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The Key to Power in Your Hotel Room

Posted November 10, 2017 10:44 AM by BestInShow
Pathfinder Tags: key card switch

On my recent trip to Greece I realized how well-trained I am to recycle stuff – soda cans, paper, plastic, stray bits of metal – when I couldn’t find any containers for these basic recyclables. Here and there at tourist sites I’d find a spot to dump a can. And at Athens International Airport the round waste receptacles are divided into thirds, with spots for paper, cans, and everything else. In general, though, I didn’t see much evidence that recycling is important.

However, all of the four hotels Mr. Best in Show and I stayed in had an energy-saving feature neither of us had encountered: a key card switch. Just inside the room door, there’s a small receptacle with a key-card slot. When the hotel guest inserts a key card, the power comes on. Before we knew about this marvelous invention, we thought our hotel in Athens had given us a dud room. A side benefit is that you always know the whereabouts of at least one key card.

After we got home I learned that these power-saving systems are common in European hotels. Since we stayed in apartments for our two previous European vacations, we didn’t know about them. And no US hotel or motel either of us had graced with our presence offered such a system. Why not?

Several sources I consulted estimate that energy costs soak up between four and six percent of a hotel’s total expenditures. Maybe US hoteliers don’t think the savings are worth the expense? Maybe guest comfort – and the sense that the guest controls her own environment -- are more important than saving money? Or are better systems in the offing?

The answer is a combination of these, and other, reasons. Nine years ago, Brian McGuinness, who at the time was a VP of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, explained that for hotel guests “part of being on the road means the ability to live a little more luxuriously than at home, and that means not having to turn off the lights and the TV.” Even upscale hotel brands like Starwood’s Element don’t have keycard switch systems.

Hotel owners also point out that key card switches are on the way out. Last year a retired Marriott executive said that more secure systems controlled by a guest’s cell phone will supplant key cards. Hotel rooms will also get smarter, relying on sensors that know when a room is occupied and thus in need of HVAC and live outlets for charging assorted devices.

Some US hotels, generally independently-run properties in older buildings, have found key card switch systems to be a good choice. Leviton, a Long Island-based manufacturer of key card systems, reports that system sales have increased 25 to 30 percent between 2014 and 2016. California’s tough energy standards are driving a big chunk of the increase, but other hoteliers are also fans. Guests by and large embrace the systems.

Unlike those we used in Greece, some systems allow guests to designate which circuits the cards control – so you can let your smartphone, e-reader, and laptop charge while you’re out of the room. Yeah, we finally realized that we had to have power to charge our stuff and we didn’t have power when we were out. We coped.

Image credit: Hotel key card holder. The holder contains a simple switch that will turn on the lights in the room. Photographed in Sokos Hotel Vaakuna in Mikkeli Finland. Public domain

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#1

Re: The Key to Power in Your Hotel Room

11/10/2017 11:29 AM

Did you check your bill to see if you were paying for the juice?

When I lived in Wales, I had a friend who rented a flat that had a coin-operated power meter.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: The Key to Power in Your Hotel Room

11/10/2017 11:38 AM

What a pain in the arse these must be....

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#3

Re: The Key to Power in Your Hotel Room

11/10/2017 1:20 PM

The Marriott Residence Inn I stayed at recently had an occupancy sensor. I noticed that the AC kicked on when I entered the room after being away all day. But that was only for the thermostat, which makes sense since the highest electrical load is most likely the AC or heat.

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#4

Re: The Key to Power in Your Hotel Room

11/10/2017 3:28 PM

Several sources I consulted estimate that energy costs soak up between four and six percent of a hotel’s total expenditures. Maybe US hoteliers don’t think the savings are worth the expense?

Was tha 4 to 6% of a hotel's total expenditure based on US hotels, European hotels are hotels world wide?

Energy costs in Europe are generally substantially higher than those in the US. It may not be that US hoteliers don't THINK the savings are worth the expense, it may be that the savings ISN'T worth expense.

Your post is timely as I arrived in Brussels yesterday for a 10 day business trip. My room has such a device. I've encountered them numerous times in the past. In general I don't like them. I understand why hotels use them as many people are extremely wasteful. But as you point out, it's problematic as we need to charge things when we are not in our room.

I'm not here sight seeing, I'm here for work. I am connected to my office network via VPN. It's not efficient for me (a waste of my and my company's time and therefore money) to have my PC disconnected from the company network when I step out to get some lunch or dinner.

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#5
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Re: The Key to Power in Your Hotel Room

11/10/2017 3:33 PM

Let us know of any good sights ye find in Brussels, and of any other delights ye find.

Then we will get together here for another round of singing, "roll the old chariot along".

..if the wind were in our sails.

