Vacation Rental Management for busy people!

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HVAC - Thermostat control

The combination of MyVRZone's online vacation rental management software tools and MiCasaVerde’s wireless home automation system provides an ideal solution for Vacation Rental owners that want to take control of their electricity bills and save energy. No other solution provides:

  1. Wireless installation
  2. Full automation - just keep your regular reservation arrival/departure dates & times up-to-date
  3. Remote control and monitoring with history graphs
  4. Flexible control periods and energy saving adjustments
  5. Limited Guest adjustment range
  6. Tamper-proof design with internet and power outage tolerance
  7. Expansion opportunities via z-wave, WiFi and Ethernet connections for other sensors and controls

>> See why I use and developed this system here

Here’s a summary of the capabilities:

Wireless Installation

Each thermostat has wireless z-wave connectivity to a central control box (called “Vera”) in your home.

  1. The thermostats replace your old one and just need power from the 24VAC thermostat supply.
  2. The Vera box needs regular power and an ethernet connection to your existing router or your Cable/DSL modem. The box looks like a router and can be hidden from sight.

Fully automated

All driven from the MyVRZone system once set up - all you need to do is keep your reservations up-to-date.

When a guest’s reservation shows that they are in the home then  “Occupied” mode is turned ON and when there are no reservations it is turned OFF. The heating and cooling “Setpoints” are the temperatures to which the unit will try to heat or cool - these can be set to different values when occupied or not according to the configuration that you set up. See the Flexible Control section below for more details.

Multiple properties supported

Any number of properties can be supported and each can have 1 or more thermostats.

Example Setup screenFlexible Control and Energy Saving

The controls are designed specifically for Vacation Rental Homes to give both Energy Savings for the Owner and comfort for the guest. All settings are configurable remotely.

Min cool and Max heat temp

Choose the temperatures that you want to restrict the setpoints being set beyond. This is a minimum cooling temperature and a maximum heating temperature. Change these settings whenever you want to. Set per property.

Configurable auto switch between Cooling and Heating modes

The system will switch to heating or cooling mode automatically according to a configurable temperature difference.

Turn on/off according to the reservation’s arrival/departure time

Each reservation has a default arrival/departure time that can be overridden as needed. By default, the system turns “Occupied” mode ON at the arrival time and then OFF at departure.

Set up the home in advance of the guest’s arrival and keep occupied afterwards for the cleaning staff

For times where you’ve had an unoccupied period you may want to turn on the heating/cooling in advance of the guest’s arrival time so that the home is ready in time. Set the number of minutes in advance of the arrival time that you want the home to go into Occupied mode.

For times where you are going into an unoccupied time you may want the home to stay at a comfortable temperature after the guest’s departure time so that the cleaning crew can complete their work. Set the number of minutes after departure time that you want the home to stay in “occupied” mode.

Unoccupied Cool and Heat setpoints

Set the cooling and heating setpoints for when the property is unoccupied. See “drifting” below for how the system deals with your manco or cleaners changing the setpoints manually.

Occupied Cool and Heat setpoints - Property default and per-reservation override

Set the default setpoints for each property and then optionally set different temps per reservation. Why do that? We get guest that come from colder climates that want the temps generally lower than those that come from hotter climates. If you know in advance or notice that the guests are always changing the settings upwards or downwards then you can make an adjustment in their myvrzone reservation and the new settings will take effect in the home.

If you only want a single cool or heat setpoint when occupied then these “Base Period” settings are all that need to be set. If you want to set different periods with different setpoints then do that with up to 4 additional periods, below.

Up to 4 occupied Periods can be set to override the Base Period settings

Define up to 4 periods that will override the Base Period settings in a 24hour cycle.  Any time periods that are not covered in these periods will take the values of the Base Period. Thus you only need to specify times that you want to be different from the Base Period and means you can effectively define up to 8 periods if 4 of them use the Base Period settings.

The values for the setpoints in the period can be absolute value or relative to the Base Period settings. The relative amounts allow the system to take into account any reservation-specific overrides that may have been applied.

Control for the Guest

The guest can make adjustments to the setpoints above the minimum cool setting when cooling and below maximum heat setting when heating. This allows the guest to feel that they have a level of control over the temperature but is still within the owner’s bounds. It’s up to the owner to choose how much flexibility is offered to the guest and you can change that whenever you want.

