Occupancy, Utility Bills, and Humidity

Some of the markets we serve have taken a hit this year due to the pandemic. Our target markets include university housing, hospitality, MDU’s, and other residential spaces with intermittent occupancy

It is yet unclear to what extent university housing will be affected by the pandemic. Or, for that matter, at what point the college experience will return to normal (whatever “normal” might be).  

U.S. hotels, on the other hand,  will continue their slow recovery from the depths of the coronavirus pandemic. National occupancy rates will creep slowly upward week by week according to the latest figures from hotel data firm STR. However, some estimate that the recovery to pre-COVID-19 levels could take until 2023—or later. 

Whether these spaces are occupied or not, building engineers must continue to maintain facilities, and HVAC units continue to control indoor climate.

Energy Savings

As our valued customers and partners work to restore the health of their businesses to pre-pandemic statuses, we offer a sliver of a bright spot. When occupancy is low (as it is right now for so many) energy management systems can produce even more energy savings than when occupancy is normal-to-high.

In “setback” mode, smart thermostats sense the room is not occupied, allowing the room temperature to drift, yet still return to setpoint within a specific period of time (e.g. 10 minutes). 

And then there’s “Deep Setback”: a profile that can be assigned to groups of thermostats. An EMS platform can move your thermostats into a ‘deep setback’ profile when rooms are unoccupied for extended periods. When you know certain rooms will be unoccupied for an extended period of time, the temperature will be allowed to drift further than in regular “setback” mode. This saves even more energy since occupant comfort is not a consideration.

Humidity Control

It’s easier to dehumidify a room or living space that is unoccupied.

Air conditioners can reduce humidity by pulling warm air in and cycling it over cold coils, producing condensation, thereby removing moisture and reducing humidity in the air.

However, air conditioners measure temperature but they cannot measure humidity. Because of this, the air conditioner stops running when the ideal temperature is reached, NOT when the ideal relative humidity is reached.

At the point when the ideal temperature is reached, the air conditioner stops cooling, allowing humidity to rise. This can make the indoor space seem warmer than it actually is. It is possible for building humidity to never be effectively reduced!

HVAC units are either designed with active dehumidification components or without. HVACs that include this feature tend to be more expensive and less common than those without this feature.  Note that on PTAC’s, active dehumidification cannot be retrofitted later. 

Some Energy Management Systems (EMS) can be programmed to measure and control humidity using special firmware. 

As we said earlier, it’s easier to dehumidify a space that is unoccupied than one that is occupied. Without occupants in the space, the air conditioner can run more aggressively, until the humidity in the air reaches a defined level without disturbing anyone with an uncomfortably chilly space or the noise of a continuously running HVAC.  

We urge you to take advantage of unoccupied spaces by configuring your EMS to save energy AND control humidity.

If you’d like to discuss these or any other tips and tricks regarding HVAC for your property, feel free to reach out to our experienced engineers at Telkonet by emailing sales@telkonet.com or by calling 800-703-9398.

Stay strong!