Green-Thinking Technology

When you consider most guestrooms are unoccupied almost 60 percent of the time, it's easy to understand why in-room energy efficiency is so high on the hospitality agenda. The rate at which energy costs are rising is crippling many businesses, making the need to control these costs all the more important. But there is more to the green trend within hospitality than cost control. Guests are regularly polled about how they choose accommodations, and environmental consciousness is clearly becoming an increasingly influential factor.

Technology is important in helping property management achieve green strategies, with great potential for delivering and reporting on a wide range of efficiencies. For most hoteliers, energy management is at the heart of any green initiative, an area that can make an incredible difference. System intelligence is a central component, with the latest energy management systems using in-room occupancy-detection as opposed to time-based programming methods. Temperature set-points can be adapted for periods when rooms are unoccupied, with the intelligence brought into play to ensure a rapid return to guests' preferred settings when they return to the room — requiring reliable, stable communications between a room-occupancy sensor and an intelligent thermostat.

These smart systems take many factors into account, including weather and the age of the heating or cooling system. The result is the guest stays happy, and the hotel significantly reduces KWh consumption — with savings of around 30 percent — and can analyze a wide range of very detailed data on system runtime, occupancy and temperature changes for greater operational efficiency.

Some simple steps are involved in evaluating and deploying the optimum energy management solution; future upgradeability and integration with other property systems are important factors. Here is a basic checklist of the key considerations:

  • Understand what type of HVAC systems you have installed (PTAC vs. fan coil);

  • Research the different occupancy sensors with each system. Make sure they blend into your guestroom to prevent tampering or system bypassing;

  • Make sure the sensor is adequate for the size of your room and covers all areas, especially the bed;

  • For retrofit installs, evaluate wireless options and how often maintenance, such as battery change, is required;

  • Think of how often you would need data on the effectiveness of your system. Network systems give instant feedback and save additional runtime, but are more expensive;

  • Assess guest tolerance level to “green” settings. The temperature range is determined by property management and typically based on the type of hotel.

A growing number of utilities are introducing energy-saving and rebate programs designed to assist hoteliers with achieving tangible savings, and these are valuable resources to check out. They include:

There are also a number of other green-thinking technology developments, which can enable greater efficiencies to be realized over time. A property's core communications platform plays a vital role in integrating this process, linking a wide range of functions central to today's hospitality operation. A centralized, unified Internet protocol communications backbone can be the basis of a diversity of applications, from high-speed Internet access (HSIA) and HVAC and lighting control to property management systems and even customer relationship management (CRM)-style guest awareness systems.

The latest advances involve deploying a similar approach to building automation: adopting a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model to provide end-to-end monitoring, management and reporting, across a variety of different systems. For hospitality, one of the most efficient communications infrastructures uses a two-step combined approach. Powerline communications technology (PLC) forms the backbone, essentially using a venue's existing electrical wiring as the distribution medium, combined with industry-standard Zigbee technology as the mesh architecture for device-to-device communication (www.zigbee.org), controlling everything from door locks and minibars to media centers and lighting. The result is a truly integrated approach to hospitality technology that can open up new ways of applying environmentally conscious and green-aware property management, while improving competitiveness.


Jeff Sobieski, is executive vice president of Energy Management for Telkonet. Reach him at 414-223-0473, ext. 2005 and/or jsobieski@telkonet.com

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