Buildings IoT

I have a Nest in my house, why can’t I have one in my building?

By Jewel Turner | January 24, 2019

The Nest is a smart thermostat designed to optimize itself based on its users lifestyles. For the first few days, owners need to set the stat’s temperature manually. From there, it only takes a short while for the Nest to learn the usual temperature of its home environment and set itself automatically. The Nest also knows when you’re not home and turns itself off during these times, which is a huge energy saver. If you already have a smart thermostat in your home, you’re likely singing its praises.

Smart Thermostats at Home

The Nest, first released in 2011, is not the only connected-home device designed to help users save energy. Other examples of energy-saving products include the Smart Strip Power Strip and the Hydrao Smart Shower, among other direct Nest competitors like Ecobee. Next generation energy-saving products for homes even extend to home energy monitors, smart home sensors, and smart home security products.

According to Statista, revenue in the smart home market in the U.S. is expected to top $27 billion in 2019, up 15% from 2018. Nest and Ecobee advertise 10-15% energy savings and up to 23% savings respectively. On closer examination, it seems both products typically save customers 1-15% on energy bills.

Although the amount of energy saved appears lower than the companies say, tech writer Jennifer Pattison Tuohy writes in The Ambient that “a home built from the ground up to be sustainable will always provide greater energy-efficiency, with a little help from connected tech,” implying that multiple factors are at play when saving energy in the residential market.

Smart Thermostats in Buildings

So now that you’re converted on the wonders and energy-saving potential of smart home devices, you’re keen to utilize the same technology in your building. On the commercial site, thermostats typically used in commercial buildings are not, on the whole, “smart.” The most popular brands for commercial building thermostats are Honeywell and Johnson Controls.

As veterans in the building controls industry know, the thermostat options from Honeywell and Johnson Controls are very similar so with little competition, it’s no surprise they are the top selling brands. Rather than being what the residential market considers “smart devices,” commercial building stats are programmable thermostats. As such, they can be made to do whatever the operator wants, but they aren’t going to learn and operate on their own. Commercial building thermostats are designed to last for a decade and are easily replaced.

Differences Between Homes and Buildings for Smart Thermostats

At the device level, the biggest difference between the Nest and the thermostats in commercial buildings is their design. The Nest is a smart device, meaning its main purpose is to do things on its own – like program itself based on its understanding of your family’s lifestyle – after a relatively short time. That means its design includes an advanced computer in a relatively tiny box.

Thermostats in commercial buildings require more manual setup and continuous attention. And, crucially, they don’t have the built-in computing and analytics systems. They do one or two things, and though they do them well. That’s the extent of their usefulness.

Until recently, this is how thermostats worked in homes too. Plug them into the HVAC unit, stick them on the wall and make the home owners push rubber buttons until their fingers fall off. But the Nest and similar products like Ecobee, and all smart home devices really, benefit from the relative standardization of the residential market. Entrepreneurs were able to make one device that fits for nearly all homes. Across the commercial building industry, each building can have a dizzying amalgamation of systems, from HVAC to lighting, metering to plumbing just within itself, never mind what the building across the street has.

It’s harder for manufacturers to make complex devices that will just work in all buildings. So they stick with what has been working for years and the commercial market lags behind the connected-device revolution taking residential by storm.

Magic Eight Ball for Smart Thermostats

According to Statista, 33.2% of homes have smart home devices, and by 2023, that number is estimated to increase to 53.9%. On the bright side, commercial buildings are getting smarter and more connected, and device manufacturers are experimenting with new technologies so we may see smart thermostats entering into commercial buildings within the next 5-10 years.

We’ll continue to keep our eyes on innovations in the commercial buildings space and we hope you’ll continue to stay connected to our articles.

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