What is your biggest source of energy consumption? Most likely, it’s your heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system.
As with most businesses, HVAC systems consume the most power and are the least controlled. Let’s face it — you have to keep your facility comfortable for your clients. In addition, you may be relying on employees who have no interest in keeping down energy costs or equipment repairs.
Balancing comfort and saving energy is not an easy task. Group fitness rooms, daycare rooms and cycling rooms typically have their own thermostats. How often do your employees and trainers go into these rooms and immediately drop the temperature on the thermostat without regard for the energy cost or wear and tear on the system? How can you eliminate this? The answer is remotely-managed thermostats.
With today’s technology, installing and managing thermostats in a facility has never been easier. Phone apps, e-mails, text messages and wireless devices keep everyone connected to their businesses in one way or another. Why not use technology to help manage your energy costs?
With the increase in thermostat technologies, installing a system to monitor how your thermostats are controlled is both simple and relatively inexpensive. New management systems allow you to setup daily schedules, monitor changes to your temperature settings and remotely correct these changes. Set up properly, these systems are both easy to manage and show immediate returns.
Some of these systems allow you to get a message when your thermostat settings are changed or when the daily schedule is overridden. You can then connect to your system with your phone or computer and adjust the settings back to where they should be.
A recent situation exemplifies this perfectly: I recently “watched” via text notices a daycare room’s thermostat go from a scheduled setting of 71 down to 68, to 65, to 60, all in about 30 minutes. The daycare employee at that club kept turning the thermostat down, not knowing that the unit on the roof was frozen up. The maintenance team received the text messages telling them what was happening, and shut the unit down before expensive damage occurred. As it turned out, the unit was low on Freon. As a result of the text notices, the issue was quickly repaired. Without the notifications this could have been a compressor replacement instead of a simple service call.
Some systems allow you to lock thermostat settings so only authorized personnel can make changes. This helps keep employees and clients from making changes. If someone requires a change to the thermostat they must contact the floor manager. Then he or she can decide if the change is needed. If they want to make a change they simply connect to the system with their phone or on a computer, and adjust the temperature as necessary.
Managing your systems like this gives you more control and can help managers see trends and possibly catch a problem with a HVAC unit before it becomes a major repair.
There are a lot of commercial energy management solutions available, and they all have pros and cons. Some are very simple to install and manage, while others can be extremely complex and expensive to implement.
No matter what type of commercial energy management solution you use, each will help control energy costs and extend HVAC systems’ lifespans. You have to decide how much you are willing to spend and what an acceptable time is for your return on investment. Whichever system you choose, make sure it will meet your needs and be easy to manage after everything is done.
One more thing — don’t confuse an energy management solution with the Wi-Fi thermostats available at the big box stores. These products are typically for residential use and do not have the features, benefits or reliability of a commercial system.
Jim O’Daniell is the president of SeeAtWork, an access control and energy management company. Jim has over 25 years of experience in the access control, automation and security industry. He can be contacted by phone at 910-742-4801 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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