Sunday, July 29, 2007

You will never buy a good zoning system, either

About a month ago I was trying to convince you that you will never buy a good HVAC unit. Today I'll try to hammer the last nail into the coffin.

Assumptions are a bit different in this case - if you are even investigating zoning systems, it means that the situation is pretty bad. Buckle up, it's about to get worse.

A slightly elaborated version of how DZ got actually started looks like this:

  • Existing systems were extremely dumb;
  • They were priced astronomically;
  • People who were selling them didn't have a clue;
  • People who were installing them knew just about as much, and, to add insult to injury, were actually afraid of zoning systems.
Situation hasn't changed much since -

Zoning systems are still dumb. Even the smartest ones are - the manufacturers haven't realized yet that they absolutely must play nice with other kids in the sandbox, and they keep producing proprietary components - yeah, I'd like to see the Carrier Infinity (a.k.a. Bryant Evolution) zoning system work with a pretty damn fine Lennox split unit that I have absolutely no motivation to replace or upgrade, it works just fine. My favorite pet peeve - none of them allow any real time diagnostics without special tools - what's the big deal, Ethernet and SNMP's been there forever. You'd think that with the price of chips going down so much, they'd have it in each and every unit, but no - there is just one, Carrier Infinity System Access Module - and even with that, the details on the version that allegedly supports Ethernet and wireless are very, very sketchy. Can't wait for it to come out.

The prices are still where they were.

Salespeople are still the same. Sometimes it is simply hilarious - see HVAC-Talk for the story of a Carrier dealer, out of all people, trying to talk the customer out of buying Infinity Zoning.

HVAC contractors have changed a bit - some of them did. Smart people hang out at HVAC-Talk, others are proudly proclaiming that they haven't heard of Internet and for sure don't need it to teach them how to do their job.

So, basically, it all boils down to the following:

  • If you don't do your homework, you're screwed - you will pay too much for something that is not going to ease your pain;
  • If you do your homework, you're screwed - what is out there is too dumb to ease your pain (up to 8 zones? forget it, I need twice as much, and why is it such a huge problem to begin with?);
  • If you compromise and buy what they sell you, you're screwed (read: Vendor lock-in).
So, what's the best way out of this? Don't buy a zoning system...

Or, you know, you could just make one...

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