7NOX Blog

Help Decarbonize Your Building with After-Hours HVAC Automation

woman on cellphone

Written by 7NOX Team

May 5, 2022

Buildings are responsible for a significant chunk of emitted green house gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere. Therefore, they’re a leading contributor to global warming. In the U.S., buildings account for 40% of all U. S. primary energy and its associated GHG emissions. While these stats appear bleak, they actually represent a positive when it comes to FMs and owners. Because property owners and managers helm the ship of the Built Environment, they have the power to steer decarbonization efforts in the right direction. By adopting smart technology and building automation, property owners can significantly contribute to GHG reduction while saving money and futureproofing their investments.  

With building decarbonization, small changes can make a big difference. Automating your after-hours HVAC program is an easy first step to reducing your property’s carbon footprint. You don’t need to take out a loan to invest in automation tech either. Online tools like cloud-based after-hours HVAC apps are inexpensive and simple to integrate with your existing BMS.     

Cut Mistakes, Cut Waste 

While after-hours request programs vary, the standard process works like this: the tenant fills out a work request for after-hours air conditioning or heating. Staff members record the request. The building engineer programs the HVAC to fulfill the request. The air con/heating is delivered at the require day and time. The property manager invoices the tenant at the end of the month.  

Every step in this manual request process is an opportunity for errors to crop up. Forgotten emails, data entry mistakes and missed change requests are all more likely with a manual process. Mistakes cost time and energy, whether its extra lighting, access gates, lift rides or added HVAC service itself.  

After-hours HVAC booking apps replace these manual step with wireless technology and network connections. Tenants create requests via a mobile or desktop app. The system then interfaces with the building’s BMS to schedule the request. The tenant, time and date are automatically logged, and the BMS delivers heating and air con on the requested days. By automating these steps, you cut out the wasted energy and help lower your carbon footprint.

pressing thermostat button versus using cellphone

Push Buttons vs. Cloud-Based Apps 

Push button systems for activating HVAC service eliminate some, but not all, of the manual steps. They’re designed to deliver service as requested, giving tenants easy access to and control over HVAC operation. However, their openness can be a liability.  Since anyone within the building can request service, savings from push button controls are often undermined by their public access.

There are no guards against everyone (ex. maintenance or cleaning staff) from accessing controls. So, unauthorized access can lead to unaccounted and wasted energy use. It’s also easy for occupants to “hit the button” minutes before leaving the room or floor, resulting in wasted energy from heating and cooling unoccupied spaces.  

After-hours HVAC apps reduce energy waste by limiting access to the platform. In a cloud-based system, only authorized users can create HVAC requests. And the system records both the request and the requester. So owners always know who requests services. Plus, tenants can re-schedule and cancel bookings from anywhere there’s an internet connection. This helps save energy by eliminating empty room heating and cooling.

Data Equals Decarbonization 

Automation goes hand-in-hand with data. Today’s smart sensors, IoT devices, machine learning, AI, digital twins, and BMS integration all point to the eventual integration of every building systems. In the near future, fire systems will “talk” with access systems to track occupants during an emergency. Access systems will work in tandem with HVAC systems to adjust heating and cooling demands based on occupancy levels. Building management systems will connect to utility providers to shift energy usage during peak demand. Such interoperability is already evolving, but it requires data to work properly.  

By automating your HVAC requests, you can collect data on how and when your tenants are requesting HVAC services and use it to conserve energy. For example, you can identify seasonal trends and make targeted improvements and retrofits for specific zones of your property. Automation puts you in a better position to transition your property into a smart building and futureproof your assets.