How smart technology can help hotels manage energy

Smart technology and smart integrations can help hoteliers with energy management by minimizing the effort needed from property staff to manage such a system. “Hoteliers should be focused on their internal operations and ensuring the satisfaction of their guests,” said John Attala, Verdant’s director of marketing. “Smart energy-management systems work in the background to save hoteliers money without needing much manual input from staff.”

Energy management has become a primary focus for hospitality over the years with most franchisors mandating dedicated specifications and guidelines in order to prioritize initiatives for franchisees. “As these specifications have changed, we've recognized a greater understanding and awareness of the vast potential available to property owners through integration of existing smart in-room devices and technologies,” said Telkonet CEO Jason Tienor.  

COVID-19 put a spotlight on the issue in the hotel industry. As with all other spending across hospitality, COVID and its subsequent hospitality closures forced hoteliers to reduce capital spending overall, Tienor said. 

“What we've recognized since then is that the importance of energy management in hospitality has not decreased but has possibly grown stronger due to the understanding that expenses could have been better managed throughout COVID with intelligent controls, occupancy sensing and humidity monitoring,” he continued. “We've already begun to see a rapid return to planned energy management projects and increased requests for new projects moving forward.”

Through developing dedicated integrations, Tienor said hoteliers can take advantage of a wide variety of benefits, such as using occupancy to manage energy beyond the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, including lighting, plug load, televisions and building load.

Tienor also suggests hoteliers should use occupancy to manage shades/drapes, which assists not only in maintaining lower temperatures in unoccupied rooms but in minimizing fading of softgoods within the guestroom.

The evolution of smart technologies has enabled improved wireless infrastructure designs with vendors releasing new technologies to minimize redundancies and equipment requirements while enhancing connectivity and stability.

One of the main takeaways from the recent pandemic crisis is “do more with less,” according to Energex CEO Rami Belson. “The industry has faced a near-instant drop in business followed by crosswinds of unpredictable demand and labor shortages,” he said. “These radically shifting trends are forming a tipping point which accelerates technology and even more specifically the adoption of [artificial intelligence] across all business operations.

AI platforms can predict which rooms will be most energy-efficient at certain times and guides guests to them. They also match housekeeping resources directly to these rooms. Time savings are added when vacant room data is fed into the platforms to create better work flow and movement around guests for housekeepers and staff. AI can ensure personal privacy by keeping staff away from occupied rooms. 

“I see AI as the aggregator of every point of data within a building to create a healthier, more efficient asset to own and operate,” Belson said. “We have demonstrated how AI can create virtual clusters within a building which are more profitable to rent due to their energy requirement status, HVAC equipment, proximity to elevators and more.”

Where Hoteliers Should Look for Better Savings

As hoteliers look for a hopefully healthier industry outlook in 2022, we asked energy-management experts where hoteliers should look for better energy-management savings next year. 
Tienor suggested that hoteliers should focus on prioritization of people, place and space when reviewing areas to prioritize energy-management interests. “Understanding that people are the primarily concern for hoteliers, planning for energy management needs to ensure that guests experience minimal impact from the deployment of efficiency projects,” he said. “Accurate occupancy detection, practical lighting controls and comfortable humidity management, all of these things ensure that the guest is the primary concern throughout energy management deployments.”

Prioritizing the health of the building maximizes the value of the asset and minimizes maintenance and replacement costs. Intelligent equipment monitoring and maintenance, improved property planning, humidity controls and comprehensive building-wide insights are primary concerns in energy management deployment, Tienor continued. 

“Finally, hoteliers can maximize energy management through a comprehensive understanding of their space, its technology and use, and intended outcome,” he said. “Through working with an experienced intelligent automation company, hoteliers can plan out near-term and long-term goals using expected savings and deploy a solution that takes greatest advantage of all of the applicable integrations through their existing environment.”

Attala suggests that hotels need to make sure someone is actually paying attention to the energy-management system on the property. “It sounds silly, but the industry has gone through so much turmoil and employee turnover that many hotels will be welcoming new staff who have no experience operating an EMS,” he said.

He also said to make sure the EMS selected is brand-approved if necessary and ready to accommodate the variety of "smart guestroom" programs being rolled out, like Hilton Connected Room and IHG Studio, which can have additional requirements. 

Belson believes better use of artificial intelligence can lead to improved decisions about energy and resources because the nature of AI allows past use to create a high-resolution picture of a building's strong and soft points. “AI helps to meet the growing priorities for supervised ventilation systems, indoor air quality ongoing analysis, air filter monitoring and sensors to ensure correct performance of these assets and the ability to isolate rooms, zones or sections of the hotel when contamination is detected,” he continued.

William Fizer, president of Lodging Technology, suggests hoteliers need to focus on the low-hanging fruit when looking for savings. “Concentrate on the basics,” he said. “Replace lightbulbs with LEDs—in high-consuming areas like parking lots and common areas, the payback is relatively quick.”