Sunday, August 12, 2007

OUCH! This Is Not Design

This is a kind of engineering I'm trying to avoid: Window A/C Keeps Car Cool.

Feel free to peruse the Digg article for trivial criticism.

Meanwhile, instead of joining the crowd in bashing the guy (totally deserved, I must say) I'll try to be constructive and talk a little about why I claim DZ is not a hack like that.

First of all, two projects (let's call the other one The Window Hack, TWH for short, from now on) solve different tasks, though on surface they may seem to solve the same - inadequate cooling.

TWH is supposed to solve the problem of a HVAC unit, perfectly good by design, but poor by execution, that keeps breaking and sucking money. In other words, it addresses the problem of financial delinquency. With many side effects, not the least of which are the aggravation of outbound cash flow (air drag => $$$ for extra gas) and consumer safety (imagine where that box flies in case of a collision, or if it is simply torn off by the air stream at 70mph).

DZ, on the other hand, is aimed at solving a problem of inadequate HVAC design. Moreover, it solves it in a scalable way that allows to start getting immediate improvements with very little investment, and keep investing into hardware and getting tangible benefits all the way up to the sky.

First of all, you can just install the sensor network and stop right there. Analysis of what you will see may just as well allow you to make adjustments to your home infrastructure in order to bring it to your home comfort requirements.

Then, you can run DZ in passive mode and never touch the HVAC - gives the skittish ones their piece of mind and improvements in home comfort.

Or, you can just go all the way and reap the benefits.

In any case, amount of improvements you get is proportional to your invesment - would it be your time or your money.

Breaking it down to components -

You can start with adding a $10 R/C servo and little labor to get a simplistic motorized register. Like I was saying before, this solution was good enough to work for two years without any necessity to improve it.

Or, you can go for an industrial grade modulating damper - the first Google hit for such a thing that has a price listed puts it at $180.01. I suspect that the actual price will be significantly higher - usually, you have to log in to see the price, and I'm afraid that not everybody would be able to even get an account, it may be restricted to certain audience. Consequently, even that price, whatever it is, is subject to markups all the way up before you are told the final figure.

But if you want to use an industrial grade damper with DZ and can afford it - be my guest, it is not only possible, but accounted for in the system architecture. Oh, and you can have a mixed set of dampers at the same time, so you don't have to spend all that money at the same time.

Same is true for the HVAC unit - DZ can work with a crappy 30 year old HVAC (and, in fact, it did for two years) and allow you to extract significant home comfort improvements even out of that monster. But if you cough up some cash and install a state of art, multistage, variable speed unit (that'll cost you somewhere north of $10,000) - it will happily recognize the features available and will allow you to squeeze even more use out of that.

Bottom line: you get what you paid for. But, you can spend a cent at a time here and there and keep getting returns on what you spend with even minor investments - you don't need to get a loan in the bank to make that happen.

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