As commercial properties go, assisted living facilities have a truly unique business model. On the one hand, they’re residential properties where (similar to multifamily properties) residents take up residence on a longer-term basis, and occupancy rates are relatively stable. On the other hand, they’re similar to hotels (or even student housing), where operators offer a range of additional services and amenities, and common areas regularly receive a high amount of traffic.

In other words, there are significant overhead costs involved in operating an assisted living facility. After all, lights need to remain on, critical supplies (from food to medical equipment) need to remain stocked, and a minimum detail of staff needs to be always on duty.

While there can be little compromise over the scope of overhead required to operate a senior residence, the cost of that overhead is not necessarily fixed. Indeed, smart technology is not only offering residents improved comfort and care, but is also allowing senior home operators to optimize their energy management across eight areas of their operations, reducing their overhead costs while increasing their profitability. 

1. Smart Thermostats

A Verdant ZX smart thermostat installed on a wall with a temperature of 72 Fahrenheit

Climate control is an essential part of any assisted living facility (or any other commercial property for that matter). Whether through heating or air conditioning, resident experience and comfort are critical to the operation of any senior residence. However, climate control also represents a both significant portion of an assisted living facility’s energy consumption and its overhead costs.

Fortunately, smart thermostats allow senior residence operators to reduce and optimize their energy consumption around actual occupancy needs. Furthermore, when installed alongside occupancy sensors and door/window sensors, smart thermostats can also respond to real-time fluctuations in occupancy rates, reducing energy consumption whenever a space is unoccupied by ensuring that a room is not overheated or overcooled when no one is in the room. So while senior residents can set their preferred temperature settings in their residential units, the smart thermostats will ensure that energy isn’t needlessly consumed when no one is present, and operators can ensure that common areas are similarly managed.

Of course, not all smart thermostats are created equal. Specifically, larger commercial properties (such as assisted living facilities) require more of a commercial-grade smart thermostat solution than is offered by consumer-grade brands (such as those offered by Nest and Ecobee). After all, senior residences require smart thermostats that can manage multiple units as well as common areas

2. HVAC Systems

While smart thermostats and occupancy sensors represent the hardware side of the energy management equation for senior residences, there is also a software side. Specifically, senior housing managers also have access to smart HVAC systems to help them minimize their energy consumption and energy costs.

For instance, Verdant’s EI energy management system integrates with occupancy sensors and smart thermostats to collect and aggregate a variety of data sets (including peak demand loads, historical thermodynamics, and local weather patterns, etc.). Those data sets are then analyzed by sophisticated machine learning algorithms to continuously optimize energy consumption throughout the year in real-time. In fact, the energy management potential of a smart HVAC systems is so significant that they’re already standard practice in the hotel industry.

In other words, while smart thermostat hardware provides senior housing managers with the infrastructure to employ energy management, smart HVAC systems provide them not only with the insight they need to manage and reduce energy costs, but the tools to automate the entire process.

3. Air Source Heat Pumps

Of course, smart thermostats and HVAC systems are not the only way that senior residence operators can optimize their energy consumption and save on energy costs. Advances in actual HVAC hardware technology also offer new energy management opportunities.

Specifically, Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHPs) transfer warm or cold air from outside a facility to inside. The principles behind ASHP technology rely on using the vapor compression-refrigeration to absorb warm or cold air  from one space, and then release it into another. The advantage for assisted living operators, however, is that ASHPs can be used as energy efficient space heaters (or coolers), removing the need to overload a central HVAC systems to achieve the thermodynamic requirements of a smaller or compartmental space.

4. Smart Lighting

A hand holding a light bulb that represents smart lighting

In terms of energy management, lighting represents another significant overhead cost for senior residences. However, similar to how smart thermostats and smart HVAC systems leverage occupancy sensors and machine learning algorithms, smart lighting systems also allow assisted living facility operators to manage lighting energy consumption by adapting to real-time changes in tenant occupancy patterns. 

Many smart lighting systems can also be integrated with smart energy management systems. Verdant’s line of occupancy sensors, for instance, can not only integrate with third-party lighting systems to ensure that energy consumption adjusts to real-time occupancy patterns, but also allow senior residence operators to monitor and optimize both lighting and HVAC energy consumption through a single interface. Finally, smart lighting systems also facilitate a safer and more comfortable experience for residents.

