Shopping for New Thermostats? A Good HVAC Controls Company Should Ask You These Questions
New smart thermostats for your property is an investment in time, labor and funds. Your time investment begins with researching your options. If you haven’t purchased HVAC controls within the past few years, it might be an eye-opener. Options have expanded exponentially, quite possibly beyond what you even imagined.
When you begin your research for replacement thermostats, a reputable thermostat representative should ask you a series of questions. Your answers will help your representative guide you to the thermostat solution that’s right for your property and your budget. You don’t want to be oversold, but you don’t want to miss out on any features that will save you energy, streamline your process and pay for itself.
In a typical introductory conversation, you might start by telling them your thermostats are getting old, and you’d like to replace them with a newer, energy efficient model.
A savvy HVAC controls company will ask you a series of questions, some of which may surprise you.
“What is your occupancy rate?”
Occupancy detection technology is responsible for significant energy savings because it takes advantage of unoccupied rooms. When no one is in the guest room, that’s when the temperature can be allowed to drift, dehumidification kicks in, lights can be shut off and energy vampire plug loads can be turned off.
Savings are highest when rooms are unoccupied. In order for the representative to estimate your potential energy savings, it’s helpful to have this information handy.
“Are you currently monitoring your HVAC systems?”
If you do monitor the functionality of your HVAC systems, share this data with the representative. With it, they can analyze the history as well as the current state of your HVAC systems, and predict how your HVAC systems will work in the future.
You cannot manage what you cannot measure. If your property currently uses basic, non-networked thermostats, you’re not proactively monitoring all of your HVAC systems. Even if you choose non-networked thermostats again, they CAN save energy. However, if you DO choose a thermostat that’s networked to an energy management system (EMS), you can keep a close eye on the energy expended, and even target floors or wings for more customized energy management (for example, lowering the setpoint of rooms that get more sun).
“What are your guest complaints?”
If the complaint is…“The room temperature won’t maintain set point”
…then be aware of this: HVAC controllers typically allow you to limit the minimum and maximum temperature ranges available to the guests. This can help avoid extreme over-heating and over-cooling. If controllers are part of an EMS, you can proactively identify the HVAC systems working the hardest and address them before they inconvenience your guests.
If the complaint is…“My room smells musty.”
…then be aware of this: Musty smelling rooms typically signify humidity problems. The good news is that even if your HVAC systems do not feature active dehumidification, there are some thermostats on the market that offer active dehumidification. And if they’re also equipped with occupancy sensors, they can run in a “dehumidification mode” when guests are away from the room.
“In extreme weather (hot or cold) can your HVACs maintain the set temperature?”
Do guest complaints increase during times of extreme outdoor temperature? Guests will aggressively raise or lower the thermostat settings in an effort to make the room more comfortable right away. You’ll want thermostats with the inherent ability to define maximum and minimum temperatures a guest can set, to avoid straining your HVAC systems in such a way.
Even if guests aren’t setting extreme temperature setpoints, HVAC systems can be strained trying to maintain set temperature. Solutions can be as easy as replacing dirty air filters, or running coil cleaner through the fan coil systems.
There’s a way to head these complaints off at the pass, and help provide your guest with a comfortable stay. Using an energy management system, you can monitor such data as set point differential (the difference between what the thermostat is set at and the actual temperature of the room). Then you can schedule a visit to the room when it’s unsold or at least unoccupied.
“Can I see a room?”
Your HVAC controller rep may be able to see things you’ve never thought of.
- Gary Sherman, Channel Account Manager at Telkonet, recently performed a site visit to a hotel room at a 3-star hotel and noticed the window was wide open. “This surprised the DOE, until he learned that the previous guest had been smoking in the room. Sure, the guest faced a fine, but the housekeeping staff still had to open the windows to air out the room. Then they forgot the window was left open.” If the windows or patio doors can be left open, at some point they will be left open. There are door contacts on the market that can communicate “door open” status to the thermostat, and ultimately send alerts to you via the EMS. Some can even automatically shut off air conditioning or allow temperature to drift from setpoint until the door or window is closed.
- They may notice that the current thermostat is placed in a bad location, like on a sunny wall, affecting the temperature reading. Some controls representatives may suggest placing a new thermostat in the same location, due to the cost of rewiring every room. Other companies can offer wireless versions of their controllers. Wireless controllers can be installed in the optimal room location without the high cost of re-wiring.
- Chad Burow, Director of Sales at Telkonet, recently visited a property with stand-alone dehumidifiers in the bathrooms, hard plumbed to the sink drain pipes. “It was unsightly, and loud. The HVAC system itself was loud, and the dehumidifier just added to the din. I wondered how guests were able to sleep. There are more efficient, less costly, less imposing methods to dehumidify guest rooms”, explains Burow. “Even though there was no active dehumidification feature in their HVAC systems, this property could solve the humidity issue by installing thermostats that contain humidistats, which can measure humidity and actively dehumidify the air.
“What type(s) of HVAC system(s) do you currently have?”
They should ask you this question early in the conversation, to assess whether your HVAC system(s) are compatible with the HVAC controls they offer. Be prepared with a list of all HVAC systems on your property. It’s common for a property to have a variety of HVAC systems, depending on when they are replaced.
Be prepared with a list of your pain points, even if they might not seem relevant to thermostats. Write them down, and take notes when meeting with the HVAC controls company. Offer to show them a guest room or two. Maybe one with a basic layout and also a 2 room suite. Solutions can vary depending on room layout.
The capabilities of the latest energy technology may surprise-and even impress-you.