SmartAC.com, a local tech startup, emerged Tuesday from stealth mode with $10 million in venture funding and a product that’s very Houston: It monitors the health of home AC systems, alerting customers via smartphone if the house is about to lose its cool.
Josh Teekell, the founder and chief executive who has owned a home services company since 2009, said he knows the “pain points” about air conditioning systems and set out to create a smart-home product that alerts homeowners to early warning signs that could signal full-blown breakdown.
“Most people don’t think about their AC system until it breaks,” Teekell said. “That creates a big demand for repairs when the hottest day of the year comes. We spent a long time researching what data points would be necessary to address problems in advance.”
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Most of the $10 million came from Houston investors whom Teekell declined to name, saying only that many were “high-wealth individuals” who work in the oil and gas industry. He declined to say what value the round assigned to the business.
“They are all homeowners, and they have all had problems with their own AC systems,” he said. “They got it right away.”
The SmartAC.com product consists of three sensors attached to a different component of an air conditioning system that talk to a central hub via WiFi or Ethernet to a home router.
One sensor is placed behind the AC filter and senses air pressure. Another attaches to an air vent in the home to monitor the temperature of the cold air blowing into the home. The third sits in the drain pan to alert when it begins to collect water.
The hardware costs $99, purchased on the company’s website. For homeowners with two AC units, an additional set of sensors costs $59, and all talk to the single hub. The kit is mailed to users, who install it themselves, though Teekell said he has arrangements with some AC companies to provide installation service.
The sensors feed the hub data constantly, and using artificial intelligence, the system determines a baseline performance. If the data change — say, the chilled air isn’t as cold or the air draw isn’t as strong — the user is alerted through a smartphone app. The cloud service is $5 a month and includes the ability to chat with a service technician via the app.
The sensors and data can help with common problems, such as when to change an AC filter or when a drain line is clogged, which Teekell said is the top reason for AC technician service calls.
The hardware is available to order today, and first shipments will go out June 12, Teekell said, adding he hopes to offer retail sales soon.
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The product was originally scheduled to launch at the South by Southwest festivals in Austin during March, but that event was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Analyst Mark Vena, who covers smart-home products for Austin-based Moor Insights & Strategy, said he was not aware of any other product exactly like SmartAC.com.
“If you have a solution that allows you to correct a situation proactively, that’s great. It’s better to know something is going to fail, rather than have it fail,” Vena said. “To do this for $99, it’s a no-brainer.”
But SmartAC.com may not be alone for long. In January, Google emailed owners of its Nest Learning Thermostats that it was testing a new feature to monitor the health of AC systems. Called HVAC alerts, the feature will send an email warning to a Nest owner if there appears to be an issue, such as taking too long to cool down a house or a room.
Teekell said his product gathers more data to make its AC health determinations, calling Google’s approach “just a binary, on-and-off.”
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SmartAC.com began in 2018 and is Teekell’s second AC-related startup. He launched a product called Mistbox in 2013 that attached to the outside unit of a AC system and blew water mist into the condenser’s blades to make it run cooler. Teekell said he is in the process of “sunsetting” Mistbox, and SmartAC.com will be his primary venture.