Smart thermostats

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Purpose of the project

The purpose of the project was several-fold - tenant engagement, raising awareness around energy use, and market differentiation. Multi-family buildings are difficult to manage from an energy standpoint, in that the majority of the use takes place within the residences themselves. By installing Wi-Fi based, learning thermostats from Nest in each apartment, we made an elegant and fun tool available so residents can more easily manage their comfort level and better understand their energy use. Nest provides monthly energy reports. As a complement to this, we are installing a web-based, whole-building energy monitoring system.

 

Approach

Our sustainability manager installed a Nest thermostat in her home, and approached the team about using them in our multi-family buildings. We reached out to Nest directly who was very interested in working with us and in co-marketing opportunities. We have since committed to using Nest thermostats in several other high-rise apartment buildings in Boston and Chicago, and may also retrofit them into other buildings we own/manage in other markets. (They are not compatible with all HVAC systems so we cannot use them in every building). Our energy analyst, WSP Flack and Kurtz, modelled the impacts of the Nest thermostats and found that we could conservatively expect a total savings of $15,000/yr. building-wide. With Nest's help, we have been able to negotiate incentives from the utilities based on the estimated savings.

 

Results

We were able to create a new incentive pathway for smart thermostats with Eversource (formerly NSTAR), the Boston electric utility. We demonstrated that throughout the building, the thermostats would save over 95,000 kwh of energy over the course of a year. Eversource now offers a commercial building incentive to owners/developers to help offset the first cost of the thermostat, based on these estimated savings. Additionally, 315 on A earned the pilot credit in LEED for thermostat learning controls. The Nest thermostats have been hugely successful and we are installing them in all of our properties (where compatible) going forward. Tenants love the fact that they get monthly reports from Nest that show the breakdown of their heating and cooling energy use and the way the thermostat learns their habits. We love that tenants have more insight into their energy use and can work with us to ensure the property operates efficiently.

 

“It’s very rewarding for us to identify strategies that facilitate a dialogue around sustainability and empower our tenants to participate in energy efficiency practices. The NEST thermostats add to the quality of our property, are functional and beautiful, and provide our tenants with new insights into their personal energy use.”

-Molly Bordonaro, Partner