7 tips for managing energy usage

With integrated functionality, controls, sensors and connected capabilities of energy-management platforms, hotels could reduce energy consumption by 20 to 50 percent (depending on the property and location) as well as reduce operating costs. Photo credit: Cirq+

A hotel’s energy efficiency is a journey. A granular picture of the hotel’s energy consumption patterns, its carbon impact and its overall fit within a hotel’s established goals and targets can be key to achieving the proper balance between efficiency and guest satisfaction. 

“It is very important to establish an historical property baseline in order to understand in detail the patterns affecting your energy usage versus a hotelier’s bottom line,” said Energex CEO Rami Belson. 

There are some common tips that energy-management experts feel hoteliers can implement to achieve those efficiency savings. 

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The Internet of Things allows smart connectivity, monitoring, control, asset tracking and much more at relatively low cost. Photo credit: Energex

1. Install an occupancy-based energy-saving thermostat to set back the temperature in empty guestrooms, Verdant Marketing Director John Attala said. Make sure the system can interface with the hotel’s property-management system as well, according to Chad Burow, director of sales for Telkonet. “The ability to drive an aggressive energy-management profile to the guestroom when it is unsold can have a major impact on savings while preventing temperature drifts that can be unfriendly to the guest when the room is sold,” he said. 

2. Use the real-time occupancy signal from an energy-management thermostat to set back lights in empty guestrooms, Attala said. 

3. Make sure the guestroom energy-management system can interface with your building-management system. “The ability to view your data through a single dashboard can be very helpful when monitoring and measuring the energy performance of the entire property," Burow said.

4. Use runtime data from an energy-management system to identify the heating, ventilation and air conditioning units that are running uncharacteristically long. Apply preventative maintenance to ensure issues are rectified quickly, Attala said. With HVAC and packaged terminal air conditioning units responsible for a vast amount of hotel energy consumption, it is vital for hoteliers to identify a provider that can offer the latest in energy efficiency technology, Douglas Mackemer, national director of parts, supplies and specialized equipment at Carrier Enterprise. “This can include keeping costs down with the use of hardware such as larger coil surfaces for increased operational efficiency,” he said. “Reputable providers are also able to equip hoteliers with greater control over air conditioning units via integrating with a property’s energy-management system.”

5. Embrace the Internet of Things and its future evolution, said Cirq+ founder/CEO Yani Deros.Hotels need to keep their pathways in the spaces of connectivity and controls open—it will evolve so much over the next five to seven years," he said. “This space is very fluid and hoteliers need the flexibility to be able to pivot and embrace the changes that are here and the ones that are coming.”

6. Investment in your staff and quality products is key, said Grant Patterson, product marketing manager for Honeywell. “With high staff turnover, hotels might not be investing as much in training but it’s worth it to achieve energy-management savings,” he said. “They need to learn the data points and what issues you’re having. Analytics will recommend how to solve the issue and how to operate more efficiently.”

A better product can cost more but hoteliers should base it on the value on the product is bringing, Patterson continued. “Linkages to that value include guest comfortable, staff ease, guest reviews etc.,” he said. “Invest in the products and the technology they are bringing to you.”

7. Give your guests the ability to understand their habits and how they use energy in the guestroom, especially millennials, Deros continued. “Empower them to make a difference with environment,” he said. “Motivate them to save energy by making them aware of their carbon footprint.” 

Where to Find Energy Savings in your Hotel

The hospitality industry is second only to the industrial refrigeration (cold storage) and supermarkets in terms of its energy consumption per square foot, Belson said. “While there are many reasons to these heightened levels of consumption, it also means that there are many opportunities across all facets of business, kitchens, back of the house, grounds, signage, fitness centers, convention and business centers and much more,” he continued. 

Hoteliers should choose a platform that can address additional energy savings opportunities like plug loads and light switches. Photo credit: Telkonet

With hotels using the second highest demand on the grid, the whole hotel itself is wasting a lot of energy, Deros said. “Hallways are a key area,” he said. “Dimmable bulbs and occupancy sensors in the hallways. Any informational displays, covering large walls, are a huge power use so having sensors on those items.”

Hotel meeting rooms are a great place to install an energy-saving thermostat because they function in much the same way as guestrooms, Attala said. “People come and go at random times, without any sort of fixed schedule,” he said. “As such, an energy-management thermostat can set back the temperature in those rooms when they aren’t in use, saving the property money and reducing wear and tear on the HVAC units.”

Ballrooms or back-office areas can be addressed with occupancy-based thermostats, in addition to Zigbee-controlled outlets and light switches. “It is efficient and convenient to work with a single platform provider who can address areas outside of the guest room, Burow said.

How IOT can Help Energy Savings

Hoteliers are typically aware of the Internet of Things but often don’t grasp the potential of IOT, Deros said.  “IOT is the catalyst of smart bridge technology,” he said. “It’s the platform that connect people, objects and their environment to enable engagement throughout the hotel.”
 

Being able to wirelessly network and monitor an entire hotel's worth of thermostats provides hoteliers opportunities not only for increased energy savings, but also other operational efficiencies. Photo credit: Verdant

IoT is very much about working with multiple technologies and hardware providers who have developed cooperative integrations that work flawlessly under a single integration umbrella, Burow said. While reducing HVAC run time is important, it is the additional incremental savings that can drive a powerful return on investment. The software that blends the data into a single dashboard serves as a major component to actually see the data and adjust the profiles to ensure that ROI. 

“It's not just about what the data is telling you, it is really about what you can do with it from the software to reach energy-management goals,” he said. 

Being able to wirelessly network and monitor an entire hotel's worth of thermostats provides hoteliers opportunities not only for increased energy savings, but also other operational efficiencies, Attala said. For example, an energy-management system can measure HVAC runtime performance and alert maintenance staff when certain units are running excessively.  “This usually signals a problem—perhaps the filter on a PTAC needs to be cleaned or a unit is low on refrigerant,” he said. “While we may not be able to diagnose the specific problem, these type of diagnostic alerts allows maintenance staff to intervene before a simple fix becomes a costly replacement.”

The new IOT ability ultimately ensures that hoteliers often can identify any performance issues much faster, or can implement energy-saving practices the moment an opportunity arises, Mackemer said. 

The greatest challenge to IoT is how your investment is supported, Burow said. “Do you have access to professional support staff who are available to help you create profiles in the software, diagnose issues and keep your rooms in top operating condition?” he asked. 

“There are 11 billion IOT-connected devices right now,” Deros said. “By 2020, there will 30 billion and by 2025, there will be 80 billion IOT devices connected. People and properties that don’t have this as part of their strategy are going to be playing catch-up. They need to develop an IOT strategy to plan for the future.” 

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