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smart thermostats in 2020
Jun 03 2020

Ecobee EMS Si SmartBuildings Platform

When it comes to energy efficiency in Chicagoland, you can’t have a meaningful conversation without talking about HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Cooling).

While HVAC replacement is an important consideration for commercial spaces and public buildings, how you use that equipment is at times just as important.

Our company offers three commercial smart thermostat products to our clients, which are typically Fire Stations, McDonalds and Libraries. For most of the applications, the Ecobee EMS Si is the best product for our clients, although there are times that the Nest Thermostat or the Pelican Thermostat is preferred.

Ecobee EMS Si Platform

The Ecobee stands out because the EMS Si has a more robust commercial software than Nest. This article will dig into the software, with screenshots and uses.

Scheduling Building Heating and Cooling

While the scheduling feature is available on all programmable thermostats (and Nest and Pelican), it is worth noting as it is the fastest way to save energy. Ecobee makes this easy, both on the thermostat and on the platform.

High and Low Temperature and Humidity Warnings

I think for buildings in both commercial and public, this is key. As long as you set this higher in cooling than any of your scheduled settings (or lower for heating), you will know when there are issues with your equipment. If your low heat setting for unoccupied spaces is 62 degrees, and you set an alert for 60 – you will know when the heat stops working or is struggling to keep up via a notification. You don’t need to wait until the next time you visit your building to know, or even risk pipes bursting or dealing with emergencies when you arrive after a long weekend.

Historical Usage

Here is the real information gain from this platform, and the reason it outperforms Nest in terms of data. Nest will show how much your equipment is used each day, but not the granular level of data. Each of the above graphs share a story about your equipment – are you having humidity issues, is it running too frequently, is it dropping too much in temperature when cooling and you have oversized equipment?

In fact, much of my research around this topic has been driven by restaurant franchise owners that own many restaurants. They are constantly chasing issues with HVAC – reacting to reports of too hot or too cold stores and areas of the stores. Not only can an owner look at the current and historical data of a store during a complaint, but they could start each day to confirm units are all working. To state that again, as it is really important – they can look to see across all of their buildings and thermostats to confirm they are working.

Proactive Maintenance

They key to energy efficiency is proactive maintenance, instead of reactive. Most owner/operators and facilities directors wait until a unit breaks and needs an expensive repair before replacing it. While that makes sense – it allows you to maximize the most life out of your existing unit – it does not enable you to proactively replace your HVAC equipment with the most efficient unit available as they often have a longer lead time. When your heat is down in the winter – you cannot wait 6 weeks for a CEE Tier 2 unit to be built and shipped to you.

Why is that important? Well, first, you will have the equipment for 15-20 years and the long term energy/operating costs can be quite significant. However, more importantly, Comed Rebates can cover 40-70% of the costs of a high efficiency unit and you will miss those by reacting. Budget ahead and proactive replacement leads to lower energy usage and lower budget in replacement costs.

For this reason, I think that the Ecobee EMS Si, as well as the SmartBuildings Platform are the best smart thermostat for commercial spaces and public buildings.

If you have a residential style HVAC system, we recommend Nest.

If you have 5-10 year old RTUs and are interested in advanced rooftop controls and a state of the art economizer system upgrade, then I would recommend the Pelican System.

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