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Live Better and Save Money
Take Advantage of New HVAC Energy Saving Opportunities
By Brian MacLeod | Other articles by Brian MacLeod
Since the first modern condominiums were introduced in Utah in 1960 , and became legally possible to own in Canada in 1967 , they have redefined how we think about urban living. In the last 60 years, the experience of owning, living in and efficiently managing a condo has evolved significantly and rapidly. Perhaps one of the most important shifts for condo boards and property managers has been the ability to adopt new technology to increase energy efficiency for their buildings.
Utilities typically represent 30-40% of a building's operating budget. We know that traditional heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment expels significant energy waste. Today, however, access to new technology offers unprecedented access to well-run, automated and affordable HVAC system solutions.
When current property management practices intersect with emerging technologies, we have the potential for significant energy savings, improved comfort and enhanced mechanical service response.
As technology is increasingly integrated into our daily lives, terms and concepts like Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) become more mainstream. Not surprisingly, these innovations are also central to making legacy HVAC systems more efficient moving forward.
So how does revamping your current HVAC system benefit your building? The existing equipment in any multifamily building may already have the basic infrastructure that can be adapted to accommodate new technology and a new approach to managing the building's HVAC efficiency. Each building is different, but most buildings have the capacity to increase energy savings and it all starts with an assessment.
During initial assessment, mechanical rooms and equipment are evaluated to determine how much energy is wasted and where there are opportunities to optimize energy performance and cut costs. Building experts can quickly identify what energy capacity a property currently has, what gaps need to be filled and, with the correct software implementation, where a property can decrease costs in the future.
Once the assessment has been completed and reviewed with the board and property manager, installation can begin. Installation involves attaching Energy Management Platforms (EMPs) to existing equipment. EMPs include smart sensors and controllers, all of which require very little capital investment in comparison to a full equipment retrofit.
With new sensors collecting the building's operational and energy use data, information is sent to the cloud. There, it calculates the best HVAC settings for the building under various conditions.
A lean hardware automation system is all that is needed to carry out dynamic changes that can be generated from the cloud. The changes in the building can typically be undertaken in less than a month with virtually no disruption in building operation.
Installations can also include the addition of smart thermostats at the suite level - these provide even greater data on building demand, enabling the building to respond and adapt in an even more precise manner. For example, if AI sensors can predict colder forecasts in the coming days, the building will automatically manage heating and cooling functions accordingly for each resident's needs while still managing energy efficiency.
While your building works smarter, monthly reports demonstrate where the building has improved its energy efficiency. These monthly savings reports illustrate savings and energy performance, offering condo boards information, education and peace of mind. A short payback period (often less than 2 years) makes EMPs attractive to both boards and building owners.
Precision and accuracy are no longer elusive as they once used to be. For instance, today's motors are equipped with controllers that allow for accurate electrical and operational data to be transmitted in real time. Moreover, boilers and chilling systems can be equipped with low cost controls and measures to enable dynamic adjustments in real time – and all of these features can produce accurate data for reporting on costs relative to targets.
EMPs help condo boards improve their financial positioning; in fact, they can help multi-family buildings save 20-30% on utilities per year. When 30-40% of condo fees and management costs are sunk into energy use, it pays to explore options to minimize energy waste, saving valuable resources for other operational needs.
Not only do EMPs improve energy savings, but they have shown to improve resident comfort and quality of life. Technology can easily notify management when imminent mechanical issues arise and can lead to faster response times. Ultimately, mechanical providers are able to gain access to key data and process alarms in order to better manage the building in a more responsive fashion.
Keeping tabs on building operations manually is both inefficient and impractical. Ensuring management has a pulse on a building's internal nervous system is key to smoothly operating a contemporary property, ensuring focus can be redirected to more immediate resident needs. Having greater visibility into a building's energy performance offers managers peace of mind.
Condo boards can lower building energy use by adopting new, smart technologies. In addition to improved financial positions (through savings), these solutions can increase resident comfort and allow for greater visibility into the energy performance of a building. A condo board can proceed with HVAC upgrades with far greater confidence now that they have real time access to clear outcomes. As we look ahead to the next 60 years, we know the evolution towards an increasingly sustainable condominium living experience will continue – and it begins with these kinds of smart technologies supporting the energy management decisions and goals of property managers and condominium boards.