By GREGORY ZELLER //
Bonded Energy Solutions is throwing a BYOT party – as in, bring your own thermostat.
The Stony Brook-based energy-efficiency startup’s high-tech devices, which work with apartment building-based steam-heat systems dating back centuries, in some cases, have “evolved” to work with third-party temperature gauges – an advance that could dramatically widen the market for the 21st century temperature-control systems, according to CEO Jerritt Gluck.
Originally built to work exclusively with Bonded Energy Solutions’ proprietary thermostats, the SteamTech System has “moved on to integrate standard thermostats with our valve system,” Gluck told Innovate LI.
Now, the system will work with “smart” thermostats by Nest and Ecobee and “anybody’s 24-volt thermostat,” Gluck noted, citing an industry standard for electronic hot-water systems and forced-air heating and cooling systems.
Also new and improved: Where the original SteamTech System aimed to maximize energy efficiency by offering centralized control of heating zones throughout a multi-unit structure, this next-generation version “gives tenants the ability to set the temperatures in their own apartments,” Gluck noted, while still affording landlords the ability to centrally monitor temperatures in each zone and track steam leaks and other air-quality concerns in real time.
The main benefit, Gluck added, is preventing overheating – not only providing more comfortable environs for individual tenants but maximizing cost efficiencies for landlords.
“Within the apartment, each unit has a thermostat that communicates with the (radiator) valve,” Gluck said. “There’s a distributed sensor system that uses radio waves to communicate with another hub down in the basement to set the boiler temperature, to help prevent overheating situations.”
Bonded Energy Solutions, founded by Gluck and software specialist Laszlo Osher, originally envisioned whole-building solutions – early tests in the Bronx compared identical 30,000-square-foot apartment buildings – and evolving into a “one-off, apartment-by-apartment solution” is a big step, Gluck noted.
But the most important part of the SteamTech System upgrade is its ability to synch up with third-party thermostats, according to the CEO, who framed it as a potentially enormous leap in a national marketplace where, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, as many as 15 percent of all buildings are steam-heated.
“We felt it was important, based on what clients and potential clients were saying,” Gluck said. “It’s important to them to be able to advertise that they have the Nest, for example.
“If you’re a market-rate renter and you’re looking for a place with a ‘wow’ factor, very few building have the ability to control your own temperature,” he added. “Especially with something as creative as Nest or Ecobee 3, or anything with wireless capabilities.”
The next-generation SteamTech system is currently being tested in an 18-unit residential building on York Avenue in Manhattan. It’s also being vetted by the New York City Retrofit Accelerator, which offers property owners a range of free, personalized advisory services to promote energy-efficiency improvements – including recommending new technologies that can help lower operating costs while improving tenant comfort.
“If they feel it’s a winner, they’ll bring funding to help offset the costs to building owners,” Gluck noted.
That’s a bit of steam-driven Nirvana for Bonded Energy Solutions, a client of Stony Brook University’s Clean Energy Business Incubator Program. The 2013 startup sent the Retrofit Accelerator a product summary in early March and is now providing technical schematics and responding to the vetting agency’s follow-up questions.
While’s he not sure how long the process will take, Gluck noted things are going well on York Avenue – and said he and Osher hope to make the next-level SteamTech System commercially available “soon.”
“We have the ability to prevent overheating in every [heating zone] while providing set temperatures of the resident’s choosing to each unit,” Gluck added. “It’s just a smarter way to centrally monitor temperatures while giving tenants more control in their own spaces.”