Boston – A two-year-old company has developed a smartphone-controlled smart-thermostat system that integrates with existing central AC systems and forced-air heating systems to deliver room-by-room temperature control.
Ecovent’s system, designed for DIYers, will launch next year through its website, but the company also plans to develop sales channels that include HVAC installers, contractors, builders, property managers and custom installers in the A/V and home-automation markets. Ecovent claimed the systems “is designed to be easy enough for anyone to install but robust enough to meet the standards of HVAC contractors and other industry pros.” Ecovent will also work with partners to develop custom control software.
The cost for a typical home is $1,800, or about $200 per room, bringing down the expense of installing a room-level zoning system that could take days to install instead of hours, the company said.
Splitting existing HVAC systems into multiple zones currently costs $3,000 to $5,000 at a minimum and requires the installation of wiring and baffles in ducts, said founder/CEO Dipul Patel. “Sometimes additional ducting needs to be added, increasing the cost and invasiveness.”
Room-by-room zoning costs are even higher, costing about $10,000 in a typical four-bedroom home, he said. “In some of these systems, the invasiveness isn't too bad because they run the wires or pneumatic lines in the ducts, but it is still a long process and needs a professional.”
With ecovent’s system, consumers plug in a sensor over an existing electrical outlet in each room. The sensor comes with pass-through plugs so users can continue to plug in lamps and appliances. The housing, which protrudes about an inch from the wall, also features two USB charges, one on each side. Next, consumers replace existing vents in the room with battery-operated motorized vents, which open or close depending on the temperature selected by a user’s Android or iOS app. Each vent “applies aeronautical engineering principles to optimize airflow and preserve HVAC system integrity,” the company said.
Vents will be available in the most common sizes. Battery life will be at least three years.
The sensor and vents communicate via sub-GHz wireless frequencies with a hub that run’s Ecovent’s control algorithm. The sub-GHz network is said to be optimized for long range and low power.
The hub also features Wi-Fi to accept commands from smartphones and tablets, and it includes wireless ZigBee to connect to smart thermostats.
The products will ship in the U.S. from the company’s site in August 2015. The company is currently accepting applications from contractors on the Pro's page of the company website and will roll out program details in early 2015.
Ecovent also said is working with utility companies to get them to offer energy-efficiency rebates to homeowners who install the system.
The system was developed at MIT by Patel. Company investors include Otter Consulting and Boston Syndicates (BOSS), a syndicate group founded by Atlas Venture to invest in local start-ups. Other investors include Stewart Alsop, Julia Austin, Will Herman, Warren Katz and Michael Mark.