Occupancy detectors save money, environment

By installing energy controls throughout a property, hotels can shed utilities costs without compromising quality — and guests won’t even notice. Energy controls have proven successful in guestrooms, but what money is there to be saved if installed in public areas?

According to Michael Serour, VP of sales and marketing for Verdant Environmental Technologies, a developer of energy controls and sensors, the biggest drain on hotel utilities is unnecessary heating and air conditioning, and in addition to hotel guestrooms there are multiple public areas that can benefit from the use of these controls. Meeting rooms, which are usually only in use for a few hours at a time during the week, can be large resource drains if the heating or air conditioning is left on for long periods in anticipation of an event.

For these rooms, Serour says occupancy detectors that detect heat and movement are the best combination for deciding when guests are properly entering and leaving a room. “A simple motion detector has its limitations, but when you add other triggers to the detection process, such as body heat, the reliability of a device is enhanced significantly,” Serour said.

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William Fizer, president of infrared sensor developer Lodging Technology, agrees that sensing body heat is a key component to proper guest detection. Fizer also listed the hotel ballroom as a gigantic energy expenditure for hotels, especially during a hotel’s off-season.

“People walk through a ballroom and turn the thermostat up or down and don’t come back to change it, and it stays that way during an entire season,” Fizer said.

Often the most overlooked areas can result in the greatest savings. Storage areas for engineering, housekeeping equipment rooms and staff offices that lie unoccupied overnight could be receiving heat or air conditioning that is linked to thermostats choosing the temperature for other rooms, when their needs are small at best.

But not all areas of the hotel are best for energy management through occupancy detection. Hotels are often uninterested in shutting down energy, heat or lighting at any time in a lobby of or F&B space, meaning energy sensors there are a waste of resources.

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