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Summary:

Connected thermostats can help consumers save money on cooling and heating, but adding connected vents to the system might save more by offer even more granular levels of control.

Keen
photo: S. Higginbotham

For those out there with a connected thermostat, Keen is a startup worth watching if you want to get the most out of your investment. The two-year-old company has built a connected air vent cover that you swap with your existing vents. The idea is that the app or overall home automation system will control the flow of hot or cool air into rooms that need it.

So if you aren’t in your bedroom all day, the vent will close and open later in time to make sure the room is comfortable for sleeping. The system may tie into motion detectors or presence tags eventually, but for now it’s going to track how you control it and use some pre-programmed common sense. I’m interested because I work in my office all day, and would love to try to cool and heat that smaller space as opposed to my entire house. This might help.

The $60 vents will be on the market in September, and you can use four to six to cover the average home. The vents use ZigBee and have four AA batteries that should last for about two years according to the founders. There are also different vent covers on offer for those who have an eye for design.

keen

The real magic will be in learning algorithms and the potential for savings as the vents work in concert with the thermostat. Even better will be when the vents work in concert with temperature sensors in each room. In that way you could try to cater to individual cooling and heating demands on a room-by-room basis.

That’s where we are heading with smarter buildings, and such systems are already available in commercial offices and high-end residences, but taking them to the mass market will be important for helping conserve energy. Keen’s products are nice because they don’t require an expensive retrofit to existing air ducts, such as the installation of automated dampers.

Updated: This article was corrected on March 15 to note that the Keen vents need four AA batteries.

  1. The flaw to this concept is for many HVAC ducting system, this is an inefficient method to control flow. By closing the vent at the end of a line, you pressurize the line and force more leakage than you would normally have. Duct systems need to be balanced and these inherently unbalance the systems, resulting in more leaks, and likely not saving to any money. That is why dampers are usually put at junction points in the duct lines, not at the end points.

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    1. Nayeem Hussain Friday, March 14, 2014

      The product only replaces a third of a home’s total vents. Back pressure is only an issue when more than 60% of a home’s vents are closed at the same time.

      It’s proven that closing off vents in rooms that are unused can effectively redirect airflow.

      Furthermore, dampers are much more expensive and require professional installation.

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      1. mark faultersack Thursday, March 20, 2014

        “…Back pressure is only an issue when more than 60% of a home’s vents are closed at the same time…”
        Not true, for many systems. If you only bock off 20% of the vents you can have issues. I did. Besides the problems mentioned above that can occur, you may very well exceed your factory allowed temperature-rise or fall, in single-fire-rate furnaces or in single speed AC. I am currently testing this in my own home and documenting it. It does reduce gas usage to close off rooms and vents but you can hurt the heat exchanger and/or efficiency if temps go beyond factory ratings.

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