This past June, American Family Insurance and Microsoft Corp. said that they would be launching a business accelerator for tech companies working in the home automation industry — an industry that has, of late, drawn in big investors who see home automation as as a natural, future extension of smartphone technology.
“Home automation is ripe for startup innovation,” the corporate VP of developer experience at Microsoft, Steve Guggenheimer, has said.
While many see the new venture as a promising leap into creating smarter, safer homes for consumers, there are also several prominent voices in the HVAC industry that are concerned about what happens if non-HVAC companies try to innovate and infringe on complex products they may not have a complete understanding of.
“The problem is that, for them, the HVAC portion just becomes a component of a larger system, but the HVAC portion and the operation of the HVAC system(s) are absolutely critical to the success of the entire heating, cooling, and ventilation of the home,” said the president of Welsch Heating and Cooling Co., Butch Welsch. Welsch Heating and Cooling is a st. Louis-based company that deals with HVAC solutions.
Welsch says he has already seen mistakes being made, such as low-voltage electric systems — which have to accomplish multiple tasks — being marketed heavily to new homebuyers.
The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) has recognized the issues with the lack of standardization involved with the growing smart home automation industry. They began studying the market about three years ago, and they plan to develop protocol standards so that manufacturers can create products that communicate appropriately with each other and with the electric grid. Nailing down standards will hopefully create less room for error. Considering that most families only receive a new HVAC system every 15 years or so, it’s important that the industry ensures that their investment won’t be plagued with problems.