Smart home AC
Consumers look at their abode as an autonomous unit and see more of the in-home systems as connected to a whole rather than separate, divided appliances and services Image Credit: Shutterstock

Highlights

  • Consumers want holistic, smart solutions that can lower long-term operating costs
  • While BAS and predictive maintenance can aid this, security concerns remain a factor
  • Air purifier tech being built into ACs

There have been some big changes in the air-conditioning industry, with new trends appearing that add real value to efficiency, connectivity and climate control. The smart home revolution, in particular, is taking off and has successfully gone from being considered a gimmick to a necessity and is expected to further develop as new technologies emerge. But how are these innovations affecting air-conditioning technology?

New features such as dual sensing, which detects both humidity and indoor temperature, are gaining major prominence.

Humidity plays a key role in determining relative indoor comfort levels. This has been neglected over the years as the focus of air conditioners was always on temperature control and the resultant humidity was mostly not monitored or controlled

- Suraj Kumar, Technical Manager – Air Solutions, LG Electronics

“Humidity plays a key role in determining relative indoor comfort levels,” says Suraj Kumar, Technical Manager – Air Solutions, LG Electronics. “This has been neglected over the years as the focus of air conditioners was always on temperature control and the resultant humidity was mostly not monitored or controlled. Dual sensing understands humidity and indoor temperature and gives the feedback to air conditioners to respond to the changes in both these parameters. This results in more precisely controlled room conditions and better energy efficiency.”

Cooly efficient

Perhaps an even more prevalent trend are the new efficiency standards many companies are striving to meet. As climate change pushes temperatures ever higher during the spring and summer months, consumers look for AC systems that keep them cool and save money on electricity. “Economics is the principal driver for the industry; the largest incentive for increased energy efficiency is to lower total operating costs,” says Benny Mathew, Chairman and Managing Director, Benair Air Conditioning.

Economics is the principal driver for the industry; the largest incentive for increased energy efficiency is to lower total operating costs

- Benny Mathew, Chairman and Managing Director, Benair Air Conditioning

It’s hard to talk about current trends without mentioning the smart home. Consumers look at their abode as an autonomous unit and see more of the in-home systems as connected to a whole rather than separate, divided appliances and services. Air conditioners are also at the forefront of the smart home revolution to ensure long-term energy savings and efficiency. “With systematic approaches adapted to the life cycle of the building supported by services, products and technologies, long-term energy savings and efficiency can be achieved,” says Mathew. “Air-conditioning technology is continuously developing and evolving, use of the tested new technologies and modernisation of the existing systems helps in achieving the savings.”

Automated air con

While building automated systems (BAS) is still in a very nascent stage in the UAE when compared to developed countries around the world, it’s soon going to change. The UAE Government’s focus on a greener future is the key driver as BAS keeps an eye on all devices 24/7. “Time scheduling features have ensured that the units operation is in line with building occupancy and the units are switched off when not required,” explains Kumar. “BAS has also reduced the cost of facility management as the units’ operational conditions are under constant monitoring and the downtime for maintenance is also reduced.”

Air-conditioning systems that can predict problems are also available and can reduce downtime as well as save on repair and maintenance costs.

Predictive maintenance AC
Air-conditioning systems that are able to predict problems can reduce downtime as well as repair and maintenance costs Image Credit: Shutterstock

“Predictive maintenance allows maintenance costs to be lowered, extends equipment life, reduces downtime and improves production quality by addressing problems before they cause equipment failures,” says Mathew. “The more high-quality data we can feed into the predictive model the better its accuracy.”

There are available options for predicting problems, but there’s also a downside, says Kumar. “The limitations in such options are that air conditioners need to be connected to servers centrally located in other countries. Even though the systems are safe, end users have concerns about security as the devices are connected to remote servers. The cost for such an operation is also relatively high at the moment.”

Breath of fresh air

The industry is also looking at incorporating technologies used in air purifiers in air conditioners to help remove allergens circulating in homes. “Air-purifying technology is about removal of the biological pollutants, dust, gases (VOCs) etc. Air conditioners coming now have enhanced filtration systems and technologies like UV-C and ionisers to help enhance air quality,” says Mathew.

Kumar says the air-conditioning industry is very competitive, and most manufacturers are preferring to keep minimal costs. However, consumers are becoming more aware about indoor air quality requirements and its impact on health and this is creating a market for air conditioners with built-in air purifiers. “The advantage of having built-in air purifiers is that it will not take any floor space unlike the conventional air purifiers,” he says.

The industry has also been known to get creative with shapes and colours. Is there a demand for fashionable ACs?

“The market for fashionable air conditioners is very minimal in this part of the world and most manufacturers have [removed these] from their product line-up,” says Kumar. “The fashionable air-conditioning segment is niche and we do not see its demand at present but this may increase multifold in future,” says Mathew.