|By Marty Whitford H&MM Senior Editor - Dec. 1998
Energy, like the mind, is a terrible thing to waste.
After labor, energy is the second-largest operating expense hoteliers
incur, said William C. Fizer, president and c.e.o. of Roanoke, Va.-based
Lodging Technology Corp. Fizer and Alan Gross, president of Blackwood,
N.J.-based Energy I.Q. Systems, said guestroom energy consumption
typically accounts for 40 percent to 80 percent of a property’s total
energy costs, depending on several factors, including:
Several energy-management technology suppliers said their products help hoteliers shave 35 percent or more off their heating and air conditioning bills, with a two-year payoff and a 50 percent return on investment. Gross said the savings can be as low as 15 percent for a limited-service hotel and as high as 70 percent for a full-service property.
“In some cases, we’re able to create revenue for a hotel other than energy savings,” Gross said. “We focus on guest comfort. If we can move a hotel’s occupancy up just one [percentage] point, that also will yield a significant amount of money.”
Shopping for savings
Saving money and improving the bottom line has long been a strategy embraced by the business world, but Fizer said he remembers just when hotel operators began to look at energy consumption in a new light.
The time was the mid-70s, when the oil trade embargo had pushed energy costs to new heights and capped consumption in many areas. But what many saw as a crisis, Fizer saw as an opportunity.
With hotel franchisee American Motor Inns at the time, Fizer had the job of slashing energy costs. Fizer quickly found two tremendous energy-savings opportunities: Most rented rooms were empty 60 percent of the time; and all of the rooms unsold each night were empty 100 percent of the time— excluding housekeeping visits.
In 1979, Fizer helped develop what he said was the first infrared occupancy- based sensor, which allowed hotel operators to initiate an automatic temperature setback if the room is unoccupied. Called the PIR (Passive Infrared) 2000, the system saved American Motor Inns’ millions of dollars.
When Prime Hospitality Corp. bought American Motor Inns in the 1980s, some of American Motor Inn’s patents and intellectual property rights were released to Fizer, who then founded Lodging Technology.
That was then; this is now. Today, Lodging Technology provides direct sales, installation and servicing to hotels in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. The firm’s product line includes:
“At Lodging Technology, we believe that ‘Saving energy saves everything’— including profits, while promoting a lodging property as an environmentally responsible business,” Fizer said.
Plethora of players
The energy-management industry is taking off, with new products and players hitting the market, offering hoteliers a wide array of alternatives and control. Energy I.Q. offers its I.Q. Genius stand-alone energy-management system, a patented infrared sensor; the I.Q. GeniusSTAT digital thermostat, and the I.Q. Genius Designer Series, which Gross said “combines the beauty of the thermostat with the brains of the sensor.”
Miami-based Amerisafe has introduced its low-cost WattSaver energy-management system, which company literature says provides a $13 average monthly savings per guestroom and provides a return on investment just a few months after installation. The system takes about 30 minutes to install, resulting in no downtime.
INNCOM International, based in Old Lyme, Conn., has been serving the
guestroom control industry since 1986. The firm has systems
installed or under contract for 87,000 rooms worldwide. INNCOM
offers a wide range of products that are coupled to address energy
Smart Systems International of Las Vegas has introduced a wireless energy- management system that Vice President Thomas W. Kearin touts as “a product that will revolutionize the industry.”
Kearin said the Smart Systems Series 5000 thermostat is the only wireless, occupancy-based unit that automatically relaxes the HVAC when a guest leaves and returns to a comfortable temperature in a fixed amount of time upon guest arrival. The Smart Systems product offers a 40-percent reduction in HVAC runtime, a guaranteed recovery time—meaning reduced guest complaints—and a payback in 12 to 18 months with an average ROI of 75 percent forever, he said.
Being wireless allows the Smart Systems unit to be easily installed above the foot of the bed for a bird’s eye view of the room—continuing to sense and monitor even when guests are sleeping and mostly covered up and still. The systems also offer variable temperature setback in which microprocessors gauge how hard the HVAC system is working, prohibiting the setback temperature to drift above or below a point in which recovery would take more than five minutes—unless the hotel operator wants to allow this. Recovery time can be increased to say 10 or 15 minutes for economy hotels, Kearin said.
Typically, requested room-temperature setbacks are 76 degrees Fahrenheit for the summer and 65 degrees Fahrenheit for the winter, said Larry Gomez, president of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.-based Senercomm, a division of Sulcus Hospitality Technologies Corp., Greensburg, Pa.
Sulcus’ Senercomm has several energy-management systems on the market, including the:
“These [energy-management] products are still very new to hotels,” Gomez said. “Today, maybe just 20 percent of hotels worldwide have these systems installed,” he said. “I think significant potential exists. I think 50 [percent] to 75 percent of the hotels of the future will be looking at high-end digital in-room energy controls.”