Transforming Small Commercial Buildings with State-of-the-Art HVAC Technology

25 Jun 2024

The small commercial building sector faces a significant dilemma: reliance on antiquated heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) technology. This outdated technology leads to frequent maintenance issues, resulting in high operational expenses and increased carbon emissions.

Fortunately, advanced technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and wireless sensors are revolutionizing HVAC system management. These innovations promise increased energy efficiency, reduced costs, and a more sustainable future.

Rahul Subramany, co-founder and chief technology officer of Monaire, an end-to-end heating, HVAC, and refrigeration management service for small businesses, says, “Combining AI, wireless sensors, and skilled technicians can transform HVAC systems in small commercial buildings.

The Untapped Potential of Small Commercial Buildings

Small and medium buildings with an area of less than 50,000 square feet represent a significant portion of the commercial building stock in the United States. These buildings, including restaurants and convenience stores, account for 94% of U.S. commercial buildings, roughly 5.5 million buildings, 50% of U.S. total building square footage, and 44% of total commercial building energy use.

Despite their collective impact, over 85% of these buildings use outdated, analog HVAC technologies. The reason is simple: advanced, modern HVAC technology has been out of reach for these buildings due to cost and complexity.

"Modern HVAC tech available today is targeted at larger buildings with deeper pockets,” explains Subramany. "They require sophisticated design, implementation, and dedicated facility management personnel to operate. Small and medium buildings do not have the scale to afford such personnel."

The reliance on legacy HVAC technology in small commercial buildings comes at a steep price. Estimates show these inefficiencies waste billions of dollars annually in the U.S. alone. The amount totals around $65 billion in excess energy use, business losses due to downtime, food waste, and reduced employee productivity.

“There's also a split incentive between owner and tenant in smaller buildings," Subramany points out. "The owner is typically responsible for capital purchases while the operational expenses reside with tenants. Owners, hence, only want to pay for the cheapest equipment and pass on all the higher operational costs to tenants."

Monaire's AI-Driven Method

Monaire aims to bridge this gap by offering a solution that combines AI, wireless sensors, and skilled technicians to upgrade HVAC systems in these buildings, all without significant capital investment or the need for dedicated personnel.

"Our solution involves low capital outlay," Subramany explains*. "We use wireless sensors and controls that can be retrofitted into existing equipment, eliminating the need for replacement."*

The AI component of Monaire's solution acts as dedicated facilities personnel, continuously monitoring equipment, automatically correcting efficiency drops, determining root causes when manual intervention is needed, and presenting them to technicians.

"We work with vetted, curated technicians from partner contractors," Subramany adds. "They are empowered with AI insights, and our apps enhance their workflows."

Monaire's technology significantly impacts small commercial buildings. Implementing their solution can reduce HVAC energy and repair costs by 30% and downtime and food waste by 75%.

Some industry experts remain cautious about the concept of AI-driven HVAC technology, considering the need to make sure such solutions are environmentally sustainable in the long run. Subramany believes, however, that Monaire's technique strikes the right balance between innovation and sustainability, paving the way for a more efficient and eco-friendly future.

A Visionary Perspective on Sustainable Building Management

As Monaire continues to roll out its technology, Subramany's vision for transforming small commercial buildings through state-of-the-art HVAC solutions becomes increasingly clear.

With a deep understanding of the industry's challenges and a commitment to taking advantage of the latest technologies, he is leading the charge in making advanced HVAC systems accessible and affordable for a segment that has long been overlooked.

Subramany has been the driving force behind Monaire’s technology stack development. “Solving challenging problems like the HVAC one in small commercial buildings requires hardware, software, and services to be carefully curated,” he points out. “I realized this, having spent years doing the same at Lutron Electronics and SimpliSafe.”

The unique technology Subramany helped develop and its instant market validation have helped Monaire raise over $4.1M from prominent investors. Monaire was also recently accepted into Greentown Labs, North America’s largest ecosystem of climate tech companies, further validating its success.

We are only getting started,” Subramany states. “We wish to help accelerate the world’s transition to more sustainable heating and cooling. We are working on some really cool ideas, including one involving using HVAC and Refrigeration systems to help offset demand when electricity grids are strained.”

We can drastically reduce the carbon impact of HVAC systems while helping businesses save money by digitizing HVAC systems, pairing them up with renewable energy sources, providing grid services, etc.,” he concludes.

With Subramany's visionary leadership and commitment to pushing the boundaries of what's possible, the transformation of small commercial buildings through cutting-edge HVAC technology is underway.