Karl Pomeroy, CEO, Motili.
I’ve written several articles about evolution and innovation in the HVAC industry and much around change driven by the need for greater energy efficiency. A key element of HVAC efficiency is one you might not expect: remote monitoring.
Remote HVAC monitoring is more than a convenience. Monitoring remotely can enhance HVAC system performance, reduce maintenance costs and increase energy efficiency. However, reluctance to adopt new technology has to be addressed before remote monitoring can fully find its footing in our industry.
How It Works
Sensors and smart devices are installed in different components of an HVAC system, from thermostats and air handlers to compressors and ventilation units. They collect data about metrics like temperature, humidity, pressure, air quality, equipment status and energy consumption. This information is transmitted to a centralized control center over a Wi-Fi or other type of network connection to be aggregated and analyzed.
Advanced algorithms and machine learning are used to synthesize the data in real time to identify patterns, trends and anomalies. Irregularities trigger alerts that can be sent to homeowners, facility managers or maintenance personnel via emails, text messages or mobile apps. Insights gained from data analysis can be used to optimize HVAC performance, from pointing out opportunities for energy savings to scheduling maintenance tasks and ensuring the system operates within desired parameters.
Authorized users can remotely adjust HVAC parameters like temperature, fan speeds and ventilation rates. By continuously analyzing data about an HVAC system’s performance, the system can be programmed to run more efficiently, using only the necessary amount of energy required to maintain desired indoor conditions. Inefficiencies and wasteful practices can be more easily discovered and promptly addressed. While thermostats have long made it easy to adjust temperature and fan settings, the combination of convenience and data analysis afforded by remote monitoring is powerful when it comes to efficient HVAC operation.
So, what is at the core of consumer reluctance around the revolutionary capabilities of remote monitoring, and how can we overcome it?
Addressing Common Concerns
Customers may be uneasy about the cost, technical complexity, cybersecurity and reliability of what may feel like newer technology. In my experience, each concern can be overcome with the right information.
While consumers may initially experience sticker shock for the installation of remote monitoring, the savings add up over time. A study by Energy Star estimates that remote monitoring systems can capture 8% savings annually on HVAC system operations. Savings are thought to be lower in mild climates and higher in severe ones.
Concerns about complexity, cybersecurity and reliability can be assuaged by training teams thoroughly on how to size and match systems for compatibility and how to communicate clearly with customers about how and why remote monitoring is worth overcoming their apprehension. Customers who feel remote monitoring is beyond their technical grasp can choose from simpler systems with easy-to-use troubleshooting.
Cybersecurity is critical for modern HVAC systems. As HVAC systems become more intelligent, new technology like remote monitoring can create vulnerabilities. To reduce the risk of cyber attacks, encrypting communications, establishing strong access controls like two-factor authentication and regularly updating software and firmware are all vital measures. Further, isolating your networks on personal servers and training employees to respond to incidents quickly and effectively can help ensure the security of sensitive data in today’s HVAC systems.
I also suggest shifting consumers’ focus to the wide-ranging benefits, like one-visit repairs: When a unit identifies what is malfunctioning, technicians can schedule time frames with more confidence, arrive prepared and ultimately fit more appointments into a week. This lets a team accommodate a higher number of appointments and serve customers more efficiently.
HVAC remote monitoring is a valuable step in the green movement sweeping over the HVAC industry. It can be highly beneficial to facility management, allowing for proactive, intelligent management of HVAC systems in commercial, industrial and residential settings. It’s worth working past consumer hesitation to expand the breadth of this helpful technology.
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