Believe it or not, we’ve almost made it through to the end of 2020. While some joke that March lasted nine months, the world kept turning even while our own worlds were flipped upside down. If you need proof, it’s starting to get cold again – we’ve gone through an entire year of seasons since the pandemic began – and that means we need to get smart about what’s ahead.
Our buildings are operating in a wide spectrum of occupancy from empty to full rooms, even if they’re running at new regulations that dictate what “full” means. That means that this winter is unlike the last one and, like many other things this year, we need to approach the upcoming seasonal changes with a fresh perspective. We can’t rely on traditional processes or “the good ol days” to make good choices for us anymore.
However, everything we’ve learned in the past can still help us today and in the future when it comes to conversations about saving money as the seasons change. The tried and true advice still stands – open blinds when the sun is shining so that heat can enter the room, insulate windows and doors, lower room temperature and turn off lights when no one is in the space, reduce energy usage during peak hours, and more. Of course, the favorite of many parents is to just put on another layer if you’re cold to save on heating bills.
While some buildings remain at low or zero occupancy due to the pandemic, it’s still not a good idea to simply turn these buildings “off.” The growth of Legionnaires disease accelerates in stagnant water and frozen pipes can lead to expensive, if not debilitating, repairs. Fortunately, technology has enabled us to intelligently and proactively make decisions for our buildings that not only increase efficiency but also save money in the long run.
The foundational element of this helpful technology is sensors. While we are all very familiar with them, the technology has come a long way in a short period of time. The precision, accuracy, speed, and type of data that can become available at a low cost has been unmatched in recent years but it is exactly what we need to move forward. As mentioned before, occupancy is a great way to determine how much energy needs to be used to make an environment comfortable and safe; occupancy sensors make that data available in a non-disruptive, cost-effective, and real-time manner. No one in the room? Turn off the lights and reduce air circulation.
This also brings up an important requirement for technology to truly assist building operators and owners with making better decisions: integration. By integrating different types of data instead of allowing them to live in isolation, referred to as “silos” by many in building industries, systems are able to learn how different elements impact others, like a cause and effect balance. Also, integration adds powerful capabilities as systems interact autonomously with each other like in the example of occupancy sensors and lighting controls.
Additional savings can be reached through software that uses “if this then that,” called IFTTT by those familiar with it. While the name may bring back memories from studying correlations in middle school math, it is a deceptively simple name for a very powerful concept. In the same example of occupancy and level of lighting, rules can be set for the systems to operate within which make the room energy-efficient and cost-effective. A rule could look like:
- If there are two people in the room, then set the room temperature at 72*F.
- If there are 10 people in the room, then set the room temperature at 68*.
- If the room is empty, then turn off the lights and reduce air circulation to 25%.
But that’s not all – a good system can integrate data sources from more than just sensors to optimize the performance of a building. A system that accepts data from a local weather channel can create a rule that if it is a sunny day, then dim the lights to 75%. One of our client’s has a rule set so that the lights flash when the indoor air quality within a space becomes suboptimal, alerting people to open the windows.
Envio’s system has a robust IFTTT capability that uses all of the data from numerous sources so that your building is running at optimal capacity, no matter the season. If something is off, we can send immediate alerts to the right people via text or email. Based on usage and patterns, rules can be made automatically and adjusted by operators and owners when appropriate.
Envio’s suite of affordable IoT products (CUBE, TRIA, BASE) can work individually, but, like we discussed earlier, are most powerful in combination. We fully integrate and partner with leaders in the space like Disruptive Technologies, Qlair, Air Things, Philips Hue, Kiwi Opening Doors, and more!
The season is changing but this year let’s try to avoid the increased stress and energy costs associated with it. Interested in how Envio can make your building more efficient, smarter and ready for the upcoming winter? Contact us for a demo and let’s get started on that journey together.