Smart Thermostats – The Future and the Past of HVAC

Arlington, Texas – Artificial Intelligence, innovation and novel approaches are exponentially changing how we use HVAC and smart thermostats. We have come a long way since Willis Carrier invented the modern air conditioner in 1902. The first modern residential air conditioning system was installed in 1914. The unit was massive at 7 feet high, 6 feet wide, and 20 feet long.

More and more homeowners are becoming conscientious towards purchasing products that are greener and leave less of a carbon footprint. Regarding heating and air conditioning customers also look for systems that are much more efficient. Year after year HVAC manufacturers continue to innovate and provide new systems that lower the costs to operate said systems. Unfortunately, year after year power companies increase the cost of electricity and if you have concluded like I have it appears inflation is beating innovation.

Unless you live under a rock, most people know when the next Playstation, Apple IPhone, Xbox, Samsung Galaxy, and the like are coming out. These major companies spend millions in advertising to ensure that everyone will know.  However, you rarely ever hear of up-and-coming HVAC innovations and novel technologies from the HVAC industry.  Unlike the above gadgets, homeowners do not really think about their HVAC until they have problems with their current one. There is no WOW factor in a heat pump that cools a room one second faster and does so while utilizing 5% less electricity than the previous generation.  Thus, HVAC innovations and novel technologies related to such seem to disappear into obscurity.

HVAC Innovations and Novel Approaches

Believe it or not HVAC innovations and new technologies are being developed beyond the major HVAC manufacturers such as Trane, Carrier, York and others. The Department of Energy for one funds research to various colleges, institutions, and even other government funded institutes. Most notably as of lately the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has multiple research projects under way in developing emerging HVAC related applications.

Research projects like one at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory that is experimenting with using graphite and a wax composite as an integrated phase-change composite material in an HVAC system. If successful, the tech could significantly decrease the electrical charge and demand when compared with traditional vapor-compression air conditioner technology.

However, this is the future. For a moment, let us shift focus on futuristic technology that is already in the here and now.

Today’s HVAC Technology – Well actually the Past

Warren JohnsonTo bring up current technology we need to go back 138 years.  It was the year 1883, In Whitewater, Wisconsin. In this city was a High School teacher by the name of Warren Johnson who worked at the State Normal School, now formally known as The University of Wisconsin – Whitewater.  At the time, Johnson was the Professor of Natural Science. Johnson had an inquisitive mind and was thoroughly interested in electricity.

Johnson is credited with having developed the first patented thermostat. However, it was not the world’s first thermostat. At the time he patented the instrument and called it the electric tele-thermoscope. It was a metallic coiled thermostat that had a mercury switch. The thermostat could be used to ring a bell that would alert a fireman to open or close the heating damper in basement where the furnace would be stored.

The inspiration for this idea came from the fact that custodians at the school controlled the heating of the classrooms through these hand-operated dampers. They would periodically access the classrooms to determine when to open or close the dampers.  These disruptions inspired Johnson to create the bi-metal thermostat.

William Plankinton and the Plankinton Packing Company

When William Plankinton learned of the device, he became interested in providing substantial financial investment to manufacturer the thermostat. Thus, the Johnson Electric Service Company was founded in 1885 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Warren Johnson’s most notable contribution towards temperature control was the automatic multi-zone temperature control system.  This was a pneumatic system that utilized a bi-metal thermostat that controlled air flow through a nozzle. A regulator was then used to control a valve for the heat exchanger or to control a damper of a forced air system.

Warren Johnson went on to continue to innovate and invent many more products. Including products such as chandeliers, springless door locks, puncture-proof tires, thermometers, and pneumatic tower clocks. He also experimented with wireless communications paving the way for Lee de Forest, who worked with Johnson in creating the audio vacuum tube that went on later create radio.

Smart Thermostats and the Present Day

We have come a long way in the past 138 years.  Smart thermostats, a recent innovation, are the most recent form of automatic thermostat technology.  These thermostats have been the gateway for homeowners to enter the smart devices market. However, with as much hype, benefits, ease of use, and savings a homeowner can experience from using smart devices there are still over 100 million US homes that are lack smart devices. Yet, with still a hundred million homes waiting for their first smart device, adoption of smart devices has grown exponentially over the years.  In 2014, smart device adoption was only at 5%. In 2017 it had increased to 13% and in 2020 over 65% of homes have at least one smart device.

How Does a Smart Thermostat Work?

There are three basic components to a smart thermostat. The first component is the one that is directly connected to the homes HVAC system. This component speaks directly with the second component which is the thermostat control.  The third component is the programming language and operating system for the smart thermostat.  This program communicates with an application that is downloaded to your smart phone, computer, laptop, tablet, or any other smart device that the thermostat may be able to communicate with.  When you assemble it all together, you have a thermostat that allows you to monitor and change the homes temperature settings from any internet-enabled location on the planet.

As explained above, some smart thermostats also have other options that allow for more complex abilities. Mostly these options are controlled via software and / or sensors.

How are Smart Thermostats different from my old Thermostat?

Well that all depends on what thermostat you have in your home. Most likely you will have a programmable thermostat in your home if you do not have a smart thermostat already. However, below we go over all the different types of thermostats just in case you have a piece of antiquity in your home.

