Remote Monitoring in HVAC-R

2020 Guide for Contractors

Zander here, Partner Relations Manager at Norada.

I’ve spent the past eight months connecting with professionals across all levels of the HVAC-R industry, from major manufacturers down to contractors in the field. I had the opportunity to compare notes, and pick their brains on everything from remote monitoring to “smart” sensor devices.

Remote monitoring has been buzzing around HVAC-R lately, why?

Great place to start - let’s wind the clocks back. Surprisingly, remote monitoring (RM) in HVAC-R has been around for some time.

Historically, RM solutions are implemented in large, enterprise and industrial environments by attaching custom sensor hardware to a variety of HVAC assets.

The sensors relay asset vitals into a client’s BMS (Building Management System), where facility managers and building operators use this data to triage service response and map energy efficiency throughout the site.

While remote monitoring has established a foothold under these conditions - industry research shows that only 10% of HVAC units are connected to the internet via “smart” devices. 

Considering the substantial value this technology brings, I found it peculiar that remote equipment monitoring hasn’t erupted across all corners of the HVAC-R industry.

If you don’t know where to look, remote monitoring is hard.

Traditionally, the 10% of connected HVAC-R equipment requires critical data to be driven into complex, on-prem software systems.

Sure, these systems are robust, but many take years to customize and develop. Also, it’s important to note that these platforms can be ridden with technological restraint that becomes outdated, creating a nasty headache when further improvements and integrations are required.

So when a light industrial or commercial contractor looks to implement remote monitoring, they’re met with a cumbersome, and frankly, difficult road to success.

The majority of teams I interviewed understand the value in remotely monitoring their client’s assets, and many of them have spent time attempting to implement remote monitoring before. 

“Visual inspection isn’t enough. You need to get connected to your assets.”

Senseware

So what’s the hold-up?

As mentioned above, 9 out of 10 HVAC units are still stuck in the dark ages. Some of these may ring a bell …

“We’ve thought a remote monitoring, but…”

  • We know it’s only suited for large, enterprise clients.
  • We know how expensive it can be.
  • We don’t have the resources to look into this further.

You’ll be happy to know - these pain points caught the attention of major OEMs and hardware distributors. After scanning the market, they found it was a greenfield for less complicated hardware tailored toward the majority of HVAC contractors and the needs of their clients.

“Inexpensive, wireless sensor tech just wasn’t available when we went after this two years ago.”

Braun Refrigeration 

Manufacturers shifted the focus toward more consumer-driven approaches and started designing simple, inexpensive, plug-and-play hardware. The effort was to eliminate the arduous install process and enable contractors to begin capturing real-time data within minutes.

Today, this technology has become widely available. Get excited; this is brand new. 

That’s great, and all, but the systems that capture sensor data are too complex.

We’ve anticipated what you might need ahead of that.

While this new sensor hardware does meet most of the technical capability, it can sometimes fall short when making the data actionable. Without a simple, useful management platform as the backstop, the value of incoming equipment vitals plummet if you can’t easily act or triage service response.

“There’s not an obvious solution in the marketplace. I work with too many service contracts to monitor alerts through the email/SMS notifications coming off these sensors.”

Mo-Air Southern California 

We know contractors are starting to dig for this hardware, and will likely need to be pointed in the right direction on how to best manage the inbound sensor data.

All of the insight and research I’ve accumulated in the past year has landed our team here. There’s a chance you might stumble during that implementation; Solve™ has got your back.

— Zander Iles