Energy Management Thermostats For Hotels

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Energy management is a hot topic in the hospitality industry these days, and with electrical bills being the second highest operating expense, it’s no surprise why.

The concept of energy management is not new – housekeepers have been turning down thermostat dials for decades, but improvements in technology have created sophisticated systems that can reduce unnecessary guestroom consumption by between 40-60% which can translate to as much as a 20% reduction on a hotel’s total energy bill.  For most hoteliers, this translates into tens of thousands of dollars per year.

These types of thermostats work by using motion and/or heat sensors to detect occupancy in a room.  When guests leave the room during the day, the thermostats allow the HVAC unit to “setback”, or drift away from the temperature the guest left it at while the room was occupied.  When guests return to their rooms, the units quickly recover to the desired temperature.

You may be wondering how these types of thermostats are different from a typical programmable thermostat, or even a Nest thermostat that you might install in your home.  The simple answer is that an occupancy-based thermostat is built specifically for the random occupancy patterns found in a hotel.  A programmable thermostat may not “setback” or start saving energy until a guest has been checked out for up to 20 hours, thus leaving significant energy savings on the table. And while Nest thermostats are great for home use where residents generally leave for work, return home, and go to sleep around the same time each day, they aren’t ideally suited for the random occupancy patterns found in hotels.

An added benefit of this type of system is the ability to configure and monitor settings remotely.  This feature can be particularly helpful for housekeepers who no longer need to knock on doors and risk disturbing guests because they can see whether a room is occupied in live time.  Engineers and maintenance staff can be alerted to the health of a PTAC that takes an unusually large amount of time to heat or cool a room.  Finally, management companies or corporate teams can modify the settings of their properties across North America without having to leave their office.

Not all EMS thermostats are created equal however.  A recent Wall Street Journal article featured stories of disgruntled hotel guests who had routinely been woken up at night because their occupancy sensing thermostat had erroneously entered setback mode during the middle of the night.  This is a common shortcoming among some EMS manufacturers who chase energy savings to the detriment of hotel guests (and hotel operators), ultimately triggering refunds and complaints on many popular hotel review sites such as TripAdvisor which can deter guests from booking there in the future.  Most commonly, these types of complaints arise when guests are asleep under heavy blankets which can trick the thermostat into thinking the room is unoccupied.  The result is predictable – uncomfortable guests waking up (sometimes multiple times) because their room is either too hot or cold.

At RAYMAC, we’ve partnered with Verdant because their system includes all the above-mentioned features, and addresses the challenge of night occupancy in a simple, yet effective way – by disabling temperature setbacks completely when guests are in the room at night.  Another reason we’ve partnered with Verdant is because of how easy the installation process is. Other systems require accessories, like door switches, and professional installers, whereas Verdant thermostats can be installed in about 15 minutes per room by any hotel engineer or maintenance staff.  As you’d expect, fewer accessories and self-installation mean that Verdant thermostats achieve a higher ROI for hoteliers, with shorter breakeven periods.

In most states, occupancy based HVAC controls are being recognized by local utilities and governments for their ability to reduce energy usage.  For hoteliers, that means that rebates and incentives are available to hotels who wish to adopt this type of equipment.  Right here in Michigan, rebates can range from between $30 to $80 per thermostat depending on your utility company.  RAYMAC takes complete ownership of the application process so that all you have to do is wait for your check in the mail.

For hotels who have been considering such a system, now is an ideal time to take the plunge.  In California for example, a recently enacted law (Title 24) has mandated that all new construction hotel projects be equipped with the system.  Existing hotels have until 2019.  And while California has some of the most generous rebate programs in the U.S., program funds are not infinite, and future incentives are far from guaranteed.

Another reason for hoteliers to invest in an EMS system is because of a growing trend in the hotel industry towards environmentally sustainable practices.  Almost all corporate hotel chains have programs in place, some of which have aggressive energy saving targets that are only possible with the installation of an EMS.  Even some travel review sites such as TripAdvisor have created programs (GreenLeaders), and now favor hotels who have opted in.

The bottom line for hoteliers is that an EMS system is a good investment.  Typical payback periods for this type of system range from 12-18 months depending on location and rebate availability in your state.  These payback periods are generally some of the lowest in the industry.  By comparison, a typical PTAC payback period is between 7-10 years.

So whether you’re looking to save on your energy bill, or reduce your carbon footprint, an EMS can go a long way towards meeting your goals.  Contact us today to learn more about the Verdant EMS system and to receive your customized energy savings projection.

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