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#6
In reply to #4

Re: The Key to Power in Your Hotel Room

11/10/2017 4:20 PM

Good point. That figure is for the US. One of the sources I read, written in 2014 by a faculty member at Berkeley, mentioned that European energy prices were higher but on a par with those in CA. I think you're right about the cost-benefit analysis for US hoteliers; local variations in energy costs probably play into the decision.

I found a very good European study from 2011 that looked specifically at hotel energy use and the potential to use renewable sources (which would make sense to me in sunny/windy locations like Greece). However it didn't spell out what chunk of hotel expenses come from energy bills.

Hope you'll have a safe trip. If you see any interesting technology, you're invited to write a blog about it.

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#7

Re: The Key to Power in Your Hotel Room

11/11/2017 1:08 AM

I've seen these electrical controls all over the parts of the world that I've travelled. They ae relatively "dumb" and I've found that by inserting a business card, you can maintain the necessary "comfort" levels for your return.

India with ambient 40DegC plus, or USA (Detroit) in winter.

As far as recycling opportunity, very few places have this available, probably since the bin liners cannot be included in the recycle process and so this added difficulty negates the benefit to the property owner.

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#12
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Re: The Key to Power in Your Hotel Room

11/13/2017 7:47 AM

I've seen these in China for many years. It usually also turns the air or heat on. They even take it a step farther and won't turn on said heat or air until authorized by the government. I think it's a specific day; I don't stay in hotels there much anymore so I don't remember.

Yes, another card will usually work, but I have been to a couple higher end hotels that must actually read the card. This also lets the staff know when you are in the room or not. Possibly also tracking room usage.

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#14
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Re: The Key to Power in Your Hotel Room

11/14/2017 4:24 AM

Yes, I've also been to those that "read" the card. I just get a second card for the "double room" and use the spare.

The card reading types are used for "smart management" so that for evacuations they know every room to search and also when to NOT go to a room to make it up or service the bathroom.

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#15
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Re: The Key to Power in Your Hotel Room

11/14/2017 6:57 AM

Once in Beijing my wife left the room with some family and took the card from the slot. I didn't mind; it was my and my daughter's nap-time. It wasn't long: though I had fallen asleep, there was a slight knock, enough to wake me up, and the door opened. The girl apologized profusely while asking for my card. I found it and she quickly placed it in the slot and shut the door. (As she left. This was real life, not an adult movie.)

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#8

Re: The Key to Power in Your Hotel Room

11/12/2017 2:06 AM

I wonder if they sell the time that you are in your room to a third party that will use the information to try and sell you specific items.

Also, can the system can be hacked by a thief to know when you are in your room so you can be robbed while your out ?

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#10
In reply to #8

Re: The Key to Power in Your Hotel Room

11/12/2017 9:32 PM

First sentence -probably.

Second sentence - definitely.

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#9

Re: The Key to Power in Your Hotel Room

11/12/2017 6:09 PM

Even if I'm out of the room I'm still paying for it, whether the electric is on or off should be my decision, not the landlords'...The landlords job is to make sure the room is equipped with everything I'm paying for, use of things in the room is at my discretion....Do I get credit for unused towels, maid service, frugal use of electricity, wrapped glasses, unused bed and other things I'm paying for? A lot of Hotels include the cost of robes for guests, what if I don't need another robe, do I get a credit? No...I don't like walking into a hot room and then waiting for it to cool back down every time I leave....The hospitality industry is not the place to scrimp, it's the place to splurge...the idea is to make your guests comfortable, happy, pampered,, not like an unwanted hardship....it also gives the impression that the management may be inclined to cut corners in other ways to save money, such as cleanliness and quality, safety and security, and fosters an uneasiness that is working against what should be the management's goals...

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#11
In reply to #9

Re: The Key to Power in Your Hotel Room

11/13/2017 2:43 AM

So, you must have a supply of these:

and these:and a few of these?

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#13
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Re: The Key to Power in Your Hotel Room

11/13/2017 8:39 AM

Even worse is being told that the management of the hotel has decided that the air conditioning for the building has been turned off for the season. We recently ran into this in Italy on a 90F day in September. It took two hours of bargaining with the staff to get it switched back on.

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#16

Re: The Key to Power in Your Hotel Room

11/14/2017 8:37 AM

First time I stayed at a hotel in Europe I did not know about these either. Arrived at the room after a long overnight flight and couldn't figure out the electricity, but still got a good nap in. After waking up and darkness approaching, I asked the front desk and they showed me. One good thing about these devices is you always know where your key is (at least when you are in the room.)

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#17

Re: The Key to Power in Your Hotel Room

11/15/2017 2:07 PM

Also found in Hong Kong and Chinese hotels

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Re: The Key to Power in Your Hotel Room

11/15/2017 2:29 PM
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