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Hotel Energy Hacks: Improving Operations With Effective Technologies

James McPhail's picture
Chief Executive Officer Zen Ecosystems

James is a strategic and visionary Executive and Sales Leader with significant experience in strategy and management within the energy industry. James is focused on building the business and...

  • Member since 2017
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  • Aug 15, 2018

Technology has impacted nearly every aspect of our modern lives, including how we travel and where we choose to stay for business and pleasure. As with so many other industries, the hospitality sector must adapt to meet changing customer preferences. Drastic shifts in guest expectations are encouraging hoteliers to seek cost-saving measures to balance out adding newly desired features.

As emerging technologies impact customer demands, other elements of our connected ecosystem can be leveraged for basic operational improvements to achieve those cost savings. Business leaders are uniquely positioned to see both sides of the hotel energy management challenge. As hotel guests, comfort is top of mind, but the bottom-line benefits of an energy management system (EMS) are also easy to understand. Hotel decision makers are already implementing basic efficiency upgrades like LED lighting, and holistic energy management systems are an important next step for saving even more energy while also increasing guest comfort and reducing operating costs.

Checking In On Costs

The average U.S. hotel spends $2,196 per room in energy costs each year, which adds up fast. Collectively, the hospitality industry spends $3.7 billion annually on energy. For individual hotels, 60-70% of utility costs are exclusively billed for electricity. A portion of these figures can be returned to the bottom line with access to and knowledge of the latest technological innovations. It’s easy for facility managers at hotels to assume high energy costs are inevitable, especially if they have already implemented basic upgrades and are unaware of energy-saving solutions.

Before implementing additional upgrades, facility decision makers should recognize there is no one-size-fits-all approach to reaching operations and energy efficiency goals. Energy usage and operations and maintenance costs for hotels vary according to a number of factors, including occupancy rates, amenity offerings and geographical locations. Even so, there are some consistencies. Cooling systems, space heating and ventilation are responsible for the most energy use in lodging facilities, much like other building types. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) alone is responsible for 40% of hotel electricity usage.

Room For Improvement On Energy

In 2016, Lodging found that 90% of hotels are implementing high-efficiency lighting and half of larger hotels have already implemented a whole building EMS. As the most accessible efficiency upgrades are checked off, the question for many hotel decision makers is changing from “Should I implement an EMS?” to “What type of EMS should I choose, given the abundance of options?” Cost savings are naturally a top priority for business owners making these choices, but the return on investment (ROI) can also come from increased guest and employee happiness.

A system that synchronizes energy-intensive piecemeal components can amplify the benefits of a hotel’s equipment upgrades. Internet of things (IoT)-powered platforms are the modern conductors of an energy orchestra, offering a holistic strategy that strikes a balance between solutions that are the easiest to implement and those that are most comprehensive.Whole-building EMS are cost-effective tools to manage electricity demands and improve operations. In tandem with individual component modernizations, platforms provided by companies specializing in energy management or even large corporations like Honeywell and Siemens offer managers a way to monitor energy usage through comprehensive data.

A More Supportive Approach For Energy

The best IoT platforms should prioritize comfort and improve operations while achieving important energy savings. We can all relate to the experience of arriving in a hotel room after a long day of business travel and eagerly anticipating a night in. A cozy bed and movies on-demand are often next in the travel queue, yet none of these comforts will be enjoyed if a room is freezing or sweltering. In hotel rooms and in most of the spaces we inhabit, we tend only to notice temperature if it edges outside of our comfort zone. Any EMS should be equally “in the background,” something that is seldom thought of yet is designed simply to make comfort changes easy.

Another relatable experience? Setting up an important meeting in a hotel conference room and realizing the people you are trying to impress are going to be suffering through a chilly four-hour meeting. Again, the distraction of temperature discomfort isn’t something we consider until it's problem, and these common spaces often limit individual adjustments. The solution then becomes disrupting important conversations by calling in a maintenance person. Instead, what if it were possible for hotel meeting guests to make temperature changes within an approved range that allows for comfort while also preventing an overload on the hotel system?

Reserving The Right System

Combining software controls with onsite hardware offers capabilities like flexible lockouts and remote scheduling that prioritize both comfort and efficiency. Hotels can prevent customer thermostat tampering without unattractive lockboxes and control building sites from a central location without needing to visit rooms or common spaces. This provides more consistency across site locations and offers managers the freedom to pursue more business, promote the hotel brand or simply focus on other management needs. Minimum and maximum ranges can be set to keep guests comfortable while preventing air conditioner overuse and damage. Advanced reporting features also offer managers a method to leverage data to make better decisions about effective energy usage.

Flexibility and personalization are essential for all commercial energy managers, and this goes double for hotels that face guest turnover and wide-ranging temperature control needs. When the EMS solutions are incorporated, managers can experience a healthy ROI. For full-service hotels, reducing energy use by just 10% has the same bottom line impact as increasing the average room rate by $1.35.

With guest comfort, cost-saving and operational benefits to gain, it makes sense for the hotel sector to invest in whole-system energy management tools and move beyond basic upgrades that reduce energy use. The complex needs of a hotel business can be addressed with IoT systems that are simple to implement and operate. IoT capabilities can also cut down on unneeded equipment maintenance. For other industries, the same lessons apply: restaurants, retail stores and even educational facilities all have unique energy challenges that can be addressed by the right systems now available through technology innovations.

This piece was originally published on Forbes

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