Analog Thermostats

These types of thermostats are the oldest and least expensive thermostats that are still available in the market. However, they are also one of the costliest when it comes to operating costs. They are operated manually and the temperature adjustments and readings in these thermostats are far from reliable.

Digital Thermostats

These thermostats offer a bit more control and have better temperature reading capabilities than analog thermostats. They allow for your HVAC system to shut down once the desired temperature in the home is reached. However, they provide no programmable options.

Programmable Thermostats

Like the previous generation these thermostats are also digital. However, where they differ is in flexibility. A programmable thermostat allows you to program a schedule.  These thermostats come in three different models. The first is the 7-day model which allows you to program a schedule for each day of the week. The second is the 5-day work week model which allows you to program a schedule Monday thru Friday. The final one is the 5+1+1 model which allows to have a varying schedule for each day of the weekend and a set schedule for the work week. These types of thermostats can offer energy savings of anywhere between 10% – 20%.  This is of course if the homeowner programs the thermostat to fit around their schedule.

Smart Thermostats

Like programmable thermostats, a smart thermostat can save 20% on heating and cooling costs or even more.  Smart thermostats are the newest and most ideal thermostat on the market. However, where they differ with programmable thermostats is that they can be remotely controlled through a smart phone or any other internet-connected device.  Many smart thermostats are also compatible with home automation systems such as Google Home and Alexa.  Depending on which brand and model, smart thermostats offer a vast array of options.

Should You Get a Smart Thermostat?

If you do indeed have an antiquity analog thermostat in your home, then the answer is yes. Also, if you have a varying schedule, no schedule at all, or are forgetful then a smart thermostat is also for you.  Finally, if you are having problems with your old thermostat and would like a new one. The costs of smart thermostats can be much higher than traditional programmable thermostats, however, with the ever-rising costs of electricity you can expect a return in your investment in no time.

If your old thermostat is blinking or producing errors check out our article here for more help.

Which Smart Thermostat Do We Recommend?

Trane smart thermostatIf you are looking for all the bells and whistles with a large interface, then we recommend the Trane ComfortLink II XL1050.  The XL100 works with a network of controls and sensors that assist in optimizing the temperature and humidity settings in a home. It accomplishes this by adjusting compressor and fan speeds in real time.  These adjustments provide the most optimal indoor environment for homeowners.

The XL1050 sports a 7-inch touchscreen with built-in Nexia Bridge.  It can provide zone by zone comfort with a smart home hub. This makes your home “Smart Home Ready”.


With Trane’s XL 1050 you can connect and adjust your thermostat from any internet-enabled smartphone, tablet or laptop.  The built-in Nexia smart home bridge also allows you to remotely monitor and control over 200 smart home devices throughout home. This includes things such as your home’s lights, door locks, and even garage door from virtually anywhere in the world.

The built-in Nexia bridge monitors your home’s HVAC system in real time and if it finds any problems it can automatically alert your Trane dealer if there are any issues with the system. With your permission, real time information is easily accessible for your dealer so that they can remotely view the details on how your home’s heating and air conditioning system is performing.

Key Features

    • Wi-Fi or Ethernet Connectivity
    • Large Color Touchscreen
    • Built-in Nexia Bridge
    • Program up to 4 schedules a day, 7 days a week
    • Trane Comfortlink™ II zoning compatible
    • Compatible with select third party home automation controllers: AMX, Control4, Crestron, and Savant

Nexia remote climate access is included with the purchase of a connected control. Adding smart home devices to your Nexia system may require a monthly subscription. Ask your Trane Dealer for details.

Read more Smart Thermostat selections here!

Great! I would like to Learn More!

Do not hesitate to contact us, if you are interested in learning more about Trane’s Smart Thermostat options. Living in the Dallas County area?  You can reach us at (972) 263-2500. If you are in the Arlington – Fort Worth area you can contact us at (817) 516-0700. Once you give us a call one of our knowledgeable and professional HVAC specialists will be more than happy to assist you with all of your questions. Metro Express Service is a local Trane Comfort Specialist and is one of the leading HVAC companies across the United States for Trane sales. If you would like to learn more about why you should choose a smart thermostat then check out our article about Smart thermostats here.

About Metro Express Service

Metro Express Service has been in operation for over 34 years. Founded in 1987 serving the North Dallas Metropolitan area we have since then grown to service the entire DFW metroplex with locations in the Arlington, Dallas, and Fort Worth area.  Today, we are one of the largest residential and light commercial HVAC service companies in the DFW metroplex.

Service, Quality, Safety and Professionalism is just but a handful of our priorities to our customers. We are available day and night, rain or snow, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With over 40 service and installation trucks in our fleet located throughout the metroplex we can provide quick service when you need us the most.  For all your heating and air conditioning needs remember Metro Express Service.


Randy Murphy

Randy Murphy has been building his knowledge of the air conditioning and heating business for several years now. He first started applying his knowledge while working for his father’s HVAC company. Later, in 1987, Randy started his own business: Metro Express Service. He has been a top 10 Trane & Amana dealer for over eight years. When it comes to heating and cooling, Randy knows the business better than anyone.
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