Energy Management and Sustainability Practices

There are many compelling reasons to deploy an energy-management system in hotel guestrooms. Among them is the fact that electricity rates aren't expected to decline, and more and more guests expect a hotel to show commitment to environmentally friendly practices.

The bottom-line question is, why heat or cool a room beyond acceptably defined limits if the room is unsold or unoccupied?

A properly designed guestroom energy-management system (EMS) must be capable of achieving significant energy savings while concurrently enhancing guest comfort. Guestroom EMS has become an expected feature in modern hotels and can be significant proof of a property's commitment to improving the environment.

Except for a very few areas of the world where energy costs are less than four cents a kilowatt hour (KWH) or there are fewer than 2,000 degree days per year, experts agree that at least two levels of temperature setback make sense: Sold vs. Unsold, and Sold Occupied vs. Sold Unoccupied. Further refinements for humidity control and mildew suppression, seasonal adjustments, pipe-condensation removal, fresh-air replacement and load shedding are frequently needed and must be simple to implement and maintain. A well-designed, user-friendly interface for hotel staff is an absolute essential.

A number of EMS systems provide efficient, lowest-cost climate control while increasing guest comfort through faster target temperature attainment. These range from very low-cost standalone products for controlling packaged terminal air conditioners (PTACs) in limited-service properties to advanced, centrally controlled systems for fan-coil units (FCUs) in luxury hotels where heated floors, proportional valves and even automated drapery control become part of the EMS equation.

An owner/operator has much to consider before investing in an energy management system. We recommend that primary consideration be given to the following attributes:

Failure protection. The system should be based on distributed intelligence so the climate in each room can be independently controlled, even if a central control terminal or communication link to the room is temporarily inoperative.

Programmability. Each intelligent system component should be easily and, typically, remotely programmable to provide maximum flexibility in addressing both existing conditions and unknown future needs.

Expandability. The architecture of the core system should serve as an intelligent platform for integrated room automation on which additional functionality, such as mini-bar access reporting, central lock control, and occupancy reporting to housekeeping, can be added efficiently and inexpensively.

Finally, all centrally controlled EMS systems under consideration should be ready for interfacing to virtually any building automation system (BAS) so that guestroom energy management becomes an important part of the hotel's overall energy control strategy. This feature is essential when the local utility offers lower-cost utility pricing when the hotel can participate in load shedding strategies.

By Rick Quirino, president and COO of INNCOM International. Reach him at (860) 739-4468 or

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