Is your guest room air conditioning running out of control?

Are guest room aircon running costs making you hot under the collar? Guest room air conditioning = financial black hole?

Here’s how you can achieve guest room air conditioner power savings:

Air conditioning remains by far the largest user of electricity in any guest room. Industry studies show that AC and HVAC costs can account for over 75 per cent of the total room power bill and that often over 50 per cent of that AC power usage can be wasted, either because rooms are empty, the AC is running too hot or too cold, or the AC is running when doors and windows are left open.

The reality is that although most guests like the idea of staying at “green”, environmentally responsible accommodation, most hotel, motel and apartment guests are not overly concerned with practicing good energy-conservation behaviour themselves. With the steady increase of power prices in recent years, this has created a clear opportunity for the tourist accommodation sector to save power and money with the introduction of energy saving guest room automation and smart devices.

We will look at the various ways you can ensure that you optimise the air conditioning that you provide for guests and staff and in turn improve your businesses bottom line.

An ongoing problem

Does this sound familiar? Guests walk into a room or apartment put on the AC and turn it down to the maximum available setting. Once the AC is on, it normally stays on… few guests turn it off when they leave the room or go out. Because most guests mistakenly believe that a lower set point equates to faster cooling, air conditioning is consistently set at much lower temperatures than necessary for reasonable comfort. Indeed it has been said that thermal comfort is “90 per cent mental and 10 per cent physical”.

Many industry studies and both federal and state governments state that, “By adjusting the room setpoint by a few degrees, you could save between 5 per cent and 10 per cent of HVAC operating costs for each degree”.

Therefore preventing guests setting the air conditioning at very low or very high low temperatures and also leaving it running in rooms left empty, should be considered a priority by anyone serious about reducing power costs.

What are the options?

There are a variety of new products available that are specifically designed to solve these issues. Most can be retrofitted without building works or in-wall wiring. Some are designed for split systems and some are designed for ducted and centralised AC systems.

Occupancy sensor controllers for split systems: Designed to monitor room occupancy, these units will automatically either turn off or set to ‘economy mode’, split system air conditioning left running in empty rooms. Make sure any device has night settings to allow undisturbed sleep.

If you have sliding patio doors, look for units with door and window sensors to prevent the AC running if doors and windows are left open for more than a very short time.
Programmable energy saving universal remotes: Designed to replace any existing hand held remote control, these smart remotes can be programmed to restrict the range of temperatures a user can access. This prevents an air conditioner being set to uneconomic (very high or very low) temperatures. Look for remotes that are tamperproof, so that the owner preferences are protected. Some types also have a placebo effect feature where AC users don’t realise that the usage is being controlled.

Room key card switch or master power cut off switch: When a guest enters the room, the room key card is inserted into the wall-mounted slot and power is supplied to the air conditioner, appliances and lights. When a guest leaves the room they supposedly remove the card and power is turned off. However, these switches can be bypassed if an occupant leaves a second or substitute card in the slot. Primarily used in new buildings, these systems can be difficult to retrofit in existing rooms as they normally require rewiring of room circuits.

Programmable thermostats for ducted AC and fan coil HVAC units: Designed for ducted and bulkhead mounted systems with hard wired wall pad controls, these smart thermostats retrofit to the existing system wiring and enable the programming of minimum and maximum temperature settings and a variety of timers. Combined with occupancy sensors, these devices can allow very close control over when and how the air conditioning can be operated.

Building management systems: Normally installed in new buildings or during major renovations, a building management system enables general monitoring and management of all technological aspects of a buildings facilities. A new or existing BMS can be extended into guest rooms to provide the same energy savings as room based controls. The conditions and operation of a room can then be viewed and adjusted from a workstation.

Energy usage can be monitored to keep track of the system’s effectiveness, which might help management modify the room control as necessary. If a BMS is not already installed, it may be difficult to justify the cost of installing one just to achieve guest room energy savings.

Guest room automation and energy saving devices installed in a limited service facility (such as a motel or apartment building) will have an even greater influence on the site’s overall energy usage than for a large full-service hotel. This is because guest room energy usage makes up a smaller percentage of overall usage for hotels that contain restaurants, conference and meeting facilities, pools, gyms, and extensive common areas.

With air conditioning being by far the most expensive single consumer of power in the accommodation industry and with energy prices increasing steadily it makes sense to take steps to minimise wastage and optimise usage.

Remember, “The best possible way to combat power price increases is to control existing use as effectively as possible”.

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