How IoT can help with energy management

The Internet of Things allows hoteliers to connect, monitor, review and control almost every energy using device within a property. Being able to wirelessly network and monitor an entire hotel's worth of thermostats provides hoteliers the ability to manage, monitor and track the effectiveness of their energy-management system in real time, said John Attala, marketing director for Verdant Environmental Technologies. “It also enables opportunities for other operational efficiencies,” he said. “For example, an energy-management system can measure [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] runtime performance and alert maintenance staff when certain units are running excessively.”

The impact of IoT integrations within hospitality cannot be undervalued, according to Chad Burow, director of sales for Telkonet. Some features are obvious, like using the occupancy of a space to control the heating/cooling and lighting within an environment, allowing a property to decrease energy consumption leading to reduced energy costs, he continued.

“But what about using that same occupancy to close the shades, reducing the solar load on a room and extending the value of the energy reduction?” Burow asked. “Also, the ability to use the data collected while monitoring a space in order to determine where the room envelope (such as insulation, windows, equipment and others) needs to be improved. Through the value provided by intelligent automations being added to a space, we're able to continuously extend these, and other benefits, that constantly improve an owner's bottom line.”

Smart occupancy sensors and predictive load matching allow the hotelier to minimize HVAC equipment run-time without sacrificing guest comfort, said Bascom Cotner, products manager of VRP/VPAK for Friedrich Air Conditioning. “In fact, much of this functionality can be tied directly into the platform that is handling the mobile check-in and keyless entry. For example, a room air conditioner can be set to not run until sometime before the occupant's expected arrival time, minimizing the equipment run-time but allowing the room to be comfortable when the guest enters."

Another benefit the IoT brings to the hotelier is the ability to more easily integrate with demand response protocols (e.g. openADR). Programs that use these types of demand-response protocols often allow for rebates to the hotelier, Cotner said.

Looking outside the guestroom, IoT can help manage the combination of different systems, such as the property-management system, elevator system, guestroom-management system and the workforce system, said Grant Patterson, Inncom by Honeywell’s product marketing manager. “Integrating those products together will provide logic between the different data points,” he said. “If you’re aware of what’s going on in your property, you can start planning your energy needs.” 

An IoT system uses the occupancy of a space to control the heating/cooling and lighting within an environment, allowing a property to decrease energy consumption. Photo credit: Telkonet

Having that data allows hoteliers to plan for the right IoT platform, Cirq+ CEO Yani Deros said. “There are a dozen wireless protocols out there and hoteliers need to make sure the communication protocol they are following is the right one for the future,” he said. “The platform needs to be flexible to grow with future integrations and voice controls.” 

According to Rami Belson, CEO of Energex, using IoT technology and its related platforms like artificial intelligence and machine learning allows owners and managers to set in place a series of governing factors such as: time of day energy rates; demand/load charges; daylight exposure; occupancy/vacancy/schedules; humidity and relative comfort tables; predicted usage; alternative energy sources; and vendors.

“These factors can be collected and entered into artificial intelligence tables and build cloud-driven models to optimize and automatically setback, dim or switch off load based on need, occupancy, relative comfort, schedule and more,” Belson said. “The great part about AI is that it can be programmed to continuously use live and historical data in order achieve energy efficiency like never before.”

What technology areas to invest in for energy management

By continuously evaluating new technology innovations and integrations, property owners increasingly will understand how those measures might best fit into their environment and provide a return on investment for the property. First and foremost, any new technology or integration involving HVAC is going to provide the largest return on its investment because it's the second largest cost in operating a property, Burow said. 

Investing in the right software can provide a great return on investment in terms of the bottom line. ​​​Photo credit: Inncom by Honeywell

If you haven’t already invested in an EMS for guestroom HVAC, now is the time, Attala said. Because utility costs represent such a massive portion of property operational expenditure, and electricity costs only figure to go up, hoteliers should strongly consider implementing a guestroom energy-management thermostat to reduce these expenses. “Ensure your EMS can be managed online,” Attala said. “Having access to monitor and manage EMS parameters online allows you to adjust settings quickly and easily in all or some of your guestrooms without disturbing guest comfort.”

