With rising costs and a challenging economy, Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham in Cedar Rapids, Iowa is always looking for ways to trim costs, without raising rates or sacrificing the guest experience. When Ovation Networks, the company that supplies the hotel’s wireless Internet, approached management with its EcoManaged energy management solution, the hotel was immediately drawn to its potential for cost savings and decided to initiate a pilot test in four sets of rooms in December 2010. The idea of not using power in unoccupied rooms was exciting to Hawthorn Suites, particularly given the hotel’s focus on energy management.
EcoManaged enables zone control of heating and cooling in hotel rooms through Wi-Fi enabled carbon dioxide sensors to adjust temperature set points based on occupancy and comfort levels. EcoManaged’s thermostat replaces the factory controls on each PTAC unit, as well as wall mounted controls for centralized HVAC systems. Hawthorne’s local energy company, Alliant Energy, subsidized the test so there were no out-of-pocket costs for the hotel.
The Test Pilot
The Ovation test was fast and easy to implement. Ovation communicated ahead of time to schedule the installation to ensure that guests were not disrupted. The installation process was quick; it took around three minutes per unit.
The test was performed in room pairs that were identical in size, layout and building envelope conditions (direction, exterior wall count, etc). Calibrated power meters were installed in each room to collect energy usage. During the test, each pair consisted of an ‘A’ room that was occupied by Hawthorn guests and a ‘B’ room that was vacant and used for scientific control.
The guest had full control of the thermostat set point in the A room and any temperature set point changes were synchronized in real-time to the B room thermostat. The A room used the EcoManaged service to detect occupancy and reduce the temperature set point when the room was unoccupied, returning to the guest’s temperature set point level when the room became occupied again. The B room used a standard thermostat configured with the guest’s desired temperature set point.
In order to gather demographic and opinion data from guests, a survey was administered by staff at the time of check-out.
Generating Positive Results
Before conducting the pilot test, Ovation estimated that EcoManaged would garner 18 to 30 percent energy savings for the hotel. In actuality, the test indicated savings between 40 and 48 percent. This will save the property several thousand dollars each month, particularly since Hawthorne Suites relies heavily on mid-week corporate guests who are gone during the day.
An added benefit beyond energy savings is the anticipated increased lifespan of Hawthorne Suites’ PTACs. With the PTACs not being “on” 24/7, they will last longer. PTAC units are $400 to $500 each and Hawthorne Suites typically replaces 10 to 12 a year.
Additionally, the surveys showed that the guests were “satisfied” to “very satisfied” with the comfort level of the temperature in the rooms, and that when compared to previous stays, the temperature was as “comfortable” or “more comfortable” when using EcoManaged.
The pilot test was a positive experience; so much, in fact, that the Hawthorne Suites property is in the process of installing the EcoManaged units in the rest of its rooms. If the hotel continues to see the savings the tests indicated, the owner will likely implement EcoManaged at his other property in Fort Dodge, Iowa.