Improving the guest experience and reducing energy usage

According to industry reports, average U.S. hotel occupancy continues to increase – at a pace slightly better than expected, which is a welcome outcome after the doldrums of 2020’s historic lows. With hotels and resorts welcoming an increasing number of guests daily, it’s important owners and operators consider how to enhance guest comfort and the individual experience by addressing one of the primary drivers of both operating costs and guest complaints: in-room HVAC.

Inroads have been made in leveraging AI to control whole building operations through high-tech building automation systems, a progressive solution to lowering costs and providing guests with maximum comfort. But there hasn’t been enough conversation about the elephant in the room – standard packaged terminal air conditioner (PTAC) and vertical terminal air conditioner (VTAC) systems. What if AI-augmented systems could supplant these staples of the hospitality industry?

PTAC and VTAC systems have long served the dual purpose of allowing for isolated occupant preference and controls within guest rooms while not requiring much in the way of ducting or rooftop intrusion. However, the drawbacks of these aging systems are increasingly outweighing the benefits. Standard solutions are bulky – intruding on valuable interior footprint – creating a design challenge that also struggles to create good air exchange while insulating from exterior sound or unit acoustic performance.

More importantly, both solutions contribute to what J.D. Power reports is one of the key drivers of guest complaints: noise disturbance. According to a recent study, excessive HVAC noise can lead to restless sleep, irritability, and a negative impression of the hotel’s quality. Variable speed compressors can help somewhat by minimizing the disruptive on-off acoustic bounce, but they’re by no means the perfect solution.

On average, these units last about eight to 10 years, and only if properly maintained. When units fail, they do so without a lot of warning, and unit downtime means lost revenue. HVAC in hospitality spaces typically run 24/7, without the benefit of a variable speed processor. This practice burns out the systems faster and simultaneously creates an unbalanced, uncomfortable environment for guests.

Recently, innovations leveraging intelligent operations, sensors, and machine learning to build a better solution have been seen. If the machine age has taught us anything, it should be that technology drives efficiency, and it can be used to not only optimize performance and lower the cost of operations, but also contribute to an improved guest experience. Here are three promising innovations that can pave the way to a better solution:

Intelligent comfort: AI can be used to capture and use data from a variety of sensors, feeding the information back into algorithms that optimize for comfort and energy usage. The information available within a single guest room alone, occupancy, comfort preferences, humidity, light, and ambient temperature, can feed system intelligence, especially one that learns from experience.

Energy savings: Pairing an intelligent system with a variable speed processor can optimize usage within defined comfort zones, using power in the most efficient way possible. This intuitive functionality ultimately reduces energy consumption and its associated costs, while regulating the temperature of the room to the user’s needs. In a recent study, an AI solution implemented in 624 schools delivered reduced heating, electricity usage, reduced CO2 emissions, and reduced occupancy complaints.

Predictive maintenance: System downtime means reduced revenue. One of the most promising advantages of an AI-augmented system is the ability to monitor performance and proactively address potential system failure. AI can be used to run automated system diagnostics that identify issues before they become problems or outages.

More comfort for people, lower cost for operators, less impact on the planet – that’s the contribution AI-powered HVAC solutions stand to make. Let’s face it, in the business of selling sleep, first impressions are important. By starting off on the right foot and placing guests in rooms with AI-integrated systems, customer loyalty and cost savings are sure to follow.

brent sturgell

Brent Sturgell currently serves as the head of HVAC Business at KOVA, a leader in building material solutions. Brent is fully invested in not only upgrading the systems and technologies currently in place, but also transforming the way residential and commercial HVAC units are viewed as a whole. He can be reached at .



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