How energy savings, comfort can cohabitate

Smart rooms that incorporate energy-saving sensors and controls have become the norm in the hotel industry. Not only do they reduce operational energy costs, they add a “green” and sustainable feature to properties, which is increasingly important to many guests. 

From a guest-facing standpoint, most energy-saving systems work behind the scenes, automatically and efficiently. Guests may be aware of how these systems work and what features are available to them, but in general the experience is seamless. 

By way of example, the $80 million transformation at the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort in Honolulu in 2020 included a full change-out of all of the property’s 659 thermostats to the Inncom Core e7 Smart Digital Thermostat. The thermostats are interfaced with the lanai (patio) doors and central system through wireless transmitters that make saving energy seamless for the guest experience. 

“The product is very intuitive, so there hasn’t been a need to create specific instructions on this for our guests,” said Mike Shaff, VP, operations, Outrigger Hawai‘i. “We anticipate getting almost 50 percent of the cost back in rebates, which makes the project a win for the environment and our budget.” 

The new system allows Outrigger’s engineering team to remotely monitor the status of the property’s cooling system, collect and analyze data and control humidity levels in the rooms. High humidity issues can be resolved by shutting off or setting back the system to a certain temperature.  

Eric Au, SVP of engineering for Highgate Hotels, said one of Highgate’s key energy-saving initiatives in its hotel guestrooms is a comprehensive smart thermostat system. The system significantly reduces energy compared to standard thermostats while optimizing the guest experience.

This system can provide precooling or preheating upon check-in, thus providing a comfortable environment for the guest immediately upon entering his or her guestroom. Humidity sensors ensure guestroom humidity is within tolerance for a comfortable experience, and motion sensors accurately detect guest occupancy—including night occupancy mode to provide quick and accurate recovery to guests’ temperature preferences. 

“This is all designed to customize guest energy preferences to help maximize guest comfort,” Au said. 

In addition, the system employs sophisticated machine-learning algorithms to continuously analyze historical thermodynamics, local weather patterns and peak demand loads to optimize energy consumption in real-time.   

“With a networked system, we can track/alarm on unusual usage and monitor guest comfort to ensure our systems are working as intended,” Au explained. “Additionally, we have the ability to put a particular smart thermostat in VIP mode, which allows our guests to bypass temperature setbacks, thresholds, etc. to ensure utmost satisfaction.”

From a guest-facing standpoint, Au said the smart thermostats are simple and intuitive to operate. To help educate guests of these features, Highgate provides tools such as QR codes, informational tent cards and dedicated TV sustainability channels in guestrooms. 

These ongoing and expanding efforts throughout the industry indicate that energy savings and guest comfort are not mutually exclusive—in fact, they often can work hand in hand.