HVAC Monitoring Systems in Commercial Buildings

March 11, 2024

In the United States, commercial buildings consume more than 19% of total energy usage. Of that portion, HVAC systems used to heat and cool commercial buildings account for 27% of commercial energy usage.

While energy expenditures vary from building to building and region to region, a typical commercial firm allocates 5-10% of operating costs on energy

As building owners, occupiers, and operators grasp how to make a commercial building more energy efficient, HVAC monitoring systems have become a key tool in optimizing building operations and managing heating and cooling functions.

What is an HVAC Monitoring System? 

An HVAC monitoring system continually tracks and analyzes the energy usage and performance of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units in a commercial building. The primary purpose of HVAC monitoring systems is to identify and diagnose faults or inefficiencies in the building to the onsite facility management, engineering, and contractor teams that service the property. 

Commercial HVAC monitoring systems are tailored for large-scale facilities, ensuring efficient and uniform operation across extensive areas. While a home can easily be heated via a gas heater or heat pump, or cooled via an AC unit, commercial buildings have a much larger mechanical footprint, with HVAC components including, air handling units, chillers, and boilers using significant amounts of energy and requiring regular upkeep. An HVAC monitoring system monitors every single piece of equipment and pulls equipment performance information into a single dashboard for the operations team that manages the property.

How Does an HVAC Monitoring System Work? 

In short, an HVAC monitoring system uses a set of pre-ordained rules to monitor the entirety of a building's HVAC equipment remotely. Similar to a building energy management system, the HVAC monitoring system leverages BMS or other sensor data, to automate fault detection and ensure the efficient operation of HVAC systems. 

A good example of an HVAC monitoring system in action is the below screenshot of a faulty Variable Air Volume operation. A Variable Air Volume (VAV) damper, was fully open but wasn't allowing enough air to flow through as it should. An actuator is a device that operates the damper, so if it's not working properly, the damper won't be able to control airflow correctly, leading to issues with efficiently heating or cooling the space. The analytics software detected this problem and identified that the cause was a malfunctioning actuator.

Figure 1. Analytics Detecting Faulty VAV operation. VAV damper opens 100% however airflow setpoint is not achieved.

Figure 2. CIM's PEAK platform highlighting the malfunctioning actuator

Figure 3. The replaced actuator.

After identifying the fault, CIM’s HVAC monitoring system, automatically assigned the ticket to a contractor to replace the actuator and get the VAV unit back to running at peak performance. The platform uses AI to recommend a solution.

Why HVAC Monitoring Systems Are Crucial for Cutting Energy Costs

Larger commercial buildings, with their greater initial energy consumption, stand to gain significantly from HVAC efficiency improvements—illustrating that the more energy wasted, the larger the savings potential.

For instance, a company with a large commercial office portfolio that generates $50 million in revenue and spends $5 million on energy costs, could benefit substantially from achieving a 20% HVAC energy efficiency improvement. 

Beyond energy efficiency and the financial bottom line, HVAC monitoring systems can be crucial in fulfilling environmental responsibilities and meeting regulatory requirements.  

Below you can see a list of HVAC monitoring system benefits:

  • Cost Savings: They significantly reduce energy bills by optimizing operations and minimizing waste.
  • Reduced Carbon Footprint: By using energy more efficiently, these systems help in significantly reducing emissions, aiding sustainability efforts.
  • Reliable Operations: Ensures system reliability, reducing downtime and preventing productivity losses due to equipment failures.
  • Extended Equipment Life: This leads to less stress on HVAC components, reducing the need for frequent replacements and contributing to sustainability.
  • Improved Indoor Air Quality: Balances ventilation, temperature, and humidity, enhancing the environment for occupants.
  • Increased Occupant Satisfaction: Results in a more comfortable environment, likely leading to higher retention rates.
  • Enhanced Building Reputation: Demonstrates a commitment to efficiency and occupant well-being, attracting future tenants and employees who prioritize sustainability and quality of life
  • Enhanced Accountability for Engineers: Facilitates fault diagnosis, recommendation generation, and the assignment of trackable tickets for the facility management team, ensuring prompt and effective resolution of issues.
  • Better Sustainability Framework Performance: There are several government regulations and private sustainability rating systems that are used to objectively judge a building’s operational performance. Reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions can lead to higher scores for frameworks like LEED, NABERS, BREEAM, etc. 

The Evolution of Remote HVAC Monitoring Systems

The evolution of Remote HVAC System Monitoring has closely paralleled the broader trend of digital transformation in commercial real estate. This journey can be outlined in several key stages, reflective of the industry's wider adoption of technology to optimize building operations, enhance efficiency, and drive sustainability.

Starting in the 1980s and 1990s, the initial focus was on integrating and centralizing control over various building systems, including HVAC, lighting, and security. This period marked the beginning of a unified approach to building management, setting the stage for more sophisticated systems.

The late 1990s to 2000s saw a significant digital leap forward with the introduction of sensors and the internet, which enabled real-time data collection and monitoring. This advancement allowed for predictive maintenance and more precise control over building environments, significantly enhancing operational efficiency.

In the 2000s, sustainability became a focal point, with HVAC monitoring systems increasingly designed to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon footprints. This shift was driven by a global push towards green buildings and the adoption of sustainability certifications.

