While technology continues to disrupt the hospitality industry, many solutions are bringing with them efficiencies and cost savings, especially energy-management systems. In Australia, more than 50,000 homes will be receiving solar power through a decentralized electric grid at no cost to residents. India and China are in an unofficial race to boast the largest solar farm, with China even building a floating one on top of a deserted coal mine. It seems like the days of dirty, expensive energy are drastically numbered.
There’s no time like the present for hotels to begin reaping the energy-saving benefits of new technologies. Here are seven ways that properties of all sizes can start saving money and energy using technology:
1. Smart Climate Control
If there’s any energy need that all businesses share, it’s climate control. Whether it’s air conditioning or heating, every business has the need for climate control, and often a dedicated HVAC system. Internet of Things and machine learning are helping businesses save significantly on their energy consumption and costs. From smart thermostats that allow users to program their energy consumption around daily occupancy needs to smart sensors that monitor fluctuations in real-time occupancy, there are no shortage of energy-management tools available to help business save on their energy costs.
Hotels, with their random occupancy patterns, are finding that smart energy-management systems maximize their energy savings. These systems use sophisticated machine-learning algorithms and diverse data sets such as historical thermodynamics, local weather patterns and peak demand loads to optimize energy consumption in real-time, all year round.
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2. Air Source Heat Pumps
Smart thermostats aren’t the only way that business can save on their heating costs. Advances in HVAC hardware technology also offer businesses new opportunities to save on energy costs. Specifically, air source heat pumps make it possible to transfer heat from outside a building to inside it (or vice versa). The science behind ASHPs involves using the principles of vapor compression-refrigeration to absorb heat from one place and release it to another. The advantage for hotels is that ASHPs can be used as energy-efficient space heaters or coolers, removing the need to overload a central HVAC system to accommodate the specific needs of a smaller or compartmental space.
3. Smart Lighting Technology
Smart energy-management systems are not limited only to HVAC systems. Smart lighting technology also enables hotels to better understand their energy needs, automate their consumption and adapt to real-time to changes in occupancy. Some companies have managed to cut energy costs by 75 percent and improved productivity by 20 percent by converting to a smart LED lighting system. Just like EMS helps hotels adjust energy consumption based on real-time climate-control needs, smart lighting systems also enable properties to set preferred lighting times and track activity to improve workflow throughout the facility.
4. Solar Panel Technology
Rising economic superpowers and Australian suburbanites aren’t the only ones benefiting from the rise and proliferation in solar technology. Hotels of all sizes are leveraging increasingly affordable photovoltaic technology to reduce their energy costs. Solar power technology offers businesses a two-fold opportunity: to reduce energy consumption from the grid and sell excess production back into that grid. Therefore, hotels can save on their energy costs and subsidize whatever energy consumption they still have to pay for.
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5. Automatic Shutdown Sockets
A significant energy cost for many hotels is vampire power draw. Also known as standby power, it refers to the way electric power is consumed by electronic and electrical appliances while they are switched off (but are designed to draw some power) or in a standby mode. This is where automatic shutdown sockets come in. These are simply smart power outlets that use infrared sensors or timers to cut power to any connected device when the device is not in use or the room is unoccupied. In other words, they allow hotels to save on powering devices whenever they are not in use.
6. Predictive Monitoring
Like energy-management systems that monitor, track and optimize energy consumption, predictive maintenance enables hotels to use sensor data to identify wasteful or hazardous trends and alert maintenance staff before the issue escalates into a much costlier one. For example, as an HVAC system fluctuates through different levels of performance based around occupancy needs, there will be wear-and-tear on its different physical components. Rather than waiting for a component to break down before being repaired or replaced, predictive maintenance enables engineering staff to predict maintenance needs based on system usage, prevent system failures and reduce the costs of operating a faulty system.
Some online management platforms continuously collect data related to HVAC runtimes for each unique room and assigns them efficiency ratings. This rating is an indicator of how quickly a room can be heated or cooled back to the guest’s preferred temperature and provides engineering teams with critical alerts when HVAC equipment needs attention.
Related story: Smart solutions make energy management easier
7. Smart Water Management
Water is a necessary requirement for life and every hotel relies on the stuff just to keep afloat. Whether it’s part of a manufacturing process or necessary to provide customers with food, drink and sanitary facilities, dihydrogen monoxide is an unavoidable cost of doing business. When considering how a single leaky toilet can cost as much as $840 a year plus the costs of any additional water damage, it’s easy to see how water can become an unnecessarily expensive business expense. By monitoring water lines with smart, low-cost water meters, however, facilities such as hotels and college campuses can see [return on investment] on their water consumption in less than five years.
As technology advances, it changes many of our tastes, preferences and needs. It relegates old industries obsolete, creates new ones seemingly overnight and fundamentally shifts the balance of supply and demand across markets. What doesn’t change is the need for energy consumption. Whether it’s manufacturing physical products, providing customers with a comfortable experience, or keeping employees happy, productive, and motivated, energy consumption is a universal cost of doing business. For hotels willing to embrace the advance of technology, however, there are no shortage of opportunities to reduce their energy costs.
The exact mix of energy-saving technology that’s right for any hotel will depend largely on its location and even customer preferences. The bottom line is hotels that leverage technology to save on their energy costs ultimately will be more profitable and better able to adapt to the ever-changing technological landscape.
John Attala is the marketing director for Verdant Environmental Technologies, a provider of energy-management solutions for the hospitality industry.