Not all smart thermostats are created equal. Especially when it comes to commercial properties such as hotels, senior living communities, or student housing facilities. After all, these dynamic environments have energy needs that go beyond the capabilities of simpler, residential smart residential thermostat systems like Nest.
It’s no surprise, then, that commercial property operators have a number of smart thermostat options. Choosing the right one, however, is not always a straightforward decision. From standalone, room-level smart thermostats to larger networked systems, there’s a commercial smart thermostat option for every kind of property. And the one that’s right for your property will depend on the features you need to accommodate your property’s occupancy patterns.
Standalone Smart Thermostats
On the simpler side of the commercial smart thermostat spectrum are the standalone options. These are installed at the room level, interface with the HVAC unit, and monitor and manage energy consumption for that single room. These standalone options, however, shouldn’t be confused with residential thermostats, such as Nest. Indeed, they offer a range of features that are designed for commercial occupancy patterns.
Many commercial smart thermostats rely on door switches or interface with door locks to detect guest occupancy. While this theoretically allows the thermostat to understand when rooms are occupied or not, this method of occupancy detection is not without its flaws, as we’ve written about before. It also means additional costs in the form of equipment, installation, and maintenance.
So when choosing a smart thermostat system, commercial property owners should look to options that don’t require this additional equipment. Verdant’s line of smart thermostats, for example, have no need for a door interface. In fact, it’s one of the reasons why Verdant’s EMS Thermostat is the only brand of energy management thermostats that’s approved by Hilton, IHG, and Marriott brand hotels without additional hardware components.
Night Occupancy Mode
In the absence of a door switch or ambient light sensor, some commercial thermostats are susceptible tosetting back the temperature in the middle of the night on sleeping guests (or on daytime sleepers). Essentially, the thermostat mistakes this as the room being unoccupied, and adjusts the temperature to non-occupancy levels — resulting in a less than ideal guest experience. Energy management systems like Verdant’s, however, feature built-in Night Occupancy Mode that ensures these erroneous setbacks never takes place.
When a smart thermostat detects an occupant re-entering a room, it will adjust the temperature back to the occupant’s preferred setting. This is known as recovery.
Some smart thermostats’ setback is ‘fixed’, meaning that the time it takes to readjust the temperature back to the occupant’s preference can vary based on outdoor temperature, HVAC unit performance, room orientation, etc. On the other hand, smart thermostats with ‘dynamic’ recovery (such as Verdant’s VX and ZX thermostats) automatically adjust the setback limits during periods of no occupancy to ensure that recovery time never exceeds a specified time-frame.
Recall how some smart thermostat systems rely on door switches or ambient lighting sennors to function. Well, this additional in-room hardware and networking equipment often requires professional installation, meaning additional costs. Verdant’s smart thermostat system on the other hand, can be installed easily by property staff in under 15 minutes per room, meaning lower installation costs, and quicker turnaround to making rooms available to guests again.
Some commercial smart thermostat systems are only compatible/interoperable with PTACs and other equipment from the same manufacturer. A smart thermostat system that’s cross-compatible with 3rd party HVAC systems, however, gives property owners more flexibility to choose a smart thermostat solution that suits their needs. Verdant EMS thermostats, for instance, are compatible with virtually all HVAC systems, including PTACs, Heat Pumps, FCU’s, Split units, and more advanced units like VRFs, VRVs, and VRPs.
Networked Smart Thermostats
For larger commercial properties, standalone thermostats are not the best option. Essentially, by networking thermostats, property owners can remotely manage HVAC settings, and achieve greater energy savings across their larger range of rooms and common spaces. As with standalone thermostats, however, different networked smart thermostat systems offer different ranges of features and come with different costs.
With a networked smart thermostat system, the first thing a property owner should consider is how their smart thermostats will network with one another. Some big name networked smart thermostat systems, for instance, require numerous pieces of networking equipment, including wireless access points for every 50-100 rooms, extensive cat-5 cabling throughout the property, and signal boosters / repeaters throughout the building. With such extensive networking requirements, installing such smart thermostat systems in larger hotels can quickly become a very costly undertaking.
