How to Manage HVAC in a Multi-Tenant Environment

Imagine a building with 4 apartments. A family, let’s call them the Smiths, is moving into apartment 1 today. They’re really excited about this new apartment, which is equipped with 5 indoor units, one for each room. The HVAC is a VRF one, a very smart and efficient system that can be easily connected to a control app.

A typical VRF system consists of an outdoor unit, several indoor units, refrigerant piping, and communication wiring.

As the Smiths move in, the facility manager grants Mrs. Smith with access to an app that controls the HVAC, designed by the HVAC’s manufacturer. This app allows Mrs. Smith to control all the indoor units, and set the fan speed, the setpoint temperature, the On/Off mode, and the Cool/Heat modes. 

However, Mr. Smith and the 3 kids can’t control all of these. This is because the facility manager can allow only one tenant out of each apartment to have access to the manufacturer’s app. 

Why? As you can see in the diagram below, the building has two VRF outdoor units, each connected to two apartments. For this matter, apartment 1 (the Smiths) and apartment 2 share an outdoor unit. 

Manage HVAC in a Multi-Tenant Environment - diagram of a VRF system in a multi-dwelling

But this also means that if apartment 1 and 2 share an outdoor unit – they also share this outdoor unit’s communication line. This allows the tenants of apartment 2 to view and control the indoor units of the Smiths at apartment 1 – and vice versa. A great opportunity for the neighbors to pull a prank on the Smiths, and set their AC to 50°F/10°C in the middle of the night.

And so, the facility manager has got to limit the access to the app that controls the HVAC, thus allowing only one person from each apartment to have access to it. Although this limitation is sensible, it creates a situation in which most of the building’s tenants cannot control their own apartment’s indoor units. And so, Mr. Smith and the kids are kind of left out.

But what if the facility manager wanted to permit them, and all the building’s tenants, to control their apartment’s indoor units?

And as the Smiths and apartment 2 (for example) share an outdoor unit, how can the facility manager make sure that the tenants living in these apartments view and control only their own apartment’s indoor units – and not their neighbour’s’?
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The Existing Solutions

There are two types of solutions that can help the facility manager to allow all the tenants to control their own indoor units – without viewing their neighbours’ indoor units. The solutions are device-based and app-based.

Device-based

A device is connected to each indoor unit, creating an internal network between the indoor units. However, this requires attaching the device to each indoor unit, which increases the costs of the project. Not only that, but this kind of solution lacks central control.

App-based

There are apps that allow all the VRF’s users to access the whole system. However, this solution is problematic in our case, as each two apartments share an outdoor unit. And so, the tenant of apartment 1, for example, can access the indoor units of tenant 2.

But there is another app solution: 

CoolAutomation’s unique User Management function allows facilities managers to manage users, and grant them access to their own apartment’s indoor units – only.

In addition, through this unique function, facilities managers can arrange the tenants of each apartment as one group, allowing all of the group members to access only their own indoor units. 

This grants access to all the building’s tenants, while preventing each and one of them from seeing other apartments’ indoor units – even though they share an outdoor unit.

Would you like to learn more about this function? Check out CoolAutomation’s Facilities Management App