Making A/C Smarter

Air conditioning eats up a lot of energy in the summer months, whether you're talking a whole-building system or a simple wall-mounted unit. Many people leave it running constantly, even when they're not home, because the alternative is coming home to a sweltering house or apartment and waiting impatiently for the A/C to kick in. Finally, a new unit from GE is changing the face of air conditioning, and it will be released just in time for summer.

Dubbed Aros, the unit is the result of a collaboration between GE and Quirky, a startup that allows people to submit ideas for projects and vote on proposals. Winners are selected and put into development, incorporating rapid and creative engineering to bring them to market quickly. In this case, a former GE engineer proposed an A/C unit that would work more efficiently than classic models by integrating with Quirky's smart home technology, allowing people to control their air conditioning with their smartphones from anywhere.

The big advantage here is that people can turn the A/C off or down when they leave home, and then turn it on as they're heading back. The air conditioning unit won't run endlessly while no one's in the house, but activating it remotely means people can return to a cool, comfortable home. The unit will also learn users' habits, and even better, it will keep track of electric usage and warn people when their bill exceeds a set budget.

These measures are a radical retooling of the traditional window A/C unit, allowing people to combine the desire for comfort with the need for energy efficiency. Running the Aros should be less expensive than using a traditional unit, with all the benefits people expect, like consistent climate control in hot locales like New York City. Air conditioning specialists in these regions are always looking for ways to help their clients save money, and this represents the next wave of innovation in home appliance development.

Better yet, the Aros is actually attractive. The basic design aesthetics of the window unit haven't changed over the decades, and this unit proves that you can teach an old dog new tricks -- with a sleek, modernistic front plate, it can be installed without looking as horribly clunky as some models do. And for those who aren't confident about their basic handyman skills, it's a cinch to find a helper to make the process easier.

While the unit is currently on the expensive end of the scale, clocking in at $300 (a result of the extremely rapid development process and relative newness of the product), it offers a lot in the way of energy and money-saving advantages, and it's bound to drop in price, as well. Furthermore, it's likely to spur competition, which will create more options for people who aren't ready to spend the money yet. For those who are...preorder today for May delivery!

Katie Marks writes for

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