Home Guest Columns Saving Energy in the Guestroom–Where is Technology Taking Us?

Saving Energy in the Guestroom–Where is Technology Taking Us?


Energy is headline news and the pressure to affect savings is mounting. Balancing how best to maintain guest comfort with the drive for more efficient guestroom energy management is an ongoing challenge, despite the fact that guests are becoming more tolerant of greener energy measures.

This conflict between guest comfort and property savings is compounded by the rapid increases in heating and cooling costs. This forces hotels to tackle the issue of cutting energy consumption and is encouraging utilities to recognize the potential within hospitality to achieve energy savings. Creative incentive programs are spurring the installation of guestroom energy management systems, focusing attention on the wasteful consumption of energy in heating or cooling empty guestrooms.

Technology has responded to the growing importance of maintaining guest comfort while achieving significant energy savings. The advent of Passive Infrared (PIR) technology was the first step in enabling a new generation of Energy Management Systems (EMS) capable of detecting guest occupancy accurately. More recently, wireless technology has impacted dramatically on EMS sophistication, with remote occupancy sensors significantly improving system design and overall performance. In fact, the industry is on the threshold of a new age of genuinely intelligent guestroom energy management.

Summary of Industry Trends

Hospitality EMS is a trend-driven business, and the “green” issue is quite rightly headline news, encouraging hotels to focus on maximizing their efforts to reduce energy and achieve tangible savings. Other current trends are focused more on issues of EMS installation and the guest interface. Topping this list is a system’s ease of use and installation—requiring an aesthetically pleasing in-room presence and transparently simple operation. The use of wireless technology has assisted significantly in making fast, easy and cost-effective installation a reality. In short, hotels are faced with a combination of factors that make it hard to ignore the necessity of deploying effective energy management systems.

Utility price increases, lower system costs, smarter solutions that are easy to install and a rapid payback scenario make this the time to look at energy management in a new and compelling light. The benefits to the hospitality market are much greater than simply a reduced total cost of energy. The less you run an HVAC system, the more its life increases and improves. The latest digital thermostats make it easier for guests to get the result they want in the room, boosting the amenity factor. Hotels can also monitor system performance more effectively, highlighting failing systems by comparing data on a room-by-room basis. But above all, the most sought after benefit derives from the savings that can be achieved—typically ranging from 20 to 40 percent, depending on the system.

So what is holding some hotels back from installing energy management systems? Common concerns are the length of time for the payback, which is actually incredibly short, and the potentially negative impact on guest comfort. This latter issue is less of a problem thanks to new-generation systems that combine exceptional reliability with finely-tuned controllability.

Dispelling Common Myths

There are some bigger myths too that factor into properties’ decisions concerning EMS. Some surround how a system will function at night when a guest is sleeping, or whether some climates will prove to be just too much for the EMS, on the basis that the A/C needs to run all the time. The functionality of the latest guestroom energy management systems can dispel these. Optical sensors are used to differentiate light from dark, making the appropriate adjustments to the occupancy calculations.

For more extreme climates, HVAC systems tend either to be very powerful or will run much of the time. With powerful systems, EMS will enable excellent savings, because they will be able to return quickly to guest-selected settings after engaging in an energy efficient mode. Systems that run much of the time will also see savings due to accumulated spells of unused runtime. Larger hotels with a fan coil system and central plant can also benefit from implementing guestroom systems to see substantial savings.

After the advent of the next big guestroom EMS trend—technology integration—there is even greater excitement building. Imagine having just one system to track when a guest has checked in and out of a room, if a room is in occupied or unoccupied status, to manage Internet and entertainment access, and to control the temperature and lighting. Take this integration scenario a stage further, by leveraging existing investments in High Speed Internet Access (HSIA) systems with the Property Management System (PMS) interface, to distribute individual room occupancy data and temperature savings data to a central Web management page, followed by lighting and power outlets on this same mesh network.

Real-Time Building Performance Data

The ability to manage everything from a single, centralized and integrated platform provides an important new level of control, enhancing a hotel’s operation and improving guest convenience through remote monitoring and troubleshooting. It also provides a real-time communication path to report load shedding to utilities, via a live Internet response.

Saving energy has benefits in multiple areas. By streamlining the processes through intelligent systems, capable of managing thousands of guestrooms from a single control point, you save important management resources and enhance your business—as well as delivering essential energy savings through conservation measures. Even better, there is plenty of evidence to illustrate that energy management delivers results.

Jeff Sobieski is Executive Vice President, Energy Management, Telkonet Inc. Telkonet, founded in 1999, specializes in advanced integrated solutions for broadband data networking and energy management, including its in-building powerline communications (PLC) technology. Headquartered in Germantown, Md., Telkonet has more than 140 employees and serves thousands of customers worldwide.