Delighting guests and driving up revenue are constant challenges in the hotel sector. Without a balance between these two objectives, success can prove elusive, says Glyn Jones.
Getting the air conditioning right in the hotel sector is important because of its impact on costs, customer comfort and the environment. As the nights draw in, there are gradual changes in guests' requirements for heating and cooling.
Modern VRF air conditioning systems can provide year-round comfort and reliability as well as meeting the requirements of environmental legislation and energy efficiency targets.
The trouble is that people experience environmental conditions in different ways - with complaints from some guests that it's too hot, while others are feeling cold - and matching the demands imposed by these diverse experiences is a real challenge.
Some VRF products can meet different temperature needs in the same building, because they have heat recovery or heat pump capabilities, to improve customer comfort. The heat recovery operation significantly enhances energy efficiency and reduces operating costs.
Our own FSXN system, for example, offers a two-pipe system for open public areas and three-pipe heat recovery for guest bedrooms.
Control is everything - there is no point having a flexible air conditioning system if it is hard to access and operate. A BMS system enables heating and cooling to be controlled straight from hotel reception using a simple touchscreen.
Each guest can also set their heating or cooling requirements independently, tailored to criteria like the changing seasons, what time of day it is or whether a room is directly facing the sun or not.
Another common concern is that while air conditioning is cooling a warm room, it is causing a draught. A benefit of VRF products is their off coil limitation prevents annoying cold draughts, so it's easier to maintain an ideal room temperature, without the need to install expensive isothermal grilles. In the case of Hitachi's FSXN system, this is because the off-coil temperature is controlled by the CS Net Web to limit temperature to a selected design. The ideal off-coil temperature for adequate cooling has been proven to be 12 deg C, which prevents the discomfort associated with draughts caused by uncontrolled off-coil temperatures.
Advances in technology mean that VRF systems can offer an exceptional degree of installation flexibility with an excellent payback time through reduced running costs, making it a more viable commercial decision over traditional cooling/heating methods.
Compact and lightweight modular outdoor units provide appropriate solutions to tricky design, installation, space and aesthetic requirements.
However, there are things you can do to enhance cost saving. For example, look for a VRF system that has compressor rotation (which maintains the efficiency and increases the life expectancy of the unit). Also, check that it has a backup operation which prevents systems from stopping completely if a compressor fails.
• Glyn Jones is UK product marketing manager at Hitachi