And the energy cost saving potential of smart lighting systems, moreover, should not be underestimated. Indeed, by converting to a smart LED lighting system, some commercial properties have managed to cut energy costs by 75% and improved productivity by 20%.

5. Solar Panels

Solar panel harnesses sunlight for energy management and cost savings

As energy costs rise around the globe, rising economic superpowers and Australian suburbanites are not the only market segments embracing solar power. In fact, commercial properties both large and small are also integrating solar power infrastructure into their infrastructure to improve energy management and reduce energy costs.

In fact, solar panels offers businesses a two-fold opportunity: (1) to reduce their energy consumption from the mainstream grid, and (2) to sell back any excess production back into that grid. So not only are businesses able to save on their energy costs, but possibly even create new revenue streams to help subsidize whatever energy consumption they still incur the rest of the time.

6. Automatic Shutdown Sockets

One significant way that businesses inadvertently inflate their energy costs is through what’s called “vampire power draw”. Also known as standby power, it “refers to the way electric power is consumed by electronic and electrical appliances while they are switched off,” but still plugged in and on standby mode.

However, Automatic Shutdown Sockets can help mitigate this residual energy consumption pattern. Simply put, Automatic Shutdown Sockets are simply smart power outlets that use either timers or infrared sensors to cut power to any connected device when (1) the device is not in use, or (2) the room is outright unoccupied. In other words, Automatic Shutdown Sockets allow senior residence operators to save on powering appliances and other devices whenever they are not in use or residents are not in the room.

7. Predictive Maintenance

Man evaluates data on a computer screen, illustrating predictive maintenance's role in optimizing energy management for senior residences

Just as smart energy management systems allow assisted living operators to monitor, measure, and optimize their energy consumption, Predictive Maintenance allows them to use sensor data (often from the same hardware) to track wasteful or hazardous energy consumption trends, identify malfunctioning hardware, and alert maintenance staff before (1) those wasteful patterns become too costly, and/or (2) the issue escalates into a much more problematic and costly one.

For instance, HVAC systems will fluctuate through varying levels of output based on occupancy and weather-based parameter. As a result, there will be more ore less wear-and-tear on their physical components. With Predictive Maintenance, however, rather than waiting for a component to break down or a critical failure to occur before being serviced or replaced, maintenance staff can diagnose maintenance requirements based on system performance, prevent system failures, reduce the costs of operating a faulty system, and prevent having to replace a unit that was allowed to deteriorate beyond the point of repair.

Verdant’s online management platform, for example, collects HVAC runtime data in real-time, and then assigns units an efficiency rating. This rating, in turn, is an indicator of how quickly a room can be heated or cooled back to the resident’s preferred temperature, and provides engineering teams with critical alerts when HVAC equipment is in need of attention. The result is that property managers and operators can ensure that all HVAC infrastructure is operating within peak energy consumption parameters, as well as predict and/or prevent critical (and costly) infrastructure failure

8. Smart Water Management

Finally, water is a necessary condition for life as we know it. Consequently, every assisted living facility relies on it to provide every service they offer and to care for residents. Indeed, whether it’s for resident water usage in their private units (showers, drinking, etc.), preparing and providing meals, or simply maintaining sanitation and cleanliness, no senior residence (or any other property, for that matter), can function without water access.

Of course, water usage comes with its own energy costs. After all, it needs to be pumped throughout every unit of a property, and often needs to be heated, as well. Furthermore, a single leaky toilet can cost as much as $840/year (in addition to the costs of any potential water damage), so water can easily become an unnecessarily inflated operational expense.

Just as senior residence operators can use HVAC and other smart energy management technology to leverage predictive maintenance, however, senior residences can also monitor water lines with smart, low-cost water meters, and reduce the energy costs associated with pumping and heating water, as well the costs associate with outright water usage or (worse) water damage.

Energy Management and Overhead Costs

Senior residences rely on a range of infrastructure to operate and care for their residents. Unlike other commercial properties, assisted living facilities simply can’t compromise on many over their overhead costs to improve their profitability. The exact price tag of that overhead, however, is not necessarily fixed.

Specifically, senior residence operators have many opportunities to reduce operational costs through energy management technologies. From smart HVAC and lighting systems to solar panels and predictive maintenance, there is no shortage of ways that senior residence operators can use technology to reduce their energy costs and improve their financial performance.

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