Vacant spaces mean wasted energy. This spells real trouble in the current senior living market. Heating and cooling unoccupied living quarters is colossally inefficient.
Nationwide, senior living occupancy stood at 88% in the 4th quarter of 2019, according to data from the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC).
Unfortunately, we know that COVID-19 will negatively affect occupancy numbers. But to what extent we don’t know.
To make matters worse, expenses will rise. Some facilities might be forced into costly interior renovations in order to reduce communal gathering spaces. They might lose beds if shared rooms are eliminated.
The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) has been collecting data since mid-March when COVID-19 forced nursing homes into high-alert-mode. They found that 68 percent of independent living communities report a slowing of move-ins and 54 percent report lower occupancy.
It’s tough to generate interest in senior living communities without offering on-site tours or events. Additionally, “concerns about family economic stability and home sales may emerge, as they did in 2008”, according to Sharon Brooks in her SeniorsHousingBusiness.com article of May 21, 2020.
Senior Housing News states that even as the Covid-19 pandemic continues in the weeks and months ahead, senior housing construction projects that are underway could keep coming online, putting further strain on occupancy.
Taking Advantage of Unoccupied Spaces
Energy management systems take full advantage of unoccupied spaces. Using powerful passive infrared occupancy sensors and predefined states, or “profiles”, empty spaces can be sources of huge energy savings, including carefully controlling temperature, humidity, lighting, plug loads, smart draperies and more.
A good energy management platform can save up to 45% on typical energy expenditures.
An EMS can help shoulder the burden in other ways as well.
Its technology can make everyday tasks easier for residents, so they don’t have to know how to program a thermostat, for example; facilities staff can remotely adjust and monitor in-room climate on their behalf. “This is the kind of thing an EMS can do remotely, without residents having to be aware of it” explains Jeff Sobieski, CTO at Telkonet.
Fresh outside air keeps a building and its occupants healthy. In fact, outside air ventilation is a code requirement in many municipalities. However, pulling in fresh air sometimes means pulling in humid air.
High humidity can be a dangerous and invisible enemy. Mold and mildew caused by sustained high humidity inside buildings can cause health problems ranging from minor reactions (nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing, and wheezing) to more severe reactions like lung infections, especially for those with mold allergies and lung disorders like COPD.
But what if your HVAC systems can’t monitor humidity, much less control it? Many don’t, owing to their high price tags. As a solution, some Energy Management Systems (EMS) can be programmed to measure and control humidity using specifically-engineered firmware. This makes humidity control a possibility, even when HVACs themselves don’t have the capability.
Other Safety Concerns
“Take occupancy sensors, which can monitor movement. Movement patterns can be defined, and if those patterns change (for example, if there is no movement for a certain period of time), there will be an alert so someone can check on the occupant. Sobieski thinks of this as ‘out of sight, out of mind IoT’. Tasks are done behind the scenes on seniors’ behalf to help keep them safe and comfortable.”
Chad Burow, Telkonet’s Director of Sales, envisions other advances in health monitoring as well. “For example, wearable devices tied into a thermostat; automated pathway lighting as the resident moves from the bedroom to the living room.
“Anything from a safety and security perspective is going to be huge. Being able to send a report back to the central desk that the resident’s pulse rate is within a certain range. Or issuing health alerts when pulse rate falls out of a certain range. Fall alerts. Even measuring their gait from bedroom to living room is possible: are they slowing down?”
Many Energy Management Systems reside in the cloud so you can monitor your property from anywhere. Carry your EMS with you by downloading your EMS system’s smartphone app.
Identify HVAC systems needing attention and schedule equipment repairs before they become problems. Monitor each room’s HVAC equipment from a distance, and get proactive reports of when to schedule maintenance like replacing filters and servicing malfunctioning equipment before they fail entirely. All of this without entering a resident’s living space.
And finally, we leave you with this bit of good news from SeniorHousingNews.com: “Today’s senior living investors, operators, and other stakeholders have gone through previous market cycles, including the Great Recession…so they know what to anticipate in a real estate cycle.”
If you’d like assistance shouldering the burden, contact Telkonet. We’ve got solutions.
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