Smart thermostats are pretty ubiquitous these days, but depending on which one you’re using, you can get a lot more out of heating and cooling your home with relatively simple DIY upgrades. The Flair Smart Vent System is one such upgrade, and while it costs a little upfront to start (each register is $ 79, depending on size), you don’t have to call an HVAC contractor or tear down walls to take advantage of what it offers.
The Flair system is based on a simple idea: By controlling the air flow through individual rooms, you can more efficiently control where and when you heat and cool. The basic ingredients Flair uses to achieve this are the Smart Vents, which in standard sizes fit into existing floor and wall register slots. The Flair designs are unobtrusive and all of the electronics are housed in the case, which is located under the floor. They can be hard-wired for power supply, but also come with two C-batteries that provide “years” of power before they need to be replaced.
Flair recommends three different approaches to determining how many Smart Vents you will need to complement your existing system: If you have a room that is too cold to cool and too hot to heat, just get yourself a Smart Vent and Flair Puck for that room. If you only have one room that’s under-cooled and under-heated, equip all the other rooms with smart vents and pucks (or Ecobee sensors if you have an Ecobee thermostat, but we’ll get to that later). If your air conditioning is already pretty even but you just want more control and efficiency gains, equip the whole house as a third option.
A puck is required for each room. This is a small round device that includes temperature control and monitoring. The first must be hard-wired to be powered via the included USB cable as it acts as a bridge connecting the Flair system to your home network. All others can be operated with the supplied AAA batteries and are also very energy-efficient thanks to the e-ink display.
Flair works in a number of modes including one that is compatible with any thermostat where you simply set the temperature for each room. The associated ventilation openings are opened or closed depending on whether the temperature in this room is the same. It can also work directly with Ecobee and Honeywell smart thermostats to get a much smarter mode in which they receive or send the temperature to the smart unit and coordinate their open / close status depending on it. Google has changed the Nest API, so Flair is working to support similar functionality on Nest systems in the future. Currently, however, it works the same with Nest installations as it does with “dumb” thermostats.
Design and functions
Flair’s Smart Vents themselves are attractive, well-made hardware. The ventilation covers themselves are made of metal and have an attractive grill design that matches most decors. All you know is what might be a problem for dark floors, but you are definitely a step further than your average register. On one side they have an LED strip of light that is used during setup to identify which is which, and underneath are the battery case, slats, and motors that control their opening and closing status.
As already mentioned, the Smart Vents can be assigned to a puck, which gives them the information about the ambient temperature as well as the target temperature in order to open or close them. You can also use an Ecobee sensor to receive your marching orders if they are set up for software integration with an Ecobee system. I installed my test devices and tried them out first with the Flair app, which provides the Ecobee with target temperature information, but then toggled it so that the Ecobee found the desired temperature, and all Flair units inherited this information and their open / close status determined accordingly.
At first, I found the Flair app a little intimidating just because it has a lot of information and some level of logic for the initial setup with a multi-vent system. But once I got the Ecobee integration up and running, the whole Flair system just worked – and worked like magic.
In this configuration, you don’t even have to think about the air vents being smart. They just do whatever it takes to even out the temperature and keep the heating and cooling routine smart. It made an impressive difference in the amount of airflow circulating around my nearly 100 year old house – and my setup isn’t exactly ideal as there are some non-standard, larger registers that can’t be flavored just yet.
The pucks themselves are well designed, with magnetic, clip-on, and screw-in installation options, and legible, low-power e-ink displays. Their bezel rotates for temperature control and they can also be moved out of sight if you really just want to use them as remote sensors.
You might think that having an open or closed register doesn’t have a huge impact on the effectiveness of a house-wide HVAC system, but in my experience the before and after of Flair was dramatically different. I mainly started with one problem point (the master bedroom) and after that the temperature was reached much faster, both in heating and cooling modes.
Even if you find that your central air and heating are already pretty effective, Flair seems like a smart upgrade that offers permanent benefits in terms of consistency and energy efficiency. In addition, when using Flair as a controller, you can set different target temperatures for different rooms based on the individual preferences of the occupants.
Real-zone HVAC systems can cost thousands – especially when replacing existing plumbing in walls. The Flair solution is much cheaper in comparison and delivers effective results with a DIY installation that only takes a few minutes to set up.