The 2010s ushered in the era of smart buildings, thanks to the integration of the Internet of Things (IoT). Buildings became interconnected ecosystems of devices that could communicate and make automated decisions based on real-time data, leading to unprecedented levels of control, building automation, and energy optimization.

Below, you can see the projected growth of the global HVAC services market. HVAC systems will only continue to become more prevalent in commercial buildings.

Figure 4. Projected growth of HVAC services market

Against this backdrop, remote HVAC system monitoring has started to be used to manage energy for large commercial buildings. Cloud-based platforms, like CIM’s PEAK platform, along with new IOT devices have significantly enhanced accessibility and management capabilities over buildings, enabling real-time insights and remote control over building environments. This evolution has streamlined operations, reduced energy consumption, and improved tenant experience.

Core Features of HVAC Monitoring and Control Systems

Having delved into the advantages and evolution of HVAC monitoring systems, exploring the mechanics behind these benefits is crucial.

Let's examine the key components that make HVAC monitoring systems indispensable tools in the arsenal of modern facility management.

  • Fault Detection: Utilizes BMS data for instant issue identification within the HVAC system, streamlining maintenance and repairs.
  • Targeted Commercial HVAC Maintenance: Moves beyond traditional schedules, pinpointing exact needs for system attention, thus preventing problem escalation.
  • Smart Controls: Ensures optimal setting adjustments, maintaining comfort without excess energy use.
  • Dashboards: Offers a user-friendly interface for comprehensive system oversight.
  • Tenant Comfort Scores: Evaluates thermal comfort within the commercial building, directly influencing tenant satisfaction.

These features collectively ensure operational efficiency, energy conservation, and improved tenant experience, positioning HVAC monitoring systems as pivotal in modern facility management.

Selecting the Ideal HVAC Monitoring System

When choosing an HVAC monitoring system, it's important to prioritize systems that not only fit your current needs but also adapt to future expansions and technological advancements. Here are key criteria to consider:

  • Integration with Existing BMS: The system's ability to integrate with your existing Building Management System (BMS) is crucial. It should enhance and complement the functionalities of your BMS, allowing for a unified control and monitoring experience. This ensures that your investment adds value to the existing infrastructure rather than complicating it.

  • Scalability: Opt for a system that can grow with your facility's needs. Whether it's adding new zones, integrating new technologies, or expanding the building itself, the system should scale without requiring a complete overhaul, saving you time and money in the long run.

  • Proven Success and Client Base: Given the plethora of vendors in the market, focus on those with a track record of success and a robust client base. Vendors that have demonstrated continued success are more likely to offer reliable, effective solutions and support. This vetting process ensures you invest in a system backed by real-world applications and satisfaction.

  • Full Platform Solution: Rather than opting for a system that requires constant manual input or oversight (often referred to as "manalytics"), seek out a vendor that offers a full platform solution. This means the system itself is capable of not just data collection but also analysis and actionable insights, minimizing the need for constant engineer involvement and streamlining your operations.

Considering these criteria during your selection process will guide you toward a system that enhances your facility's efficiency, adapts to future needs, and delivers on the promise of modern HVAC monitoring technology.

Implementing HVAC Monitoring Systems: Key Considerations

Implementing HVAC monitoring systems involves navigating several challenges:

  • BMS Compatibility: The success of an HVAC monitoring system hinges on a modern, functional Building Management System (BMS) that integrates seamlessly with new technologies. Addressing the complexities of BMS operation and ensuring compatibility are essential first steps.

  • Funding: Determining who finances the HVAC monitoring system—tenant, owner, or facility manager—is crucial. This decision affects the system's implementation and its potential to deliver long-term savings and benefits.

  • Technological Innovation Resistance: The commercial real estate industry's slow adoption of new technologies, despite advances like occupancy sensors, is shifting. The drive towards 2030 sustainability goals encourages a more open approach to energy-saving technologies.

  • Human Factor: The real value of HVAC monitoring systems lies in the actionable response to their insights. Like a fire alarm signaling smoke, these systems depend on facility managers and contractors to address detected issues. Ensuring stakeholder engagement and willingness to act is vital.

Overcoming these challenges requires a strategic approach, emphasizing the importance of modern infrastructure, clear responsibility for costs, engagement with technological advancements, and active stakeholder involvement. The benefits of HVAC monitoring systems in enhancing efficiency, sustainability, and operational performance make them a critical investment for the future of commercial real estate.


The facts in favor of HVAC monitoring systems remain clear. An Australian government report found that the typical energy consumption of HVAC systems in office buildings stands at 40%. In the UK, a comparatively milder climate, space heating, fans, and cooling & humidification comprise roughly 47% of energy (gas and electricity) consumption costs

Using an HVAC monitoring system offers a clear and attainable method for reducing energy usage and carbon emissions.

Interested in transforming your building's energy efficiency and operational performance? Discover CIM's HVAC monitoring software solution. Our state-of-the-art platform is designed to not only streamline your operations but also significantly reduce energy costs and lower your building's carbon footprint. Experience the future of building management with CIM's solution and take the first step towards a more sustainable and cost-effective operation.

Connor Holbert
March 11, 2024