In multi-unit residential buildings there is a recurring issue that traces its origin to the invention of central heting plants. The issue is excess energy use resulting from a building full of different people in different living units having different comfort preferences to heat or cold. As old a problem as this is, the solution is equally as aged. When you’re too hot, open a window.

How can we prevent open windows and the heating system working overtime to heat the cold air flooding into living units? The solution is as simple as it gets.

In multi-unit residential buildings there is a recurring issue that traces its origin to the invention of central heating plants. The issue is excess energy use resulting from a building full of different people in different living units having different comfort preferences to heat or cold. As old a problem as this is, the solution is equally as aged. When you’re too hot, open a window. Even in modern buildings it’s not unusual to see many open windows during the heating season. Occupants may not pay the heating costs directly so it’s easy for them to ignore having windows open and the heating system running.

For many years now, in the commercial sector, architects have been specifying windows that cannot be opened in an attempt allow the HVAC system to respond as it should and prevent wasted energy. For a residential building, windows that cannot be opened are undesirable so we haven’t seen the same shift in design here.

Apartment building exterior in Aachen during winter ** Note: Slight blurriness, best at smaller sizes

Apartment building exterior in Aachen during winter
** Note: Slight blurriness, best at smaller sizes

How then can we prevent open windows and the heating system working overtime to heat the cold air flooding into living units? The solution is as simple as it gets. By installing window contacts that turn off the unit’s heating system while windows are open. The amount of energy saved can be beyond significant. Also, if the units occupant desires a colder environment, it will get there faster with no need to keep the window open longer.

But how? If there’s an opportunity to install low voltage wiring in the window frame and wall, the cost is quite low and could pay for itself in one to two winters. If there is no such opportunity, wireless sensors can be installed in minutes but do require a bit of external infrastructure to make them work. Many of these wireless sensors require no batteries as well. Which make them easier to maintain and more friendly to the environment.

If your building owners or operators are considering replacing the windows in your building, now is the time to act. While the windows are being replaced the costs to wire a solution like this are their lowest. As with all energy conservation measures, every year you wait to take action is another year’s worth of saving you’ll lose.