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OM in the News: The Energy-Minded Hotel

May 11, 2016
A guest room key card at a Sofitel

A guest room key card at a Sofitel Hotel

American hotels have long resisted key cards (where guests must place a room key into a slot on the wall to activate the lights and temperature control system) or other energy-saving systems. Energy was cheap, and hoteliers feared that guests, who routinely left their rooms with the lights and air-conditioner on, would see any check on their energy use as an inconvenience. “But the aversion of hoteliers in the U.S.,” writes The New York Times (May 10, 2016), ” is slowly shifting as Americans have become more energy conscious and more states and municipalities have adopted rigorous building codes for energy use.”

In 2014, 29% of hotels had a sensor system in guest rooms to control the temperature, compared with less than 20% in 2004; and more than 75% had switched to LED lighting, up from less than 20%. Other energy-saving measures had also been more widely adopted. Energy costs typically represent 4-6% of a hotel’s overall operating expenses, with the largest share for heating and air-conditioning.

Many major hotels in the U.S. have digitally controlled thermostats to monitor the temperature in guest rooms. And a growing number have installed sophisticated systems that sense when a room is occupied. When a hotel guest enters a room, the device allows the temperature to be manually controlled within a certain range — from 60 to 80 degrees, for example — and then sets it back into an energy-saving mode when the room is vacant again. Such a system can save a hotel 20% or more in energy costs. And many utility companies now offer rebates to hotels that have installed digital thermostats and other energy management devices.

Classroom discussion questions:

  1. What are the downsides of key card technology?
  2. Why is sustainability of growing concern in the hotel industry?
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