See “drifting” below for adjusting the setpoints back to the owner-preferred settings.

Drifting - moving setpoints back to the owner’s preferred settings

Once the setpoints have been changed manually at the thermostat, you may want to have them adjust back to the owner’s original setting for that time period to save energy. I call this “Drifting” of the setpoints and use it on some of our time periods.

The time period of  the change and the amount of the change can be configured and can be different for occupied and unoccupied modes. You control how often an adjustment is made (every 30mins, 120mins etc)  and how far the setpoint changes towards the normal setpoint setting as a percentage of the difference (eg. 1%, 50%, 100%). There’s a minimum of 1 degree change so it will always make a change if there’s a difference.

Here are some scenarios where this is useful:

  1. Have a slow drift for guests when occupied of 1% (1 degree) per hour. If they change the temp by 4 degrees then it will take 4 hours to get back to the normal setting.
  2. Have a  delayed full  drift for unoccupied periods where the manco/cleaners come in and set the temp to something comfortable but are only there for an hour or two. Set a 100% drift after 2 hours to have it go back to normal settings after 2 hours. If the temp is adjusted again then it will take another 2 hours to get set back.

Drifting mode can be changed for each additional period

Each of the additional occupied periods has a control for the “Drift Mode” to tell the system what to do when the setpoints are changed manually:

  1. Do nothing, no drifting - just leave the settings where they have been adjusted to:
    Use: During the night you may not want the setpoints to drift at all if changed by the guest - to save them having to get out of bed every few hours to make another adjustment.
  2. Drift back to the settings for that period - using the occupied drift period and percentage
    Normal operation.
  3. Drift back to the Base Period settings - using the occupied drift period and percentage
    Use: During the day the guests may be assumed to be out and the setpoints for the period can be set to be more energy efficient. If a guest happens to be in the house and adjusts the temp manually then the this drift mode effectively puts the period to the same as the Base period settings. The setpoints will drift to the base period temperature rather than back to the settings for this period (which assumed the guest was out). It essentially cancels the assumption that the guests are out and provided a more comfortable set of temperatures.

History display

The changes in temperature, setpoints and modes  are all recorded and uploaded to your myvrzone account automatically. From there you can view the history information in graph form to see what has been happening.

This is particularly interesting for seeing how your settings are performing with respect to the guests preferences. The graph highlights changes that were made manually with a large red/blue circle. If you see lots of these then you should consider overriding the default settings with specific ones for that reservation or make an adjustment to your default period times/values if this happens often.

Internet outage tolerant

The reservations that drive the system are downloaded every few hours from your myvrzone account and stored locally. If the internet is down then the system will continue working based upon the set of reservations that it received from the last successful download when the internet was up.

The only case that could arise and cause problems is if you get a new reservation with an arrival date & time that is before the internet comes up again - as with any remote controlled system. In this case you could instruct your manco or guests turn off the Vera control box that checks and adjusts the thermostat settings. Then the thermostat will run free until the internet comes back up and the box is turned on again.

Power outage tolerant

Some regions are notorious for power outages so any system must be able to withstand that and recover gracefully. The Vera control box uses flash memory to store everything - this means that there are no moving parts to break and all the reservation data is never lost.

On a power outage, the A/C and Heating systems are generally down too so the thermostat itself is not a concern. When the power comes back up the whole system goes back into the state it was in before the outage and then any changes to the active period are applied.

Tamper-resistant

The thermostat has no programmability at all - it just has a heat/cool mode and temperature up/down buttons. The programmability is in the Vera box elsewhere in the home.

  1. The guest can mess with the thermostat buttons all they want
    If they change settings outside of the range you want then the Vera box will change them back next time it checks - we have it check every 5 mins but the time it up to you.
  2. The Vera box MUST be running for control to work:
  3. The system is very reliable when powered due to having no moving parts and a great design and with the power-outage tolerance mentioned above.
  4. The box is plain and looks like a router or modem
    It does not attract attention and is easy to hide. Put the power supply somewhere out of the way so that it’s not likely to be unplugged (we put it on the same extension as the Router as it is nearby and people want to keep their internet connection up)
  5. The box can even be wirelessly bridged to your existing router so you can put it in a cupboard with only the power to it if you can’t hide it well enough.

More Information

  1. Why this system?
  2. Installation
  3. FAQ

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