Wednesday, April 1, 2009

On Guestroom Energy Management Systems

When I began covering the lodging industry in 1989, one of the first companies I became familiar with sold a guestroom energy management system. At the time I was in awe of the technology. These systems are common in lodging properties today but most hotels and resorts still do not use them. That baffles me. Energy management systems that incorporate sensors, controllers and switches can power down HVAC systems and even lighting when guests leave the room. With most guestroom energy management systems, heating and cooling systems will run from 20 percent to 40 percent less time. That can equate to significant energy savings.

What is preventing more hotels from implementing these systems? I suspect the following: cost, unfamiliarity with available rebate and assistance programs, and lack of education and awareness. Hotel owners typically want a fast ROI but some of these systems can take two years or longer to recover the initial investment. In areas of the country where utility costs are higher, ROI time can be much faster, however. What many owners don't realize is that investment recovery time can also be a lot faster once utility incentives are factored in. Utility companies in a number of states offer substantial incentives. Some vendors even offer programs that eliminate upfront costs. They earn their money from the dollars saved through energy cost reductions. When shopping for a guestroom energy management system, be sure to ask vendors about financing options.

Lack of education and awareness is certainly an obstacle to wide adoption of these systems. If an owner does not attend trade shows, does not closely read trade publications, is not contacted by system vendors, or is not inquisitive about saving energy, there is little chance any action will be taken. How can our industry overcome the education obstacle? Chains certainly can do a better job promoting these systems, especially for new construction projects. Vendors need to do a better job of making their presence known at industry events and in trade publications. I will continue to do what I can to get the message out about the value of these systems. Look for an article soon on Green Lodging News. Really, guestroom energy management systems should be standard in every hotel and resort. (See the Green Lodging News Product & Service Directory for a list of suppliers that sell these systems.)

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