The LA Times recently published an article where a hotel guest complained that her hotel room was too hot at night while she slept. The reason? The motion sensors “thought” the room was empty since no one was moving around and as such, the room controller adjusted the temperature to a higher set point. How frustrating! For the money we pay for a hotel room, a good night’s sleep is the least we should be able to expect. I’ve heard similar complaints from friends and colleagues. I’ve also been the complainer. As such a common complaint, it begs the question, are hotels listening?
The Mylar balloon—the latest technology
I had to laugh because according to the article, some people actually suggest traveling with helium-filled Mylar balloons. The theory is that at night the balloons will drift around the room and alert the motion sensor. First I laughed. Then I thought, “actually, that’s pretty clever.” And then I thought, “surely in today’s day and age, hotels have technology that can take the place of a floating balloon!”
Energy is a huge expense. This is no secret. And, it doesn’t matter what type of building you operate. However, for hotels—the stakes can be even higher. So many rooms, so little control over what happens inside those rooms. Think about it…how often do you leave the room with the A/C running, or the lights on? How long are you gone? Hours at a time I’m sure. I know I’ve been guilty of this (not so much anymore). All of this equates to a substantial amount of wasted energy—and wasted money for the hotel. A floating Mylar balloon can’t really help a hotelier in these situations.
Industry expert research backs up the financial benefits to investing in a guestroom management solution approach. According to ENERGY STAR®, a 10% energy reduction is equivalent to an increase in the daily room rate by $0.62 USD in limited-service hotels and by $1.35 USD in full-service hotels. Wow. That starts to make you think.
A guestroom management solution is a good idea, but like all ideas, it needs to be implemented correctly to be effective.
The author of the LA Times article talked to Jeff Raber, director of retail and hotels for Schneider Electric, who offered better advice. First, he said guests should complain to the hotel, whose “No. 1 mission is to keep their guests comfortable. Guest delight is their No. 1 priority; everything else falls beneath that.” Raber explained that there are a number of solutions to the problem, if the hotel uses the right technology and manages it properly. For example, a door contact sensor can be added to the system to help keep track of when people come and go. Some hotels, especially in Europe and Asia, add a key card system, where the guests “check” in and out of their rooms by inserting their cards in a special holder to activate lights, TV, and so on. Personally, I think that is very smart.
A LEED-certified hotel in Seattle, the Hyatt at Olive 8, even uses a combination of motion detection, audio detection, and key cards. (Note that audio detectors do not record sounds or recognize speech, but only detect the “presence” of sounds to verify occupancy. Understandably, this is something you’ll want to be sure your guests understand!)
Another good practice, not mentioned in the article, is to link room controllers into a property management system and add integrated building management capabilities. The front desk can then monitor room usage and override any settings if necessary. For instance, if the clerk at the desk sees the occupants go up to their rooms, he or she can instruct the system to maintain the room at “occupied” settings for the night. According to a white paper published by Schneider Electric, energy savings of 25% to 44% can be realized through occupancy detection and temperature standby. This white paper is available for free; I would encourage you to download it and take a peek.
Finally, hotels should make sure to communicate what they’re doing and why. Boast to your guests! Be proud! For instance, post a sign or table card that explains how your hotel is committed to improving guest comfort, all while reducing energy waste and being a “greener” citizen. Invite their feedback. Listen. Make your guests part of the solution. Guests appreciate this, and appreciate environmentally-conscience companies. If I had to choose between a hotel that outwardly cared about energy waste vs. one that didn’t—I know which one I’d choose.
The way I see it, here’s the bottom line: if designed correctly, guestroom solutions will not only reduce hotel energy costs, it will also become a feature that your guests appreciate and value—and one that keeps them coming back! And, they can stop traveling with a balloon tied to their wrist.
Do you know a hotel who embodies particularly good energy management practices? Give them some credit—leave a reply below!