Businesses waste over 60%* of the energy they purchase every year. The majority of this waste results from inefficient heating and cooling in commercial buildings. The second largest offender is poorly optimized equipment usage. With nearly half of energy waste coming from ineffective HVAC schedules, facility, and energy managers quickly turn their attention to better control options for their HVAC units. After a bit of research on potential solutions, we all end up with the same question: What is the difference between an energy management solution and a standard programmable thermostat?

An energy management solution will take a more holistic approach to save energy by treating the site as a complete system, whereas a programmable thermostat will drive down energy costs from HVAC units alone. This difference allows for more energy and operational savings from an energy management solution; however, this post will focus on an apples-to-apples comparison of differences at the HVAC level. Here is a list of some of the biggest variations between the two solutions:

  • A smart thermostat can be programmed for different occupied and unoccupied setpoints for each day, but anyone can override these setpoints and put the thermostat on permanent hold. This results in extra energy waste due to the setpoint remaining the same throughout the day and night, and eliminates any control or regulation at the management level. Alternatively, The GridPoint energy management system creates intelligent multi-period scheduling based on the natural daily customer flow of your site, so you will save even more energy when your site is not busy. Additionally, if someone overrides the setpoint, it will return to the pre-set schedule in 30 to 120 minutes.
  • A programmable thermostat saves energy by enforcing heating and cooling setpoints. GridPoint’s energy management solution also does this, and it saves even more energy through advanced control algorithms that intelligently throttle up and down HVAC units to keep guests and employees comfortable at a minimal cost. It can also predict when buildings will use the most energy during the month, and curtail HVAC usage for 15 minutes to save up to an additional 5% off your energy bill.
  • GridPoint thermostats include an HVAC test tool that will automatically test the performance and operational status of each unit every month. An HVAC Scope report is generated that informs you of which units are broken with a full diagnostics report. This HVAC Scope report also predicts when a low-performing HVAC unit might fail.
  • A programmable thermostat controls an HVAC unit in an isolated manner, whereas an energy management solution treats all HVAC units at a site as a single system. This allows for some cooperative control efficiency which increases energy savings.
  • Programmable thermostats require users to manually update each thermostat one at a time, but an energy management solution will allow users to update schedules at all locations with just a few clicks.
  • A programmable thermostat may send an alert if a zone is not being cooled or heated properly by an HVAC unit, but an energy management system can alarm on more than just low and high temperatures. GridPoint’s energy management solution can alert users on short cycling, long cycling, performance trends, and power issues.
  • A typical programmable thermostat may come with a mobile application to control the temperatures remotely. An energy management solution will include a mobile application as well as a web application to provide more value-added features to drive more energy savings. GridPoint’s energy management solution goes one step further and includes a full suite of services such as Control Support Services, Site Monitoring Services, and Energy Advisory Services.

The decision between an energy management solution and a programmable thermostat may seem like a budget decision initially, yet the return on investment is often recognized much sooner in an energy management system. GridPoint has recently released Energy-Management-as-a-Service (EMaaS), which allows businesses to exchange the large upfront cost for a low monthly fee that is less than the energy savings. Taking away the upfront cost creates a unique value proposition that allows customers to be cash flow positive from day one without touching a capital expense budget.