Since the start of the “going green” movement in the lodging industry, every company has been looking for a way to do its share in reducing waste and making products more environmentally friendly and energy efficient. In 2011, many hotels may be switching out their old HVAC systems for new ones.
When the Clean Air Act was passed last year, the government mandated that all manufacturers must change their systems to R-410A, meaning that all air conditioning and heat pump units in North America must use chlorine-free refrigerants. Refrigerants prior to this mandate contained chlorine, which is harmful to the ozone. Many companies saw this switch coming and began preparing their companies not only to create these new systems, but also create a competitive edge with visually appealing products.
These days, guests may find themselves looking at the art on a guestroom wall and realize that the picture is more than just a piece of art. It’s actually regulating the temperature in the room. It’s part of a technological progression that is being made from the large, loud, white box near the window that many hotel guests are accustomed to seeing. The art, in fact, is an environmentally friendly HVAC system.
Steve Schmitt, the director of commercial air conditioning at LG Electronics, saw this change coming and wanted LG to be on top of its game when hotels were ready to switch out their old HVAC systems for new environmentally friendly ones. “In conjunction with that we asked ourselves, ‘How do we create unique and environmentally efficient system,’’’ he says.
LG found that the best way to create unique products was to offer hotels the ability to customize HVAC systems to blend in and or add to the guestroom’s décor. “There are a couple of different options. Owners can choose a photo to insert into the piece of equipment or they can opt to use a mirror,” Schmitt says. “They can also choose the color of the frame that goes around it. We offer full and semi-customization.”
Although customization and visual allure is an way to appeal to hotels, the most important factor in these new HVAC systems is efficiency. “There are a lot of different ways we create efficiency. We use a compressor technology,” Schmitt says. “What the technology does is more closely match the output of the product, through algorithms, with the demand.” Compared to a conventional system, these new HVACs are about 20 to 30 percent more efficient.
Furthermore, Schmitt says, “We all think about the products that are needed on the hottest day of the year. The rest of the time it may be hot, you may need air conditioning, but you do not need it at the full capacity.”
Another aspect of these new products is that having the system slow itself down can control humidity, giving the guest more comfort in a humid climate.
LG is not the only company to come out with a new HVAC system recently. Goodman Global Group Inc. manufactures the Amanda brand Digi- Smart control system. “The Digi-Smart control system can offer savings up to 35 percent compared to standard PTAC units, ” says Rex Anderson, director of communications at Goodman Global Group Inc. The product does not offer customization, but is very efficient.
Anderson also points out that “It allows the hotel owner to control the heating and cooling unit when the room is not occupied. When the room is occupied, room sensors allow the unit to reduce the heating or cooling operation should the occupant leave the room for an extended period of time. In addition, the Digi-Smart system can be used as the base for an entire wireless comfort network for the hotel.”
Along with being environmentally conscious, these systems are also easy on the wallet. Anderson says, “Heating and cooling system for hotels consume large amounts of energy. By utilizing a systems that offers a high level of energy efficiency coupled with remote monitors, a hotel can save substantially with regard to the utility bills.”
Although a hotel will have to initially spend money to save the money, there are several rebates available when buying these new systems. “We are seeing utility rebates on wireless wall thermostats, so if you bring that together with the money you save on your energy bill, there is added benefit of savings on the back,” Schmitt said,
When it comes to investing in new HVAC systems hotels have to look at the big picture. The initial cost is more than just an investment that will save them money on their energy bill; it is an investment in everyone’s future. Older systems use chlorine refrigerants, which are dangerous to our ozone layer, which is essentially the cause of global warming. By replacing these systems hotels are not only giving guests a more comfortable room, they are also helping to protect the environment.