Record-breaking heat waves in summer, unprecedented severe freezes in winter, and wild swings that make a mockery of orderly seasonality in between. As the effects of climate change take hold, the collective challenge is to rein in greenhouse-gas emissions so the planet stays habitable. For the individual, meanwhile, the challenge is to keep the home climate under control—preferably in a way that doesn’t cost a fortune.
The good news is that the technology to do that is already here. State-of-the-art HVAC systems, especially combined with modern insulation and roof-mounted solar panels, can keep homes snug and comfortable while using minimal energy from the grid. And since they rely entirely on electrical power, they’re ready for the net-zero carbon energy economy of the future.
The heart of a cutting-edge HVAC system is a heat pump, a machine that combines the functions of both a furnace and an air-conditioning system. You can think of it as a sort of reversible refrigerator that can move heat from inside to outside in the summer, and from outside to inside in winter. While heat pumps have traditionally worked best in climates that don’t experience large temperature variations, newer top-line models like the Trane XV20i TruComfort Variable Speed Heat Pump are powerful and efficient enough to operate throughout most of the United States.
A key to the Trane XV20i’s efficiency is its ability to bring a living space to the user’s preferred temperature quickly and precisely. It has 750 stages of comfort, meaning it can adjust the internal climate to exactly the desired point, especially when paired with a smart thermostat like the Trane ComfortLink ll XL1050. Smart thermostats bring the power of the internet-of-things to an HVAC system, allowing you to optimize performance and energy efficiency by matching your pattern of use. For instance, the Trane ComfortLink ll XL1050 can learn to turn down the heat when you’re away, then dial it back up so that it’s cozy just before you return.
These systems also provide peace of mind by giving you 24/7 access to your home climate control, wherever you may be. The Trane Home app lets you check on how your HVAC is doing from anywhere via the cloud and change settings as desired. If you give it permission, the app can also automatically feed real-time diagnostic data to your Trane dealer so that, if there’s a maintenance issue, service personnel with pre-ordered parts on hand can be dispatched.
Odds are that won’t be necessary, though. Trane tests its systems in its custom Climate Chamber lab, where its engineers certify that all the company’s equipment is capable of withstanding whatever Mother Nature throws at it, including torrential downpours of up to five inches of rain per hour.
Of course, your home may never experience anything like that—but better safe than sorry. Scandinavians like to say that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. In the midst of a climate emergency, it’s nice to know that your HVAC system is top-of-the-line at keeping your personal climate in the comfort zone.
Jeff Wise is a journalist specializing in aviation, adventure, and psychology and was recently featured in the Netflix documentary “MH370: The Plane That Disappeared.” He lives north of New York City and for fun flies gliders and single-engine airplanes.