Ecovent, a Boston-based startup founded by former missle defense experts, has closed a $6.9 million series A round. The money will help the company fulfill the first large batch of orders for its learning air vents.
Ecovent's system is designed to provide a cheaper, sleeker alternative to residential zoned air systems. It's made up of wireless vents that measure conditions in each room and automatically adjust air flow in order to maintain the desired temperature. Naturally, it's also designed to be controlled by a mobile device.
The round was led by Emerson Climate Technologies, the HVAC production arm of the global manufacturing giant Emerson. The venture firms Tamarisc and Blue Fog Capital also took part in the round.
This adds to the $2.2 million that Ecovent raised from angel investors last October. The company says it has $1 million in orders from customers.
Ecovent was founded in 2013 by two MBA students, Dip Patel and Yoel Kelman, who met at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Before MIT, Patel spent 8 years as an engineer and program manager at Lockheed Martin, where he marketed radar systems, submarines and electronic warfare systems.
Two of Ecovent's other co-founders also came from Lockheed Martin, where they engineered missile defense systems.
The team is now turning its attention to another kind of warfare: the battle over room temperature in a home.
"We used to try to understand threats. But now we’re looking to understand a building," said Patel.
In homes with central heating and cooling, the struggle over temperature control is very real. Aside from opening and closing forced air vents manually, there's not much a person can do to control temperature room by room without investing thousands of dollars in a zoned system. This problem has tested many spouses and family members living together who have different temperature comfort thresholds.
Ecovent wants to replace zoned air systems with sensors, algorithms, mobile controls and vents that snap into place. A typical 4-bedroom home would cost $2,000 to outfit -- including a plug-in sensor for each room, air vents and a control hub. A traditional zoned system for a home that size could be double the cost.
"The price might seem high for someone who hasn't done anything with their home HVAC before. But for those who know the price of zoning, this is very low," said Patel.
Ecovent's mission is to make homes more comfortable at a lower price point. But in early pilots, it's also saving energy. Patel said homeowners have seen between 20 percent and 40 percent monthly savings through optimizing their heating and cooling.
It's impossible to talk about learning devices in the home without mentioning Nest, which pioneered the intelligent thermostat. Nest was initially more focused on sleek design and learning capabilities; energy savings were a side benefit. Over time, however, the company began to focus more on the energy-saving potential of the device to make it more attractive to homeowners, as well as to build promotional channels through utilities.
Ecovent hopes to do the same thing as it deploys product. The firm will offer more detailed reports on home air quality and energy consumption over time, and will also eventually work with utilities to integrate the system into residential demand-response programs.
Watch the company's clever promotional video below.