Like the rest of the world, the multifamily real-estate market has experienced a transformation in the past two years, as competition and consumer demand responded to a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic. Apartment rents plummeted in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, but fortunately they rebounded in 2021, having since experienced continuing growth. In fact, national asking rents were up 13.5% in 2021, although that rise is expected to level to about 5% in 2022.
While smart home technology and improved indoor air quality both functioned as selling points and premium amenities prior to the pandemic, consumers now demand the technologies, creating losses for property owners who fail to upgrade their buildings.
With stiff competition nationwide, multifamily real-estate companies must continue to adapt to market demands and consumer trends. HVAC is no exception, as tenants require more convenience, improved comfort, and a lower carbon footprint. To stay ahead of the competition, multifamily property managers should be aware of the following HVAC tech trends in 2022:
Smart Apartment Homes
The property sector continues to be dominated by the Internet of Things in 2022 as technology connects everyday items to the internet. Multifamily smart devices like thermostats allow residents to control their indoor climates remotely. This lowers utility bills and conserves energy, while also helping them monitor their indoor air quality.
Many modern apartment homes now boast features like smart lighting, heating, and air conditioning that can be controlled with a smartphone or a tablet. The smart home market is expected to reach almost $139 billion by 2026.
Smart apartment home options aren’t limited to those residents renting newly constructed properties. Smart technology can be added to all sorts of properties, without the need to replace an entire HVAC system. Devices such as smart air quality monitors, smart air purifiers, and smart thermostats can be installed into practically any multifamily residence, adding a key competitive edge to an existing property.
Multifamily Building Automation
In 2022, multifamily management companies are frequently automating their building systems, including their HVAC operations. Automating the operation and control of an HVAC system improves efficiencies. Plus, the ability to remotely control HVAC systems can save property managers time, while extending the lifecycle of the equipment.
While most multifamily residents prefer to control the HVAC in their own environments, property managers are still obliged to monitor the settings in common areas, as well as vacant apartments. Smart technology adds convenience to this process, particularly for companies that now primarily operate on a remote basis. Plus, by placing the heating and cooling operations in vacant apartments on a schedule, property managers can significantly decrease the energy usage and costs associated with the units.
HVAC preventative maintenance remains a vital component of multifamily property management. But regularly changing filters, cleaning, and sealing HVAC systems has its limits. What happens when a malfunction occurs in between seasonal checks? And as any seasoned apartment manager can attest… reactive maintenance doesn’t come cheap.
To overcome the limitations of seasonal maintenance, property management companies are turning toward data-driven predictive maintenance strategies. While some tasks like changing filters still should be performed at set intervals, others can be conducted only at the precise times they are needed. Predictive maintenance not only boosts energy efficiency, but the strategic use of data generated by HVAC systems has the potential to eliminate the need for emergency maintenance calls entirely.
Motili’s technology supports this 2022 HVAC trend by monitoring building systems that generate data, which is used to provide advanced insight into HVAC operations and optimize energy savings. Motili’s proprietary Asset Condition Index can predict equipment failure for Motili customers before they experience any loss of service.
Focus on IAQ
In the wake of a devastating virus, indoor air quality continues to be a top concern among multifamily housing communities. According to an AirAdvice survey of 50,000 American homes, almost 97% of all homes complained of at least one of six common IAQ issues, including problems with humidity, temperature, chemicals, allergens, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.
Multifamily properties can gain a competitive edge by focusing on improving the IAQ in their apartment homes. A variety of methods are available for better indoor air quality, including removing the source of pollutants, boosting ventilation, and sealing leaks. Property managers can also make an effort to test the IAQ, and if other problems are discovered, they even can install air cleaners. Of course, properly maintaining HVAC equipment is vital to achieving optimal IAQ in any multifamily environment.
Energy efficiency remains a primary goal of regulators, businesses, and consumers in 2022. A reduced carbon footprint continues to be a priority in the HVAC industry, and for good reason. HVAC accounted for about 35% of the carbon emissions from a typical building, according to 2014 data.
One trend that goes hand in hand with decarbonization in HVAC is electrification. By replacing technologies that use fossil fuels like gas with alternatives that rely on electricity, property managers can increase the efficiencies of their buildings, reduce their carbon emissions, and decrease their residents’ energy costs.
“The ultimate goal is to power HVAC systems via electricity that is generated by a clean energy source, like wind or the sun,” Motili President and GM Karl Pomeroy told Forbes. “These solutions are good for the planet and good for the building owner. HVAC that runs on natural gas, propane or heating oil can be replaced with electricity. Transitioning can take time and impact budgets in certain scenarios, but the body of research is there to support the switch to electric.”