Heating Vents That Direct Warmth Where You Want It
Anyone with a forced-air heating or cooling system at home can appreciate how some commonly used spaces never seem warm or cold enough, or how seldom-used rooms routinely get warmed or cooled more than they need. A home with two heating zones you can adjust independently might not need extra help. But if a single thermostat is controlling your entire home, a set of smart vents that communicate with your thermostat might pay for itself in savings as well as deliver more comfort. Here are two diverse approaches Consumer Reports saw at CES 2015 in Las Vegas:
Keen Home Smart Vent
Expected this July, the Keen Home Smart Vent consists of replacement vents that monitor temperature and air pressure and redirect air, opening or closing vents as needed to correct imbalances. But the company doesn’t expect you to replace all your vents—which could number 20 or more—with theirs. The primary focus is guest rooms that don’t need routine heating or cooling, along with any other room that routinely feels either too hot or too cold. In fact, the company recommends that no more than a third of your vents be Keen Home vents to avoid damage to the heating/cooling fan. The Smart Vent communicates over ZigBee and will be part of Lowe’s Iris line of connected products.
The product is cheaper up-front at an expected $85 per vent, which includes one vent cover. But you’ll pay more afterward: Lowe’s Iris costs a minimum of $10 a month for anything more than basic control. Vents come in four sizes: 4×10, 4×12, 6×10, and 6×12 inches. They take four AA batteries, claimed to last about three years.
Ecovent is a more elaborate system, consisting of separate sensors and a hub that ties everything together. The vents, as with Keen Home’s, replace your usual floor, wall, or ceiling vents. The sensors plug in over a power outlet (one per room) and monitor temperature, humidity, and air pressure—sending data to the hub, which directs the vents to adjust airflow. One important difference here is that Ecovent recommends you replace every vent for proper operation and protection of your heating/cooling equipment.
Vents and sensors should cost about $100 each by the time the system ships in August. The hub costs about $100 more. But the company says you’ll never pay another penny, either for software updates or connectivity. The hub has both Wi-Fi and ZigBee capability, but communication among the components is over a proprietary protocol . Vent sizes at least for now are limited to 10×4, 10×6, and 6×12 inches. Its four AA batteries are also claimed to last about three years.
More on home comfort
Thermostats. Once you start considering a smart-vent product, you should also consider whether your home’s thermostats are helping as much as you need. To learn about your options, see our buying guide for thermostats. Then see our thermostat Ratings of more than 30 thermostats with and without programmability.
Gas furnaces. Looking for a replacement furnace? Before you buy check our report on the most and least reliable gas furnaces.
Central air. Believe it or not, now is a good time to get quotes if you’re planning to install central air conditioning because the installers aren’t as busy. Before you do, read our report on the most and least reliable central air systems.