Just as Nest disrupted the thermostat industry with its Nest Learning Thermostat, there is a new tech start-up attempting to solve home comfort and air distribution balancing issues. Ecovent stealthily started up around May 2015, but really debuted recently at the 2016 Consumer Electronics show. This time, the disruptor wasn’t developed in Silicon Valley, but in the northeast in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Ecovent markets itself as room-by-room temperature control with automatic adjustable air outlets that open and close based upon feedback received from a plug in room mounted sensor. The Ecovents replace standard supply registers and ceiling diffusers in ceiling, wall or floor models and receive feedback from a smart sensor that doubles as an electrical outlet that plugs into a standard wall receptacle. Multiple sensors communicate with a central “smart hub” that can be integrated with the home WiFi for control.
My immediate initial concerns regarding automatic air outlets that shut off a register while a system is running would be increased static pressure and velocity. In cooling mode, closing off registers could lead to less air movement accross the evaporator coil leading to decreased coil temperature and possible freeze ups. However, when researching their site, it is found that the outlets contain pressure, temperature and humidity sensors that prevent issues that could cause noise, temperature, humidity and pressure issues. In rooms with multiple air outlets, a single wall sensor can be set up to control multiple outlets. The entire connected system of multiple outlets and sensors is controlled via a smartphone or tablet app.Ecovent, like Nest, has gone to marketing directly to the consumer instead of via installing contractors. Obviously, they are making similar claims as to the simplicity of installation that any consumer with a screwdriver and correct WiFi key should be able to perform. However, lowering cost and maintaining margin may be the real reason here as the claim is that an average 4 bedroom home will cost about $2000 to outfit, depending upon how many rooms, outlets and sensors are required. I priced out my 4 bedroom home and it was more like $2400. Certainly, this will be for the high end residential market for consumers who either really want to be on the cutting edge of technology and climate control or for those who have some serious system balancing problems that they have been unable to address with volume dampers. It will be interesting to see how Ecovent manages to find growth and who it’s angel capital investors will be. Google gobbled up Nest quickly, perhaps the folks at Ecovent are hoping for a similar outcome. However, this system will really actually be in competition with Nest and WiFi thermostats in general because individual zone control may potentially eliminate the need for smart thermostats with a sophisticated enough Android or iOS app.