Inova Products likes to compare its Activent wireless zoning product (www.theactivent.com) to the CFL light bulb: a simple device that makes an old technology more energy efficient. The device accomplishes this by letting homeowners or remodelers add zoning to a forced air heating system for about $75 per heating register.
In a conventional zoning scheme, thermostats in various parts of the house are wired to a central controller, which operates dampers installed in the ductwork. These systems require professional installation and can cost between $1,200 and $2,000 to put in a new home under construction, according to the NAHB Research Center. By contrast, an Activent consists of a battery-powered vent damper that fits in a room’s supply register and is paired with a thermostat/controller that has a range of about 12 meters. Installation takes about 5 minutes and requires no special skills.
According to Inova general manager Dan Lacy, the vents can be used to zone about 1/3 of a home’s rooms, and include a heating and cooling mode. He recommends installing them in rooms that get too hot during heating season or too cold during cooling season, compared to the rest of the house. When temperatures in these rooms exceed the set point, the vents shut down, which redirects air to the home’s other rooms. This balances the system and helps even out temperatures throughout the home.
After retrofitting close to 1,000 homes, the company claims that the product will reduce energy costs by an average of 5% per vent installed and will also have reduced run time. That means a home with energy costs of $150 per month will save as much as $90 per year.
Vents are sized to fit 4x10, 4x12, 4x14, or 6x10 openings. Additional sizes are being considered.
This article orginially appeared in our July/August 2010 issue available for viewing in our Magazine Archive.