While smart thermostats are certainly on the rise for the residential market, the commercial side has experienced a much slower adoption rate. While a residential building has fewer people to heat or cool and a smaller space, commercial buildings aren’t as simple. Larger spaces and more people can make for a difficult heating and cooling process.

According to an article in Utility Dive, a new study from researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York, found that “Commercial buildings are spending $600 million more than necessary every year to heat and cool spaces while wasting significant energy doing so.”

The research showed that only 11 percent of commercial buildings met the ASHRAE thermal comfort standard, meaning that unsuitable indoor temperatures left workers feeling dissatisfied while also wasting energy.

This isn’t an uncommon problem, and many commercial building owners are looking to the future of thermostats to save energy costs and provide comfortable temperature standards for building occupants.

The NEWS spoke to a few commercial thermostat manufacturers that are working to aid commercial building owners by offering a simple solution for both heating and cooling issues as well as energy costs.


The Internet of Things (IoT) continues to be an emerging trend not only for thermostats but for the HVAC industry as a whole.

According to a new update to the International Data Corp. (IDC), “Worldwide Semiannual Internet of Things Spending Guide,” global IoT spending will experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.6 percent over the 2015-2020 forecast period, reaching $1.29 trillion in 2020.

With numbers like these, it’s not a surprise that the commercial thermostat market is capitalizing on the success of the IoT. So, shouldn’t commercial contractors be doing the same?

“Most contractors still don’t realize that true IoT building controls are here, work well, and cost a lot less than traditional building management systems (BMS) and energy management systems (EMS),” said Jerry Drew, CEO, Network Thermostat, a commercial sister company of Robertshaw Climate. “Due to continued improvements with electronic technology, IoT-based controls will — it’s not a maybe — become the standard for all building controls for nearly all facilities that aren’t central plant-driven.

“With the advent of the smartphone and its adoption everywhere, consumers are embracing IoT faster than HVAC contracting businesses can integrate the technologies into their product and service portfolios, and those contractors who get ahead of the curve can substantially grow their customer relationships and their businesses,” he added.

IoT features are what make the newest commercial thermostat offerings a win-win for both building owners and commercial contractors alike.

The Verasys controls system from Johnson Controls Inc. offers a unique plug-and-play controls system for the light commercial market that integrates HVACR equipment and controls.

“The plug-and-play capability simplifies life for contractors and building owners by eliminating special programming typically required for single- or multi-zone control implementations,” said Ham Daneshmand, senior product manager, SMART systems and SMART equipment, Johnson Controls Inc. “Verasys controls automatically communicate, seamlessly connect, and self-discover smart equipment from Johnson Controls, but also a wide range of smart-enabled mechanical and electrical equipment.”

Similarly, Daikin Applied has introduced the availability of intelligent equipment as a factory-installed option on its Pathfinder AWV chillers.

“Enabled with controls, commercial HVAC units like the Daikin Pathfinder AWV chiller provide contractors with the ability to better serve customers,” said Paul Rauker, vice president and general manager, systems and controls, Daikin Applied. “In the case of Pathfinder specifically, the chiller’s controls read over 300 data points in real time that provide insight into the unit’s performance.”


Connectivity is key for the commercial thermostat market, and manufacturers are looking to make thermostats that communicate with both the building owner and the contractor. 

“Many commercial contractors have started gaining recurring revenue by being able to monitor the systems for their customer and becoming proactive rather than reactive to the customer’s needs, thus, building trust and value in the relationships,” said Drew. “One of many examples are that contractors can be sent an email or text message when the thermostat’s intelligence detects an inefficient equipment operation, allowing the contractor to look further into the issue, first via communications and then via truck roll if needed.” 

It is this idea of remote diagnostics that is the largest trend sweeping the commercial thermostat market. Building owners and commercial contractors love it, and tenants and occupants reap the benefits.

