A partnership between Energy Technology Savings (ETS), Lowe’s, and Electrolux could have major implications for multifamily energy usage.
The companies are launching a pilot program, installing wireless packaged terminal air controller (PTAC) units at high-rises in New Jersey. By connecting the PTAC units to wireless networks, users will be able to control the devices from anywhere, at any time, says ETS Chief Executive Office Jeff Hendler.
“It engages the end user, whether it’s the manager with a whole bank of PTACs in the common area or the resident with units in their apartment, to manage those in a more intelligent way.”
The combination of technology retrofits and behavior modification is essential to ETS’s approach to energy savings. Explaining that “data is king,” Hendler says the company conducts a full, customized analysis of each building they work with.
“Every multifamily property has different systems, different square footage, different common-area utilization. So the first thing we do is figure out what is the signature of your building,” he explains. “From there, we’re able to provide property-specific suggestions to make that building more efficient. It’s in real-time and interactive with the building, so property managers can be proactive in maintenance and have diagnostics.”
That data crunch led ETS to turn its attention to PTAC units. Not only was the equipment the highest user of electricity in the building, staff was frequently dispatched to common areas and apartments to turn units on or off, says Seth Reisman, vice president at ETS.
“Some buildings have up to five units per apartment; common areas can have five to 10," he says. "With wireless control, you save on your energy costs as well as avoid having to send workers around all day to turn them on and off.”
ETS worked with Lowe’s and manufacturer Electrolux to develop a solution that would integrate units into the Lowe’s Iris smart home system. The system enables wireless control and links all of the PTACs located in one area to a central thermostat base.
Sensors are also placed throughout the buildings to calibrate a room’s “real feel” and verify how well the HVAC units are working. Managers also have the ability to set temperature thresholds for certain areas and automatically receive notifications if temperatures go beyond those limits, Hendler says.
“If it’s a remote area of the building, now wirelessly you know the threshold has been breached and you have the control in your hand, on your device, to click something on or off," Hendler says. "It is very empowering.”
Through the pilot program, ETS is delivering the new units to five buildings, for both common areas and individual units. After running the program for six to eight months to collect and evaluate data on heating and air conditioning usage, the team will also conduct interviews with property managers and tenants to obtain feedback that will lead to full-scale system production, Reisman says.
In addition to electric PTAC upgrades, ETS hopes to eventually expand similar capabilities to other units.
“In New York City, you have PTACs that are connected to steam systems; that’s a lot different than all-electric,” Reisman says. “We are having those conversations, and we’d like to crack that code as well.”