On the other hand, with only one Verdant Online Connection Kit (or ‘gateway’), wireless web-based remote management is established for up to 1,024 Verdant EMS Thermostats within a single property. Indeed, this is one of the main reasons Verdant’s energy management thermostats have some of the fastest payback periods in the industry.
Plug & Play Installation
Just as standalone smart thermostats that rely on door switches and lighting sensors to operate require professional installation, networked smart thermostats with extensive networking requirements often requires the expertise of a professional installer, which can often be cost prohibitive and necessitate room closures, resulting in lost revenue. Because only one Verdant gateway is required to enable remote management of an energy management system, however, the installation process is plug-and-play, takes less than 15 minutes, and does not require any professional support whatsoever.
Many networked smart thermostats rely on a Zigbee-based protocol, meaning that (1) they may generate interference with existing WIFI infrastructure and (2) the signal has more difficulty penetrating certain building materials, such as concrete. Verdant’s smart thermostat equipment (including occupancy sensors and wireless control cards) communicate using a proprietary Protocol, avoiding consumption of the property’s WiFi bandwidth, and easily penetrating thick building materials.
Of course, any remote energy management system requires some kind of online interface, and that interface needs to be usable for the average hotel staff member. Many commercial HVAC energy management systems, however, feature overly complex interfaces, resulting in day-to-day staff ignoring it altogether, meaning that property owners lose out on potential energy savings. Verdant’s online remote management interface, however, is intuitive and easy-to-use for any property manager, maintenance person, or other staff member.
Ongoing Support Costs
As property owners and their staff continue to use their smart thermostat system of choice, they might require occasional support. Whereas some commercial smart thermostat providers require a recurring annual service contract to access support resources or their online interface, access to Verdant’s technical support team or remote management web portal does not require any recurring fees at all.
Smart Energy Management Systems
In the age of the Internet of Things, smart energy management isn’t restricted to HVAC hardware and remote management tools. Advanced energy management systems, such as Verdant EI, also use sophisticated machine learning algorithms to continuously analyze historical thermodynamics, local weather patterns, and peak demand loads to optimize energy consumption in real-time, all year round, reducing energy costs by up to 20%. Considering that energy consumption comprises 60% of a hotel’s utility expenditures and eats up 6-10% of a hotel property’s revenues, the value of a machine learning energy management algorithm can not be overstated.
Most smart thermostat providers, however, offer no such machine learning algorithm, leaving users to manually adjust energy consumption parameters.
At the time of writing, moreover, Verdant is currently the first smart thermostat provider to offer energy management as a service. Specifically, Verdant’s Energy Management experts monitor seasonal weather changes and adjust parameters to continuously improve savings over time, along with ensuring the system is active across all guestrooms all year long.
Furthermore, access to the Verdant App is available to any and all potential users for the property. This App provides key insights into energy savings, and allows staff members to make changes to individual thermostats from the palm of their hand.
Finally, Verdant EI customers enjoy the benefit of having a lifetime warranty on all hardware, as well as unlimited software updates. Whether it’s year 1 or 9 after the original purchase, any faulty equipment is replaced, making it the last thermostat you will ever purchase.
Smart Thermostats, Smart Decisions
There are smart thermostat options for just about every commercial property. From hotels small and large to longer-term stay properties such as senior and student residences, property owners can choose between a variety of smart thermostats to suit their needs.
In choosing the energy management system that’s right for your property, however, it’s important to factor in hidden installation and maintenance costs, as well as choose a solution that will grow and scale with your business. While hardware should be compatible with existing infrastructure without placing any additional strain on it, software should empower property staff to optimize energy consumption both remotely and automatically (i.e. with the support of machine learning technology). Your chosen smart thermostat solution, in other words, shouldn’t burn your bottom line or leave your staff out in the cold.