Johnson Controls’ Verasys controls system uses on-board Smart Equipment controls intelligence that supports optional remote diagnostics and fault detection, plus data analytics. Also, it gives users remote access over a secure internet connection, optional fault detection and diagnostics deliver alarm notifications immediately via email or text, and user-friendly graphics provide easy access to critical facility information to help minimize the risk of unplanned downtime and costly repairs.

“Contractors are more competitive when they can reduce costs that don’t add value to the job or the customer’s business,” said Daneshmand. “Remote access lets contractors make better use of their time by allowing easy, immediate access to critical facility information, which minimizes reactive and costly, unplanned repairs. If a technician does have to visit the site, they are armed with information to expedite the fix.”

The Daikin Pathfinder AWV chiller utilizes remote diagnostics, so contractors can better serve their commercial customers.

“Intelligent Equipment provides remote access to an HVAC system’s usage statistics, so contractors can access data points related to power usage, outdoor air temperatures, and system run time,” said Rauker. “This type of connectivity helps contractors more efficiently service a system, allowing access to review trend reports that provide clues on performance. As you can imagine, having that level of insight helps a contractor stay a step ahead of his or her customer when it comes to maintenance needs. The more proactive a contractor is about maintaining a healthy HVAC system, resulting in a healthy building environment, the happier a customer will be.”

According to Ed Blittschau, vice president, marketing, White-Rodgers for Emerson’s commercial and residential solutions platform, the new Emerson Sensi thermostats have a dashboard that makes it easy to monitor building thermostat settings.

“Sensi Multiple Thermostat Manager is a new software application launching in November that can manage and control multiple HVAC systems through Sensi Wi-Fi thermostats,” said Blittschau. “This software solution, coupled with our Wi-Fi thermostats, forms a powerful but affordable HVAC management system for many business applications that typically have multiple HVAC systems spread across one or several buildings or even geographies. Emerson has strived to make an easy, intuitive platform that anybody can use with a simple dashboard that provides a bird’s eye view of system information remotely and effective control with grouping and batch change capabilities.

“Business applications, such as property owners, small businesses, places of worship, restaurants, and schools will also benefit from the keypad lockout feature so they can prevent unauthorized changes to settings without having to add an unsightly lock box or pay the extra energy cost,” Blittschau added.


According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 30 percent of the average energy used in commercial buildings is wasted. To many commercial building owners, this is an ongoing battle they would like to see end.

“Consumers, including end users and tenants, benefit from the Pathfinder because facilities where it operates create better air for the tenants and residents inside,” said Rauker. “Indoor air quality is a critical component to a person’s overall wellness. The average person spends more than 90 percent of his or her time indoors, so breathing high-quality air while inside can contribute greatly to a person’s productivity and health on a daily basis. Not only will building owners and facilities managers see benefit in the efficiencies of the Pathfinder AWV chiller — such as slashing energy costs by 40 percent —- but tenants and residents will feel these benefits and quite literally, breathe easier.”

Daneshmand thinks it’s the communication abilities that make Verasys an energy saving homerun.

“Through the Smart Building Hub, the Verasys controls systems enables users to connect to data streams from smart controls in rooftop units, chillers, heat pumps, fan coils, zone dampers, refrigeration systems, lighting panels, and more,” he said. “The system collects data and sends it to smart devices like your phone, laptop, etc. As a result, the system enhances energy-efficient control for smaller commercial buildings, which allows for an even higher energy class.

“The key is demand control where the occupants’ spaces send the energy demands/requirements to the heating and cooling equipment,” Daneshmand continued. “Matching the demand side and the supply side guarantees an energy-efficient system overall.”

The UP32 family of commercial thermostats from Network Thermostat also make energy savings a cinch for commercial building owners.

“Powerful energy management features substantially assist with the reduction of commercial electricity demand charges via four different automatic and adaptive control features embedded in every thermostat,” said Drew.

Across the board, manufacturers are keeping contractors, building owners, and occupants in mind by developing newer, smarter commercial thermostats that offer energy saving features that can help contractors provide the best service, building owners save money, and occupants breathe easier. 

Publication date: 10/23/201

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