In the HVAC industry, the hype surrounding the Internet of Things (IoT) is shifting from obscure possibilities to true benefits. We are starting to see real-world examples of advantages afforded by the IoT, particularly in the health-care and education sectors.
Connected building equipment generates easily digestible information facility managers can use to improve equipment operation and building management. This information can be communicated in meaningful ways to decision makers, helping them to better understand returns on investments. This, in turn, can help contractors establish strong relationships with customers, paving the way for future opportunities.
By taking a more proactive approach to managing HVAC, organizations are realizing new opportunities for maximizing HVAC effectiveness, improving energy efficiency, and saving time and money on associated tasks.
The best way to illustrate benefits and forecast some of the long-term potential of IoT-enabled systems is to study examples of organizations experiencing positive impacts.
Example: Student Dormitories
The comfort level in a classroom or dormitory can make all of the difference in a student’s ability to process and retain information. At Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn., outdated HVAC equipment was causing comfort—not to mention energy-efficiency—challenges in two residence halls.
The university replaced original, nearly 40-year-old rooftop equipment with a connected rooftop system enabling easy remote access to a system dashboard, allowing members of the facilities staff to change settings and view actionable data on performance and maintenance needs. Installed in 2015, the new system has proven to be 60 percent more effective at removing moisture from air and has generated significant cost savings.
Example: Art-Storage Warehouse
Buildings housing priceless artwork and artifacts demand tight humidity and temperature control. The University of California, Berkeley, recently renovated a 121,000-sq-ft art-storage warehouse in Richmond, Calif. During the renovation, each of the building’s rooftop units received a connection to an IoT-enabled solution, giving the facility-management team visibility into equipment performance. This new connectivity included access to key diagnostic points otherwise unavailable through the building-automation system for monitoring and managing HVAC equipment within strict guidelines.
The IoT solution helped the facilities team to save significant time and money during the six-week start-up and commissioning process and the facility manager to further optimize control of the rooftop units to meet requirements for safe storage of the artwork.
Putting Patient Comfort First
Investments in hospital infrastructure typically are driven by energy efficiency and patient comfort.
Environmental regulations put in place to reduce building energy use can be particularly challenging on hospital campuses. Meanwhile, pressure from local communities on health-care providers to reduce energy costs, maintain a high level of environmental stewardship, and serve as an example to other businesses is growing. Furthermore, patients today routinely share feedback about visits to health-care facilities online. These reviews are proving to be influential in the health-care decisions of others. One of the top complaints from patients and their families is room temperature and comfort level.
IoT-enabled controls added to rooftop units and chillers help to mitigate room-by-room comfort challenges by enabling zoned-based cooling that puts temperature control directly in the hands of hospital staffers or patients. Adopting IoT-enabled systems has freed up the time of many a hospital facility staff by making settings management, monitoring, and response to maintenance needs easier.
What to Look for in an IoT Solution
Opportunities to implement IoT-enabled HVAC systems are on the rise. Sales teams and contractors interested in offering IoT-enabled options are encouraged to learn about the specific problems the technologies solve; it is important to be able to clearly articulate a value-driven reason behind an investment in new services or technology. Examples of how others have capitalized on the benefits of IoT-enabled solutions are a great place to start.
It also is important to understand how an IoT solution will empower customers for years to come, regardless of how a building’s or campus’s footprint might grow or change. Opt for a manufacturer that offers scalable solutions and has a record of creating compatible systems. System compatibility provides an important opportunity for contractors because as the commercial market matures, systems from various manufacturers will work together to provide a building ecosystem that is easy to manage and that delivers time and cost savings.
IoT-enabled HVAC equipment creates new opportunities for facility managers by providing better access to data that helps them gain visibility with business leaders. An IoT solution increases a facility manager’s accountability for building equipment and facility operations, positioning them as financial contributors vs. sources of operating expense.
When designing an application of IoT technology, it is important to arm end users with examples of how an investment in an IoT solution will bring positive benefits to their business from cost- and energy-savings standpoints.
Paul Rauker is vice president and general manager of systems and controls for Daikin Applied. He is responsible for the company’s Intelligent Systems portfolio, which harnesses the Internet of Things.
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