Smart-home heating startup Ecovent lands $6.9m investment, touts $1m in pre-orders

Ecovent 920

Boston startup Ecovent is getting the attention of a much bigger player in its market.

The two-year-old company, which makes a “smart” heating vent system for homes, has landed a $6.9 million investment to help it launch its product later this year. The financing round was led by Emerson Climate Technologies, which sells consumer and commercial heating and cooling systems.

Ecovent is developing a system of battery-powered vents that can be individually opened and shut by sending a digital signal over a dedicated wireless network. Ecovent says that will allow owners to tweak the temperature in individual rooms of their home by using a special smartphone app.

Ecovent says that level of detailed control can help eliminate nagging hot or cool spots in a home, which in turn can lower heating and air conditioning bills by firing up the furnace only when necessary.

Eventually, Ecovent says, the system’s computer control unit will be able to learn the patterns and preferences of a home’s residents and automatically adjust the temperature based on what they typically ask it to do.

The company, which plans to start shipping its systems later this year, says it has collected more than $1 million in pre-orders. A system with four vents, four temperature sensors, and a wireless control unit including thermostat has a list price of $1,100.

“Today’s cars allow passengers and drivers to set individual temperatures, yet most homes have only one adjustable zone,” Ecovent chief executive Dipul Patel said. “It’s time to change that.”

Ecovent’s new investment round comes as manufacturers of thermostats, kitchen appliances, and other workaday household gadgets are starting to give their products high-tech makeovers, including the ability to connect with smartphones.

The trend, known as the “Internet of things,” attracted an emphatic endorsement from Google last year when the online advertising company paid $3.2 billion for connected thermostat startup Nest Labs. Last month, Google announced a new version of Nest’s Internet-connected smoke detector.

Mainstream consumers may not be quite ready to stock their homes with a new fleet of Internet-connected gadgets, though. Technology research firm Argus Insights recently reported that even the most popular home connected device, the security camera, was suffering from waning demand and poor consumer reviews.

Emerson, however, is still bullish on the idea of pairing Ecovent systems with its existing heating and cooling units and control systems. “We see the potential to fix an issue that has gone unsolved in the residential HVAC industry for decades,” vice president Bob Sharp said.