The New Standard for HVAC
One of the most common work orders that I used to submit on behalf of residents across the country included an HVAC note. I’ll admit, they changed from region to region. “My AC won’t cool my apartment to 55 degrees like it says on my thermostat”, “the heater in my apartment won’t keep my bedroom closet at 95 degrees while it’s snowing outside”, or one of my personal favorites, “for some reason when I run my AC and it’s snowing outside, the air coming out of the vent doesn’t feel cold.” Those of us that have fielded hundreds, if not thousands, of these messages, seemingly fill our responses with the same “thank you for letting us know, we’ll get on it right away” while thinking to ourselves “ITS THE DEAD OF WINTER, STOP RUNNING YOUR AIR CONDITIONER!
”Now these are not the kind of customer service messages that we as professionals want to leave our residents with, so there has to be a way to empower them to get ahead of the issue, understand why something has occurred when it has, and frame the expectation of the solution in the proper mindset. This is where predictive intelligence and learned usage habits can play a massive role.
Advancement of HVAC 101
HVAC systems have arguably come the furthest in the MDU arena. Gas heaters have largely been replaced by electric units. Individual window mounted room AC compressors by central AC. Dial thermostats by the many more advanced.
While not entirely a far cry from the presence of elevators over stairs, it proves that the adoption of newer HVAC standards occurs much more rapidly than other building installations. I’ll venture to guess that those of you who’ve adopted some sort of digitization inside your unit mixes have opted for a “programmable thermostat” and reeled it in your marketing efforts as a result.
In our very first blog entry, ‘Breaking the Concept of Smart’, we touched on how a “programmable thermostat” is simply a digital interpretation of a turning dial with a time setting—not what we’d consider intelligent, but a step in the right direction nonetheless. Because these sorts of devices have taken over, people tend to attach the labels “connected” or “smart” to such thermostats, but in reality, this line of thinking requires additional education. The education essentially comes down to a few touch points:
- Before dubbing your thermostat “smart”, it must be embedded with the intelligence to learn the daily habits of residents. Eventually, it will program its own power settings to follow your daily activities after running through the learning process. This isn’t a sci-fi feature, it’s rooted in the device’s AI features found in Ecobee, Honeywell, etc.
- Preventative maintenance addresses the useful life cycle of the units themselves. Air flow monitors, temperature gauges, or current meters can be used to anticipate the eventuality of the unit’s death, allowing the team to get in front of it and stem any kind of resident dissatisfaction from a useless unit.
These two items are primarily resident focused, so let’s shift over to the benefits afforded to the daily operations of the management staff.
Management’s Daily Routine, Uninterrupted
Residents, empowered by the management staff, feel ownership of their units. We refer to the apartment as “your home” when speaking with the current lease holder. With these concepts widely accepted, I’ve never met a resident that didn’t believe what they wanted to talk to me about wasn’t the most important matter in both our worlds at the very moment. Willfully interrupting a prospect’s conversation about what they’re looking for was commonplace, and there MUST be an easier resolution than to leave the prospect waiting in order to address a resident’s issue.
The solution? Automation. When residents have been thoroughly educated on the intelligence of their homes, there will be less additional need for interruptions to a leasing agent’s daily routines. Work orders for HVAC, or even propped doors as we spoke about in the last blog entry, can be automated as one would expect in what we like to call a “brilliant building”. This means less time being reactive and more time being proactive. And this reverberates throughout the entirety of the everyday.
Imagine not sending your leasing agents to spend the last 45 minutes of each day “closing” vacant units. Imagine, as a community or property manager, not having to interrupt your report creation, PO submission, close-out procedures, etc. to go out on the “floor” and cover for a leasing agent scrambling to find the proper keys to the proper units to “close” them out in the proper way!
Inside Episense’s managerial dashboard there is a configurable “open” and “close” workflow to accomplish ALL of these things immediately. That’s right. No, I am not making this up. Instantly, make sure all the doors are locked, all the thermostats are correctly set, and, if you so choose, all the blinds are closed. Now 45 minutes, and probably a leasing agent’s renewed positive attitude, later and you’re still rocking through your revenue generating activities instead of simply “closing” the community. If that’s not enough to investigate smart technologies then I may have the wrong audience. But I’ll add one additional piece to the puzzle.
The Net Effect
The monetary impact of inefficient time use should be clear. Elevating the resident experience with smart thermostats explains itself. The increased resident satisfaction from fewer work order submissions is intrinsic to this kind of implementation. And being able to say, without question, that this will save the resident AND the ownership group money is as plain as day. Adding all these pieces up should prompt fireworks, red carpets, bottles of champagne and John Williams conducting a symphony for all adopters. A little much, yes, but that’s how we try to make our residents feel, and now you’ll have yet another way to get them feeling more at home then ever before.
VP, Business Development