No one wants to come home after a long day to a stuffy, overheated apartment, even during the winter. Unfortunately, this is the case for many residents living in older, multi-residential buildings that are centrally heated – unless they are provided with a better in-suite heating solution such as smart thermostats.
Over the past two years, The Atmospheric Fund (TAF) worked with Toronto Community Housing and Ecosystem to retrofit seven multi-unit residential buildings as part of the TowerWise program. Our goals were to reduce energy and water consumption, lower carbon emissions, and improve the comfort and health of residents in over 1,300 households.
As part of a comprehensive indoor environmental quality monitoring, TAF partnered with the University of Toronto to monitor the indoor conditions and surveyed residents to understand their comfort priorities. Overheating was a serious issue, particularly during the colder months. Prior to our retrofits, these buildings were heated by oversized, inefficient boilers and a lack of in-suite heating controls. As a result, many residents opened their windows during colder months, wasting energy and contributing to poor indoor comfort.
We replaced the existing, inefficient space heating systems with new condensing boilers that properly meet the heating needs of the buildings. To maximize the benefits of these new heating systems and improve resident comfort, in-suite heating controls were also installed in the suites. To support this work, ecobee, a Toronto-based company that makes WiFi enabled smart thermostats, donated over 700 adaptive E3 thermostats and room sensors. Each apartment now features multiple sensors with thermostats in the living room and additional room sensors in the bedrooms, resulting in better control of the radiators, and ultimately, a more comfortable indoor space.
“Putting ecobee3 smart thermostats in these homes means we’ll be improving comfort for residents in a way they can feel, saving money for public housing and improving energy efficiency,”
– Stuart Lombard, Founder and CEO of ecobee
We also launched a resident engagement program to promote energy saving behaviour and help residents understand how to operate their smart thermostats. To assist with this engagement, TAF turned to Building Up, a non-profit social organization that trains individuals experiencing barriers to employment. Engaging residents was critical for maximizing the installation success rates and achieving the fullenergy savings benefits. At the same time, our collaboration with Building Up created meaningful green employment opportunities.
“Improving the state of the environment and reducing utility expenses is a beautiful thing, but while we’re at it why not add a third and vital win by creating meaningful employment for individuals that could use this work as a springboard into a life-long career in the growing green economy.”
– Marc Soberano, Building Up Founder and Executive Director
Although TAF’s mandate is focused on reducing emissions, we believe in creating multiple benefits through energy retrofits such as jobs, health, and comfort. That’s why it was rewarding to give residents control over their comfort in a way that also maximizes the performance of these existing buildings. We will gather feedback and data over this winter to help inform future retrofits of multi-residential buildings.