Smart Thermostats: Technology Assessment and Field Test Findings in Multi-Unit Residential Buildings examines lessons learned from the installation of in-suite smart thermostats in four 1970s-built multi-unit residential buildings (MURBs) in Toronto.
Smart thermostats are an opportunity waiting to happen for big apartment and condominium complexes across Ontario.
They’ve taken off fast in single-family homes, delivering cost savings, carbon reductions, and better home comfort to the households that install them. But they’re much less common in MURBs, including older MURBs that often house poorer families that have more trouble paying their monthly energy bills.
To demonstrate the potential and help the owners of these large buildings bridge the gap, TAF installed in-suite smart thermostats in four 1970s-era MURBs across the Greater Toronto Area, then reported the results in 2019. The 24-page summary covers the energy, carbon, and lifestyle impacts of the devices, the challenges of adapting the technology to a building with more than one tenant or owner, and the potential to scale up their use across the existing MURB stock.
Across the four buildings, the field study found that:
- In-suite smart thermostats reduced space heating needs by 8.8 to 11.8 per cent per year
- The pilot sites reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 105 tonnes of carbon dioxide or equivalent in the first year by saving 55,700 cubic metres of natural gas
- The devices helped community housing tenants reduce their exposure to extreme indoor heat above 28°C by 54 per cent in winter and 35 per cent in the shoulder seasons
- Resident education was the key to a successful retrofit program. Once that happened, 65 per cent of the residents were either satisfied or very satisfied with their smart thermostats
The success of the demonstration project pointed to the far greater potential across Ontario: installing smart thermostats in the estimated 1.18 million gas-heated apartment units across Ontario would reduce 310,00 – 420,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year.
With that opportunity in mind, TAF is urging utilities to promote and attach incentives to smart thermostats for MURB owners and operators, encouraging owners and operators to include smart thermostats in their larger HVAC retrofit projects, and asking smart thermostat manufacturers to offer building operators an online portal for centralized, wireless control.