Cover Image for The Smart Script for Saving on Utilities

The Smart Script for Saving on Utilities

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6 minutes
Bryan Jenks
Bryan Jenks

“You get a lower bill! And you get a lower bill! And you get a lower bill!”

It’s understood that the concepts of smart technologies go far beyond simple offsite control. Yes, you can turn lights on while out at dinner. Yes, you can turn down the thermostat in the summer before heading home. Yes, you can arm your security system, close your garage door, or access your cameras all from the convenience of your smartphone. Each one of these features are built into the devices that allow a person some semblance of control over their everyday. However, if you only evaluate the features residents will immediately find valuable, then you’re missing out on a giant aspect of the overall smart technology opportunity: monetizing the value they can give the assets themselves. Let’s look at how a few devices can make a tremendous impact.

I’ll Take ‘Ambient Temperature’ for $100

It’s almost unavoidable that a user of any given utility will waste even a portion of their capital on a forgotten device. Any resident could take a trip and forget to adjust the thermostat to something more vacant friendly, and the utility bill is bound to reflect that inaction. Do we expect each resident to correct that the next time they leave? Not even a little. Alas, the efficacy of the smart thermostat. We’ve seen that feature played out in blogs that span every IoT provider. Instead, let’s discuss the value available to assets when we pair these smart thermostats with auxiliary sensors in VACANT units.

Temperature sensors in separate rooms provide additional information that the smart thermostats can use to adjust the ambient temperature without necessitating any manual manipulation of the device. Pair that with an occupancy sensor in a smart light switch and the thermostat knows when to actuate a certain setting. Imagine that! Simply let the preset automation take over to assure that your vacants are as comfortable as you want them to be during touring hours, then automatically reduce the temperature during closed hours. The question isn’t, “How does this save on your utility costs?” but rather, “How MUCH does this save on your utility costs?” The industry consistently reports around $35/month/vacant. Extrapolate over a 12-month term, include units being turned and/or updated, then account for your average vacancy, and you’re going to see some drastic changes to the overall operating budgets for vacant utility usage. Please, don’t take my word for it. Ask a resident…they’re already seeing the results when THEY swap the old thermostats to smart devices!


The First Rule: Location, Location, Location

Something often overlooked in the realm of smart devices is the necessity to spread the love to common areas and not just amenity spaces, leasing offices, and individual units. After all, the location of any specific smart device or sensor can make an immediate impact on the utility draw from anywhere, and so placing them in places the traditional competition doesn’t, gives you a leg up. One of the largest energy consumers in any asset is the interior hallway. Think about how many different hallways are controlled by the same thermostat. I know when I was running assets that I’d see huge discrepancies in the ambient temperatures of hallways based on the “centralized” location of the thermostat. Locations near the extremities of the building still have residents that want a comfortable hallway outside their homes. That normally translates into a work order that states, “The hallway outside my door is too hot/cold.” Then we increase the AC, for example, which increases the utility use, wear on the compressor, and probably doesn’t accomplish the ambient temperature that we were after in the first place. Corridors, elevator landings, mail/package areas: all of these areas often fall into the same trap. 

Thankfully, there is a fix, and the implementation of a smart sensor can be just that. Maybe the heat isn’t needed but rather just the fan. Let the automation within the smart device rules figure that out. We’re talking about saving the asset 10-15% on heating and cooling. Lower bills AND happier residents…win win. 

The Early Bird Gets the Worm

We can’t just will something not to break. The force is not with us, so it’s never going to happen. We can’t throw something against the wall to see if it sticks. It’s far too risky when dealing with the satisfaction of residents. BUT we can implement certain instruments that allow us to be proactive instead of reactive. Noticing when some device isn’t working at its optimal efficiency and remediating the issue after some sort of loss usually includes the loss of the device and the loss of the resident’s satisfaction. No good.  Why go through this when it’s not necessary? 

Leak detectors for water heaters, ventilation sensors for flow and air temperatures, and air quality sensors are all up for grabs. Each of these provides a step in the right direction, and creates visibility into the traditional draws of those devices. Combine them with text messages and email alerts that can be automated to a list of managerial personnel responsible for the continued maintenance and guess what? You have a solution that creates the best-case scenarios to save the residents and assets from overspending, while avoiding device failure.

These solutions help smooth the adoption process, increase device and asset efficiencies, and elevate the managerial efforts of both office and maintenance staff. Throw in machine learning to show managers and ownership the historical trends, and  decisions can be made in real-time and be course corrected once and for all. All of this data is purely limited by the number of integrated devices and sensors, so the opportunities are truly endless.


One in the Hand vs Two in the Bush

Some of these devices may seem extravagant, but so did caller ID. Instead of waiting until the next option comes along, give some smart device implementation a shot. When the results show decreased utility spending for residents, decreased utility spending for assets, and increased satisfaction and longevity of devices from proactive sensors and processes. Oh, and I promise you’ll want more.

So, we’ve established that intelligent buildings and smart units help you save on utilities. It’s undeniable. But who do you go to in order to make this happen, affordably and effectively? Well, Episense provides developers, owners and operators with smart home solutions and tech-driven amenities that enhance the resident experience and unlock asset value. Schedule a demo today to learn more.


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