Fighting Humidity in Hotels: An In-Depth Guide
When it comes to HVAC optimization and automation in hotels, the main goal of most owners is maintaining a comfortable temperature for guests while maximising savings. These are certainly important, but tracking and maintaining optimal humidity levels are far too often overlooked. However, excess moisture in the air can result in mildew, mold and bacteria that will damage walls, furniture, equipment and even the health of guests. This is why it’s essential to fight humidity in hotel spaces.
Understanding Humidity: The Basics
Humidity refers to the amount of moisture or water vapor in the air … (and) is measured by Percent Relative Humidity (%RH).
Before you can properly combat humidity in hotels, it’s necessary to first understand how it works. The numbers on a room’s thermostat show what’s known as the ambient temperature. This is the actual temperature of the room, and it’s sometimes referred to as the “dry bulb” temperature. This reading, however, tells you essentially nothing about humidity.
Instead, humidity refers to the amount of moisture or water vapour in the air. This is measured by Percent Relative Humidity (%RH) rather than degrees. A reading of 0%RH would mean the air is completely dry, but a reading of 100%RH would signify that the air is saturated and cannot hold additional moisture. At this point, the air could look foggy, condensation will develop on surfaces and – in an open environment – it could even begin to rain.
Of course, humidity isn’t the only factor when it comes to potential hotel room damage. The Dew Point is the final piece of this complex puzzle.
Hotels and the Dew Point Disaster
A basic understanding of humidity might lead to the conclusion that two rooms at 50%RH would have the same amount of water vapour in the air – and thus feel equal as humid. As it turns out, though, warmer air can hold much more moisture than air at cooler temperatures. Air at 30°C, for instance, can hold nearly double the amount of moisture as air at 20°C.
A room with high relative humidity…will often have an unreasonably high dew point. This means even cooling the room slightly can result in condensation.
This may still leave hoteliers wondering why all this matters. It comes down to the dew point. This is the critical temperature where moisture in the air becomes condensation on surface areas. This includes walls, furniture, electronics and every single crack or opening in a hotel room. Any temperature at or below the dew point can prove detrimental to the hotel’s infrastructure and its guests. Additionally, the room will become cold, clammy and uncomfortable.
You’re probably wondering what the critical dew point temperature is, right? Unfortunately, this can vary by room. A room with high relative humidity, for instance, will often have an unreasonably high dew point. This means even cooling the room slightly can result in condensation. As a general rule, a humidity level between 40% and 60% will create a comfortable atmosphere with a low dew point.
Thanks to the latest HVAC optimization and automation technology, these levels can be monitored and analyzed 24/7. This also allows for the automatic adjustment of room temperatures when guests aren’t around so that the appropriate dew points and humidity can be maintained.
How to Combat Humidity in Hotels
Now that you’ve got a basic understanding of humidity and dew points, it’s time to take real steps in preventing these issues. Solutions like SensorFlow can help monitor potential issues, but it’s how you respond to these problems that really matter. Here are a few tips on ensuring the ideal humidity, temperature and dew point levels in a hotel.
- Proper sized HVAC: Oversized HVAC units consume more energy and can cause the average relative humidity in a room to increase.
- Indoor fan use: Rooms located in very humid climates should have their indoor fans cycled off along with the compressor. This prevents the fan from blowing moisture from coils back into the room.
- Bathroom exhaust fan use: Some bathroom exhaust fans can increase relative humidity by pulling too much air from the outside. Recommendations from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating & Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) suggest per-person ventilation of 15 cubic feet per minute (CFM) or per-room ventilation of 30 CFM.
- Sensor-based use: Utilizing sensor-based energy management solutions – such as SensorFlow – can provide better management of a room’s average relative humidity by controlling and adjusting HVAC use based on occupancy.
- Low-flow showerheads: Using less hot water during showers can help keep relative humidity levels low as well. Low-flow showerheads and guest education can assist in this endeavour.
- Ensure proper insulation: Condensation from cold or hot water pipes can also increase a room’s humidity levels. Ensure all pipes are properly insulated to combat this issue.
- Keep to maintenance schedules: Clogged or dirty HVAC filters can restrict airflow and increase the humidity in a room. Monitoring systems like SensorFlow can identify maintenance needs and even predict potential issues, but even just sticking to a consistent maintenance schedule will go a long way to controlling humidity.
SensorFlow Key Findings on Humidity Issues
Preliminary results suggest that sun-facing rooms tend to experience higher humidity levels than those facing away from the sun.
In addition to taking appropriate actions to avoid harmful humidity levels, SensorFlow’s data is also able to provide insightful and actionable information. In fact, the analysis of collective data from multiple properties across Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok have provided several key insights that can help hoteliers combat humidity-related issues.
Here are just a few key insights:
- Constant data monitoring with SensorFlow’s system allowed us to reliably identify rooms that experienced high humidity levels (e.g. >80%RH) for prolonged periods of time (e.g. >50%). These were recognized as having the highest risk for humidity-related issues, so engineers could prioritize those rooms for maintenance.
- Preliminary results suggest that sun-facing rooms tend to experience higher humidity levels (~84%RH) than those facing away from the sun (~73%RH). This information could allow for improved construction in the future as well as for improving current strategies to better block direct sunlight from entering affected rooms.
- Properties that rent out rooms with multiple sub-rooms (e.g. larger suites, serviced apartments, multi-floor penthouses, etc.) can experience varying humidity levels within sub-rooms. Thanks to the in-depth analysis provided by SensorFlow, however, even specific sub-rooms can be singled out for engineer maintenance.
SensorFlow has proven invaluable for monitoring and responding to humidity-related problems. This capability will only improve as the amount of data available continues to increase with more hotels partnering up with SensorFlow.
The Future of Controlling Humidity in Hotels
The economic and health costs related to uncontrolled humidity is well-documented. Fortunately, SensorFlow is working hard to combat this issue. In the past few months alone, over 1,000 rooms across Vietnam, Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore have been equipped with SensorFlow’s smart automation technology. There are an additional 70,000 units in the sales pipeline, and this is just a small step towards the 800,000 units SensorFlow aims to have installed across the region by 2022.
On (a) larger scale, SensorFlow’s technology will help create new industry benchmarks to facilitate improvements in HVAC energy management, operational strategies and sustainability initiatives across the entire hospitality sector.
An increased footprint across APAC means more than just improving HVAC automation and energy optimisation in the region. It also means an improved ability to collect and analyse industry-relevant data. Local, regional and even global comparisons across brands will become possible, but each individual brand will also be able to compare statistics and performance across branches. This will allow for the prioritisation of resources for maintenance and repair. On an even larger scale, SensorFlow’s technology will help create new industry benchmarks to facilitate improvements in HVAC energy management, operational strategies and sustainability initiatives across the entire hospitality sector.
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