Smart and occupancy-based thermostats allow hoteliers to rest easy in knowing that equipment will not run unnecessarily and/or when a guest has left the room, Cotner said. Unnecessary run-time of HVAC equipment can greatly increase the operational costs of a building. Allowing the thermostats to automatically shut down the HVAC equipment, while insuring that the room does not become too warm or cold while unoccupied, helps mitigate these unwanted costs.

The ability to use sensors and artificial intelligence technology to gather an increasing amount of data is a key focus area for this year, said Burow. But hoteliers need to utilize that data to understand building operation and recommend areas of improvement. “Continuing to work towards a complete lifecycle platform of property intelligence that works together to recognize trends, generate events, track performance and more, will begin to demonstrate the true value of IoT and how it may be able to best impact property management,” he said.
Attala said it's ideal to ensure that the lighting system in the guestrooms is tied in with the thermostat’s passive infrared sensor, as well. “This will ensure your lights switch off during unoccupied periods,” he said. 

Patterson suggests that hotels need to invest in scalable hardware, which can be a costly investment. “If you’re buying a thermostat, make sure it can be added with additional hardware in the future,” he said. “Voice control, lighting, drapery, minibar integrations—all should be flexible to add in.”

Crystal Springs Resort introduces a solar farm 

Crystal Springs Resort in Hamburg, N.J., began operations of the largest resort-based solar farm in the Northeastern United States. Developed in partnership with New Jersey-based Marina Energy, the 25-acre solar field has more than 19,000 solar panels and has the capacity to generate 3.5 megawatts of electricity annually, which is more power than is consumed each year by the resort's two hotels. 

"We recognize that our guests visit us, not only for our wide array of amenities, but also for enjoyment of the resort's beautiful natural surroundings, so it is only fitting that we should take steps to minimize our impact on the environment to help preserve it for generations to come," said Chris Mulvihill, the property's chief marketing officer. "While we are taking many other steps in the area of sustainability such as the use of LED lighting, paper straws, locally sourced menu ingredients and biodegradable organic laundry detergent, we really like to be able to use superlatives when we describe the resort, so I am very pleased to be able to say that New York City's closest resort is now also the Northeast's largest solar powered resort."

Crystal Springs Resort’s 25-acre solar field has more than 19,000 solar panels and has the annual capacity to generate 3.5 megawatts of electricity, which is more power than is consumed annually by the resort’s two hotels. Photo credit: Crystal Springs Resort

In addition to its two hotels, the resort has a domed indoor pool, two day spas, six golf courses and 10 dining venues. Mulvihill said the solar farm project aligns with other environmentally friendly initiatives adopted by the resort in recent years, such as a partnership with Jersey Central Power & Light and the New Jersey Audubon Society to create new habitat for bees, butterflies and birds on one of its six golf courses.

On an annual basis, the solar farm provides clean, renewable energy that more than offsets electricity consumption at the resort's 280-room Grand Cascades Lodge and 175-room Minerals Hotel combined. The project has qualified for net metering under New Jersey's solar program, which means the resort always maintains a stable source of electricity supply by drawing from the grid at night and other low solar generation periods and actually providing excess energy to the grid after all resort consumption has been satisfied during the day.   

"Offsite meetings and company retreats are a big part of our business, and it's important to understand that taking 100 executives on jets to meet in a remote location not only costs money and time, it also has a major environmental cost,” Mulvihill said. “By contrast we can send group shuttle service to Manhattan and have a company's team at our resort in less time than it takes to get through airport security. So it is great to now be able to tell our conference clients that not only do their attendees not have to fly, but they can also wake up in the morning knowing they slept in a solar-powered hotel."