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How to Save Money, Energy When Your Guests Leave the Light on for You

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NATIONAL REPORT—Everyone is familiar with Motel 6’s “We’ll leave the light on for you” campaign. It was definitely a hit. What is not such a good idea is when your guests leave the light on for you.

Research conducted several years ago through the California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research Program confirmed what most hotel operators already know: Many guests leave the lights on when they leave the room and use the bathroom lights as a night-light.

You can’t blame your guests, especially seniors, for wanting the extra light but when the lights are on when nobody is there, or at night when your guests are asleep, that is not the most efficient use of energy. The aforementioned research showed that lights are left on needlessly for stretches of up to 10 hours or more.

Several companies have developed light switch/night-light and other solutions to turn out the lights when they are no longer needed. Most of these same systems also provide just enough light at night to eliminate the need to keep bathroom lights on. Watt Stopper/Legrand, Santa Clara, Calif., offers a variety of motion sensing wall switches that control lighting based on occupancy.

The WN-100 from Watt Stopper, primarily designed for hotel guest bathrooms, uses passive infrared technology to detect occupancy in the room. Detection occurs when the WN-100 senses the difference between infrared energy from a human being in motion and the background space. When a guest enters the space, the light turns on. When no guest is detected after a set period of time—an hour, for example—the switch turns the light off but turns a built-in LED nightlight on. The switch also can be operated manually.

Eric Fournier, senior product manager for occupancy sensors for Watt Stopper, says a system like the WN-100 is ideal when positioned where there is a clear view of the room. If it were positioned such that a wall blocked its line of access to where a guest is likely to be, it could turn the light off with the guest in the room—unlikely in a bathroom.

“What’s important when you choose a sensor is to understand the application,” Fournier says. “Know the layout of the room. We have different sensors for different applications [besides the hotel guest bathroom].”

When tested in 448 bathrooms at the DoubleTree Hotel in Sacramento, Calif., project participants estimated annual energy savings of $8,000, with a cost recovery of 2.5 years. Additional benefits included reduced maintenance and replacement costs, and fewer guest complaints about lights being burned out. A system like the WN-100 takes about 30 minutes to install and typically requires an electrician. The cost is approximately $40 per unit.

Inncom International’s S217 Wireless Light Switch enables the front desk to remotely turn lights on and off in the guestroom when a guest checks in or out. Lighting can be pre-set to save energy costs and also to create a desired ambiance and an added level of security. Typical installation, the Niantic, Conn.-based company says, is less than 10 minutes per switch. The product communicates with Inncom’s other systems such as the e4 Digital Thermostat.

Lodging Technology Corp., Roanoke, Va., sells a product called the Nite-Lite that replaces light switch plates and includes small incandescent lights within the plate. Bill Fizer, president of the company, says the lights give off a yellow glow bright enough to eliminate the need to keep a light on to see at night. Fizer adds that several hotel brands including Hampton, Quality and Comfort have mandated their use.

“Nite-Lites are guaranteed for 10 years,” Fizer says.

Green Suites International, Upland, Calif., sells an electroluminescent nightlight that consumes very little energy and that can be hardwired as a light switch or socket outlet. Estimated payback time is six months. The company’s LED Night-Light operates similarly, is four times brighter, but still uses just pennies of energy annually. Green Suites is also a distributor of Watt Stopper products.

Additional vendors to consider include Pineapple Hospitality, Saint Charles, Mo., which sells Watt Stopper products, and Lite-A-Switch, Portland, Ore., which sells a switch/night-light device that utilizes LED technology.

Glenn Hasek can be reached at greenlodgingnews@aol.com.

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