information that exists on the cloud,” Cogbill says.
Roots in the HVAC Industry: In the HVAC business since 1954, Aprilaire offers humidifiers, dehumidifiers, air purifiers, zoned temperature control and ventilation systems. The company’s thermostats are designed to monitor and manage this comprehensive lineup of indoor air quality solutions.
This solid foundation and reputation in the HVAC industry, combined with a commitment to grow and evolve its products has made Aprilaire the “go-to thermostat solution at ETC,” Cogbill says. He and his team recently installed 14 Aprilaire Home Automation Wi-Fi thermostats on a residential job, all of which were integrated with a Crestron automation system. “Remote access, easy integration, and on-trend with this home’s high-efficiency heating and cooling system, including the ability to monitor a separate cooling system in the wine cellar, makes Aprilaire thermostats a good choice for our projects,” Cogbill concludes.