What homeowner challenges do you see when it comes to smart technology?
One of the biggest challenges we see when it comes to the homeowner is adoption. While the early adopters have embraced the connected home, some mainstream America homeowners are struggling with taking that first step. There are so many new options and unknown brands to sort through, it can be challenging to take that first step. Price, functionality and ease-of-use are all things that impact the decision for the homeowner. Many of these factors have been overcome by manufacturers, providing the HVAC community with an opportunity to upsell and dispel the fear of the unknown.
What role do you think the manufacturer has in smart home adoption?
There are several manufacturers that have a rich and proven history and delivering quality controls for home comfort. They are, at their core, controls manufacturers that have a solid reputation and are well respected in the trade. Traditional thermostat companies, for example, that are moving to the smart home space give confidence to HVAC professionals. They offer products that are easy to install, easy for the homeowner to understand and are priced within budget. They also offer a wide range of products that enable homeowners to “work up” to the smarter technology – they provide a progressive track.
Many service companies are getting into smart thermostats via networking technology and have neither a deep knowledge of the controls market, nor do they meet the standards of the HVAC community. Their products aren’t as easy to work with and install and they don’t always address the full circle of HVAC. It’s important to have the basics first and evolve with the industry.
Do you think the HVAC industry as a whole is prepared for the smart home evolution?
A barrier that the industry faces is in training. There isn’t much training throughout the contractor channel for smart home automation. The new-to-the-market service and technology companies don’t have the depth or desire to support training at the contractor level. Manufacturers who are dedicated to developing comfort controls and innovation tend of offer more focused on training and are vested in the success of partners. In addition, many of the current HVAC teaching professionals don’t have a connected background and the smart technology is so new and has grown so quickly that the level of expertise is limited.
The connected home is still new and growing and there are too few resources available to help the HVAC professional keep up with the technology, it’s sort of like the wild west. There are so many different in-home protocols and everyone is racing to win the game. Amazon Alexa seems to be leading right now but there are no clear winners and the battle is far from being over.
This is why it is essential for controls manufactures to do everything they can to offer training and support to the industry.
Where do you think HVAC professionals have the biggest opportunity?
Historically, contractors hadn’t thought of the thermostat as a revenue opportunity if a homeowners current thermostat was still working. With the adoption of smart technology, it now is. It’s part of the larger smart home play and usually the first step for many homeowners. As contractors service HVAC within the home, they should be always looking to upsell a smart thermostat. It offers a great opportunity to increase business, up the revenue stream and position the contractor as an essential part of the smart home.