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Guestroom Energy Management Systems Just Keep Getting Better


In preparing my article this week on guestroom energy management systems, I spoke with representatives of 11 companies (see article). It is amazing how many companies there are now that either manufacture or distribute these types of systems (there are certainly more than 11). This space in lodging technology is very competitive. I had to chuckle several times when vendors, without naming names of course, took swipes at their competitors’ systems. “Key card systems are a flash in the pan,” one vendor said. Of course his company does not sell them. “The current sensor systems are not accurate enough,” said another vendor who sells key card systems. Don’t be surprised when you hear such banter when comparing the systems available today.

The truth is that there is a place for both key card-based and occupancy sensor-based systems. It can simply come down to a matter of opinion as to which is best for which situation. Would you put a key card system in a luxury hotel? Maybe not but they certainly have a place in a Comfort Inn, a Holiday Inn, etc. The “key” is not compromising the guest experience. There is certainly a case to be made for the ability of sensor-based systems to reduce energy consumption while remaining mostly hidden from the guest but with key card systems you can convey the message immediately that your property is committed to energy conservation and preserving the environment.

What I learned most while researching my article is how intelligent guestroom energy management systems have become—the amount of data some systems can provide on your heating and cooling system is astounding. Many systems will automatically e-mail alerts to your maintenance team when there are problems, preventing embarrassing guest complaints later on. Many systems can “talk” to one another from room to room, link to your property management system, be controlled over a local network or over the Internet, and be accessed from mobile phones.

‘Door to Drapes’ Solution

Some vendors now sell guestroom energy management systems as part of a “door to drapes” solution, incorporating the HVAC system, lighting and drapes or shades. Appropriate for more upscale properties, these systems are gaining acceptance but can cost more to maintain. How many buttons do you really want your guests (or their kids) to be pushing? “Too many buttons results in confusion by guests as well as housekeeping staff,” one designer wrote to me.

If you do a lousy job maintaining your HVAC system, it may be pointless to even consider purchasing a guestroom energy management system. According to Tom Guffey, vice president of the PTAC sales division for the Goodman Company, dirty filters can increase energy usage by up to 15 percent, dirty condenser coils will increase compressor watts by 25 percent or more, and furniture, drapes and exterior restrictions (plants, bushes, etc.) can further degrade PTAC efficiency.

Done right, guestroom energy management systems, as written here in previous columns, are what I consider to be “no brainers” when it comes to saving energy, reducing equipment run time, and saving money. Return on investment is quick—typically less than two years. And, if you do not have the money up front, most vendors offer financing options that make it possible for you to start saving money immediately. Who can argue with that?

Some Advice from INNCOM

I asked John Tavares, vice president of marketing for INNCOM International, what advice he would give to anyone shopping for a guestroom energy management system. This is what he said:

1. “Ask yourself: Do I want a provider that will be turnkey for me? There are companies that do it well or through partners or contractors. Some clients have on-site ability to manage this type of equipment.”
2. “Ask for a written estimate of the predictable savings.”
3. “Ask for references. Many companies will promise anything.”
4. If your property is part of a large brand, contact their headquarters; they usually have people in charge of these types of systems who can help you.”

Thank you to all of the supplier representatives who agreed to chat with me for my article. I wish I could have given each of them more coverage.

Have any comments you would like to share on your experience with guestroom energy management systems? Call me at (440) 243-2055 or e-mail editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

See You in Portland, Oregon?

I will be attending and exhibiting at the Green Meeting Industry Council’s Sustainable Meetings Conference in Portland, Oregon from February 20 to 23. The event will take place at the Portland Doubletree Hotel. To register for the conference, go to www.sustainablemeetingsconference.com.

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