Smart vent systems offer the possibility of room to room climate control.
This benefits you by allowing each room to be custom conditioned depending on the time of day or the preferences of the person in the room.
Before the smart home, this was only possible with expensive zoning systems or decentralized systems such as baseboard heat. Now, several companies are perfecting smart vent systems that will work to increase your comfort and decrease your energy bill.
Do Smart Vents Work With Smart Thermostats?
Smart thermostats and smart vents are not competing products. In fact, smart vents have the potential to be the perfect compliment to a smart thermostat.
A smart thermostat only has the power to turn the heat on or off. It doesn’t have the power to direct where the air goes.
However, a smart vent system can redirect air flow. When a vent is closed in one room, increased pressure in the system causes more air to be redirected to other rooms.
In a smart vent system, the thermostat controls the on/off of the HVAC system and the smart vents direct where it goes. It’s ideal but not necessary to have the two devices be able to communicate with each other.
Most smart thermostats comes with the sensors that sensors allow you to get the temperature you want in a specific room. However, it will not even out uneven heating or cooling. If you happen to have a room that is too cold, you can place a remote sensor in the room and leave the heat on until that room is up to the temperature you want.
What will happen?
Well, it will turn the heat on until that room reaches the temperature you selected…and that’ll be nice. But, it will also keep heating the rest of the house because it has no control over where the air goes.
So, the end result will be one room at a comfortable 72, but the rest of the house at a balmy 76. Then, when your energy bills come, you’ll curse the person that told you, “Smart thermostats save money.”
How do you fix the problem? You need control over where the air goes, and that’s where smart vents can fill the void.
Do I Need To Replace All My Vents With Smart Vents?
In most cases, the more vents you replace with smart vents, the more effective the system will be.
First, understand that smart vents can only restrict air flow. If you happen to have one room that doesn’t get enough air (cold in the winter and/or hot in the summer) that room would not need a smart vent. Instead, you would need smart vents on many of the other vents in the house. Then, you could close some of those vents. That would increase pressure in the system, and force more air into the low flow room.
The second case is a room that gets too much air flow (too warm in the winter and/or too cool in the summer). This is much more easily solved with smart vents. You would only need to put a smart vent in the problem room. The vent would restrict airflow in the problem room and the system pressure would get harmlessly distributed across all the other vents in the home.
I have a third floor attic that has been converted into a living space. My HVAC equipment is in my basement so it’s a long run up to the attic. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t get enough air. I could install smart vents on all the other vents in my house which would force more air up there, but that would reduce the flow quite a bit and put a lot of pressure on the system.
Instead, I am going to get an inline booster fan (like this one) and install it in the duct that runs to the attic. The booster fan doesn’t come with the same pressure related risks as restricting air flow with vents. It does the opposite. It reduces the pressure in the system.
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Features To Look For
Pressure Monitoring – This is essential. A smart vent system that doesn’t monitor pressure will not be able to effectively distribute air flow and protect your expensive HVAC equipment at the same time.
Temperature Sensors – A smart vent needs temperature feedback to do its job. It needs to either come with its own, or be compatible with third party temperature sensors.
Battery Life – Very few people have wires running to their vents, so most people will be running their smart vents off batteries. If I’ve got ten plus smart vents scattered around the house, I definitely don’t want to be replacing batteries very often.
Smart Home Integration – Is it compatible with your smart thermostat? Is it compatible with other smart sensors, or will I need to rebuy sensors that work with my vents? Can I control it with my voice or use IFTTT to customize my experience?
Correct Size – As I write this, the companies selling the smart vent systems are having a hard time keeping a variety of sizes of their products in stock.
Measure your vent sizes from the duct opening. This means remove the existing vent cover and measure the opening of the duct. Don’t measure the outer dimensions of your existing vent.