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Keeping cool under one roof

Imagine a hot scorching summer day in the Okanagan. A vacationing family heads out of their hotel for an afternoon at the lake, while the air conditioner continues to push cold air into the empty room. Now multiply this scene by thousands of Okanagan guest rooms — that’s a lot of electricity used to cool empty rooms at hoteliers’ expense, with no value to guests.

And while keeping hotel guests comfortable is a priority for Kelowna Accent Inns, so is energy efficiency and keeping energy costs under control.

It’s why the hotel installed occupancy sensors in each of its rooms to automatically adjust cooling or heating based on room occupancy, thus curbing energy use without impacting guests’ comfort or privacy.

“When guests are in the room, they can still control the heating or cooling. As long as they are in the room, the room is theirs,” explains David Splawski, operations manager for Accent Inns.  “When they leave, it goes back to pre-set limits, rather than heating or cooling a vacant room.”

The work was also an easy retrofit—the whole system for the 116-room hotel was ready to go in less than two days. Essentially, it was just a matter of installing the room sensors and then relaying them to the HVAC system.

Hoteliers can choose between a basic system that automatically adjusts the temperature to preset settings, or more sophisticated wireless systems that are less visible to occupants and adjusts both temperature and lighting.

Splawski says guests’ privacy was a primary concern. With a small sensor unit in one corner of the room connected directly to the heating and cooling unit, the room temperature adjusts automatically and staff need not enter the guest’s room to control unnecessary energy use.

“You wouldn’t even know it’s there,” he adds.

Installing occupancy sensors not only makes sense financially by reducing energy costs, but it’s a benefit to the environment by reducing energy demand.

“This was a key motivator for us,” says Splawski. “Not only did we do the right thing for us, but we’re doing our part to conserve energy and reduce greenhouse gases overall.”

With the help of FortisBC PowerSense, the system installed at Kelowna Accent Inns will pay for itself in less than three years. The sensors are expected to conserve 128,898 kWh annually — that’s equivalent to powering 10 average sized homes for a year. With nearly $7,000 from FortisBC and expected annual savings of $10,000, their initial investment of about $28,000 is covered quickly plus they will benefit from long-term cost savings.

The technology is ideal for the Okanagan. Other Okanagan hotel properties with sensors already include the Holiday Inn Express in Kelowna and the Ramada Hotel in Penticton. It’s also installed in the new student residences at UBC’s Okanagan campus.

Rebates from occupancy sensors are just one of the many financial incentives offered through FortisBC to help businesses conserve energy. For more information about occupancy sensors, lighting and other upgrades that are eligible for support through FortisBC, call 1-866-436-7847, email