smart home

Houston home tech startup emerges from stealth with $10M series A round

A Houston startup has launched to keep an eye on your AC to predict and prevent outages and issues. Photo courtesy of SmartAC.com

It can get hot as Hades in Houston during the summer, and a new Houston startup is using machine learning and technology to ensure that users can count on their air conditioning units to stay up and running during the heat.

Houston-based SmartAC.com has emerged from stealth mode with $10 million in funding from a series A investment round. The company's technology focuses on maintaining air conditioning and heating (HVAC) health before a major service issue occurs.

"Over 70 million homes have central air in the U.S., making indoor comfort a regular way of life. People don't often think about their HVAC systems, taking it for granted, until the day the AC or heat goes out," says Josh Teekell, CEO and founder of SmartAC.com, in a news release. "These systems require regular upkeep, and when they aren't maintained, costs can get out of hand. SmartAC.com's offer is simple; we care about your AC so you don't have to."

The company's technology combines three hardware sensors — which users can install themselves — and machine learning software to analyze data to predict service issues. The comfort sensor monitors the temperature of the air coming out of the unit, the filter sensor tracks the lifespan of air filters by tracking pressure and airflow, and the water sensor protects against leaks and clogs.


The three SmartAC.com sensors are magnetic and easy to install. Photo courtesy of SmartAC.com

All three sensors are linked by SmartAC.com Hub, which sends data from the sensors to the cloud and the SmartAC.com app to translate the data into recommendations to help users reduce costs and get ahead of issues.

"The average AC replacement cost is $7,500 — an expense that can be a huge burden on homeowners. Caring for these assets is inconvenient and oftentimes confusing, resulting in 80 percent of homeowners skipping the recommended maintenance on their AC systems," says Andrew Fuselier, SmartAC.com's COO, in a news release. "It's time to digitize the AC ownership experience to solve a decades old problem. SmartAC.com was formed in stealth mode with feedback from thousands of homeowners, so we're thrilled to finally show the world what we've built."

In addition to working directly with consumers, SmartAC.com has teamed up with HVAC service providers.

"SmartAC.com is a total game-changer," says David Lewis of Mission AC in a news release. "Our clients love the additional transparency and the technology allows us to improve our service speed and quality because, for the first time, we have real-time data on the systems we service."

The data from the sensors is analyzed and sent to users via the smart phone app. Photo courtesy of SmartAC.com

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Building Houston

 
 

The second cohort of The Ion Smart and Resilient Cities Accelerator hosted a day full of thought leadership and startup pitches. Photo by Shobeir Ansari, Getty Images

In light of COVID-19, it is more relevant than ever to discuss and support startups with sustainability and resiliency in mind. At the Ion Smart and Resilient Cities Cohort 2 Demo Day, a virtual audience was reminded of that.

"So, 2020 has certainly been a year of unprecedented uncertainty and change for Houston, for Texas, for our country, and for our world," says Christine Galib, director of the accelerator. "The past few months in particular have been especially difficult as the global pandemic and civil unrest continue to spotlight systemic and structural scars on the face of humanity."

The virtual event was streamed on July 1 and hosted several thought leaders and presenters before concluding with pitches from four of the cohort companies.

"Through it all, and in a virtual world, Cohort 2 startups, the mentors, and our Ion team have been the change we wish to see in the world," Galib continues. "For these startups, failure is simply not an option — and neither is going at it alone."

Earlier this year, Galib announced the second cohort would be focused on solutions for Houston's air quality, water purification, and other cleantech needs. The program, backed by Intel, Microsoft, and TX/RX, launched on Earth Day and commenced shortly after. Cohort 3 is expected later this year.

Here are the four companies that pitched and the problems they are trying to solve.

Re:3D

re:3D was founded just down the street from NASA's Johnson Space Center to address the need for a mid-market 3D printing solution. The Houston-based startup also wanted to create their 3D printer that operates on recycled plastics in order to prevent excess waste.

"Where some see trash, we see opportunity," Charlotte Craff, community liaison at Re:3D says in her presentation.

Re:3D's clients can get their hands on their own Gigabot for less than $10,000, and the printer uses pellets and flakes from recycled plastics —not filament — to print new designs. Clients are also supported by the company with design software and training.

"We can help the city of Houston help meet its climate action and resilient city goals by transforming the way people think about recycling," Craff says about Re:3D's future partnerships with the city.

Water Lens

While two-thirds of the world is covered in water, only 0.7 percent is drinkable. And of that fresh water, 92 percent of it is used in agricultural and industrial settings. This is how Keith Cole, CEO and founder of Water Lens, set the scene for his presentation.

Water Lens, which is based in Houston with a lab located in Austin, wants to solve the problem of cities and countries running out of fresh, drinkable water by equipping huge water-using companies with a water testing tool.

"We've developed a system to let anyone test any water literally anywhere in the world," Cole says, citing clients like ExxonMobil, Shell, and Halliburton.

S2G Energy

S2G Energy, based in Mexico, is focused on optimizing energy management in order to digitize, empower, and unlock potential for cost-saving efforts and technology.

In his pitch, Geronimo Martinez, founder of S2G Energy, points out that restaurants, commercial buildings, and other adjacent industries can save money by implementing energy management solutions that come out of S2G Energy's expertise. In Mexico, Martinez says, clients include the top two restaurant chains that — especially during COVID-19 — need optimization and cost saving now more than ever.

Eigen Control

A refinery's distillation columns are expensive — their fuel use accounts for 50 of operating costs, says Dean Guma, co-founder and CEO of Houston-based Eigen Control.

Guma explains in his pitch how Eigen Control's technology can plug into existing sensors, model networks based on data, and employ the startup's artificial intelligent technology to reduce carbon emissions and save money on operating costs.

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