Summer Energy Reduction Strategies for Energy Managers
Ninety-degree days in October are becoming more commonplace (at least in California) though no less...
Every hotel has to adjust to the changing demands of travelers or risk being left behind. This can be as simple as putting desks in a room and calling it an office suite or as complex as revamping your energy system to become more eco-conscious. But increasingly, the latter is becoming an important way to appeal to guests, reduce energy costs, and create more sustainable infrastructure.
Notwithstanding a small dip in 2020, every year more travelers want to stay in eco-friendly hotels. In 2019, a full 73% of travelers said they “intend to stay at least once in an eco-friendly or green accommodation,” and this number is only expected to grow. That’s good news for the hotel industry, which is already looking for ways to save money and increase margins.
Energy costs make up an average of 4-6% of expenses for hotels, going up to at least 10% for luxury hotels. Finding ways to cut those costs is paramount to surviving. But energy reduction can’t come at the expense of the guest experience—and with smart technology, it doesn’t have to. Increasing energy efficiency through advanced analytics allows you to do more than adjust to traveler expectations: you can exceed them.
In the old days, “energy efficiency” was often code for “turning off the air conditioning” or “canceling HBO”. But those days are gone. Today, technology is opening up new hotel energy saving solutions that also improve comfort and enhance the customer stay.
Boosting energy efficiency doesn’t have to mean changing everything you do. Many small changes can have a meaningful cumulative impact. These include:
Small things add up. But they are just a start to improving efficiency.
In the past, entering a hotel or motel room in the heat of summer often felt like stepping into an ice bath from air conditioning turned on full blast. This succeeded in preventing rooms from getting too hot, but it was tremendously wasteful and often interfered with guest comfort.
Smart thermostats, IoT devices like occupancy sensors, and intelligent analytics can prevent that. An analytics platform with machine learning (ML) capabilities continuously analyzes real-time and historical data from the building system network to make real-time and predictive adjustments. That can mean gradually heating or cooling rooms before a guest arrives, adjusting for peak hours, adapting to more or less sunlight, and making pragmatic changes depending on the season. In other words, they can take into account real conditions rather than relying on imprecise human assumptions or standardized settings.
For hotel guests, every increase in comfort is a bonus. For hotel owners, ensuring that HVAC systems are used when and how they are needed can significantly improve energy efficiency.
Lighting makes up nearly a quarter of electrical energy use in US hotels and motels, and much of this lighting is unnecessary. Often, lights are left on in every room as a standard practice and even guests who are scrupulous about turning off lights at home don’t give it a second thought when staying in a hotel. This can lead to significant energy waste.
Smart lighting can offer an elegant solution. When lighting systems are integrated with a unified building management system and paired with IoT sensors, lights can become responsive. For example, lighting can be turned on, shut off, or dimmed depending on occupancy, ambient light, and time of day. And this doesn’t just have to happen in individual rooms: smart lighting in lobbies, hallways, stairwells, gyms, and restaurants can greatly reduce waste, especially in off-peak hours.
ML-led analytics is critical for implementing intelligent automation and overall hotel energy saving solutions. But it can also transform the way buildings are maintained.
Many hotel owners seek to reduce energy use by purchasing high-efficiency equipment. While that can be a worthwhile investment, ensuring peak efficiency requires proper maintenance. For buildings with legacy equipment, strategic maintenance is key to optimizing performance and minimizing waste, particularly in high-consumption systems like HVAC. Maintenance is key to getting the most out of your energy systems.
Continuous monitoring of both individual pieces of equipment and overall energy use allows analytics platforms to identify unusual events and allows maintenance teams to focus their efforts effectively. Is air conditioning use spiking in one section of the hotel? There may be a problem with the self-darkening windows. Is energy use unusually low? The heating system may not be functioning properly.
Anomalies often are directly tied to a guest’s comfort. If your analytics platform can learn what is normal and what is abnormal, it can make efficiency recommendations that save money and enhance comfort. In some cases, the platform can trigger an automated response to eliminate the need for human intervention and restore full performance immediately. If a problem requires manual intervention, maintenance staff can take action as soon as possible. However, they aren’t going into the problem blind; advanced diagnostics take the guesswork out of troubleshooting by isolating problems rapidly. This can drastically reduce downtime and the risk of guest complaints.
By eliminating the need for time-based or reactive maintenance, analytics can help you use maintenance resources more efficiently and effectively. That can translate into real savings.
Imagine if you could reduce energy usage in your property by 10%. According to the Department of Energy, doing so would save a full-service hotel $1.35 per occupied room every day. That can quickly add up to tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of savings each year—and even more if you can improve efficiency further. The same report estimates that strategically introducing smart technologies can reduce heating costs by 20% and lighting costs by 30%.
However, many hotels are reluctant to implement retrofits. It seems like it would be expensive and disruptive—and no one wants to stay in a hotel that is under construction. But with the right partner, return on investment can be great and the impact on guests can be minimal.
Of course, every hotel is different. Different climates, different builds, different guests. That’s why hotel energy saving solutions need to be tailored to your specific hotel. This begins with:
The best way to accomplish this is to work with a master systems integrator (MSI). An experienced MSI will assess your needs, understand your goals, and design a solution that unifies your system using their extensive knowledge of a broad range of systems and expertise in open protocols and API connectivity.
In a cutting-edge system, a powerful analytic platform like onPoint will be an essential component of ongoing energy management. But it can also be used to guide integration to ensure problems are identified and the right solutions are implemented. An analytics platform also helps you measure the effects of your changes. You don’t have to guess; you can see which investments pay off and which ones don’t. This helps you continually refine your strategy to track your goals and adjust to meet them.
The economic benefits of a robust energy management system can be significant. The increase in guest comfort can be just as meaningful, as can the boost to your reputation when you establish yourself as an environmentally conscious facility.
Jon Schoenfeld, PE is Buildings IOT's Vice President of Energy & Building Technology. He's been developing advanced algorithms for building automation applications for more than a decade and he applies his tremendous building expertise as he oversees the team of building scientists creating the onPoint platform.