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Holiday Rental Controls
What are the options?
A problem facing many holiday property owners is guests overusing the air conditioning. If no controls are in place, then guests tend to leave the air conditioning running all the time, even when not required. There are a few ways to prevent this.
Coin operated meter
A popular method to limit control is by the use of coin timers/meters. Guests will be much more likely to limit their use of the air conditioning units if they are paying for the privilege. The coin meters work by only allowing the air conditioning to run whilst there is available credit in the meter, this is a problem but more about this later. The coin meters charge credit by either time or power consumption. A time-based system sets the rate by time, so, for example, 1€ gives 1 hours use. The problem with this method is that whether the guests are using 10 units flat-out or 1 unit carefully the charge will be the same. Charging by power consumption (like the utility companies do) is a much fairer system. This way the guests pay for what they use and rewards guests who use the air conditioning more efficiently. All good so far, but there are negatives to using coin meters. Firstly, modern air conditioning systems are inverter driven, this means when you switch off the unit, it switches off in a slow controlled manner and the outdoor fan continues to run for a few minutes to cool the electronics in the outdoor unit. With a coin meter fitted, it can't do this. This will not damage the unit but could reduce the lifespan of the system. This doesn't affect older non-inverter type systems. The other downside to coin meters is the security issue of having money in the apartment or villa. You would also need somebody to regularly empty the coin meter.
Single button control
A similar solution to coin meters for people who don't want to charge guests for using the air conditioning is a single button control. This works the same as the coin meter, except guests press a button instead of inserting a coin. Once the button has been pressed, the air conditioning will operate for a set amount of time (usually 2 hours) before switching off automatically. This does stop guests leaving the air conditioning running all the time but presents the same issues that the coin meter has with inverter units.
We have tried infra-red sensors on a few installations and found them to be hit and miss. The principle is the same as a burglar alarm and allows the air conditioning to operate whilst there is movement in the room. The problems we found are that there needs to be additional control circuitry to keep the air conditioning operating in between detections of movement, otherwise, the air conditioning unit will be constantly starting and stopping, which will damage it. The second thing is the sensors do not always detect someone who is sleeping. If the room is large or an irregular shape then there can be blind spots on the sensor and it can miss people in the room. Generally, we have found that this system only really works reliably, when the room is small and is a high activity zone, like a lounge or games room, even then we would not recommend this method. Again, they also have the same issue as the other options with inverter units.
A simple system consists of magnetic contacts fitted to doors and windows (the same type as burglar alarm systems) and linked to a control system. If any door or window is open then the air conditioning will not operate. It is important that is linked to the control system to add a delay between when a door or window is opened and when the air conditioning is switched off. If a suitable delay is not used, then the air conditioning could be constantly turning on and off, which puts a lot of stress on it and will eventually damage it.
Our preferred option is a system we have been developing ourselves through our sister company Xenaire. The problem with all the above solutions is they all control the air conditioning by cutting off the power to the system. This is not ideal and it is better to switch the system off first before cutting the power. Our solution resolves this by interfacing directly with the air conditioning system. It has several levels of control which cannot be overridden by the user. A timer can be set so the air conditioning will operate for a set amount of time before switching off. This stops people leaving the air conditioning on all the time. A minimum and maximum temperature can be set, so the guests cannot set the air conditioning too low or too high. This greatly reduces power consumption. The remote control remains unaffected, so guests will not be aware that a limit is in place. It also is installed inside the air conditioning unit, so is invisible to the user. Currently, this system only works with Daikin and Panasonic units. This is the cheapest and simplest option out of the above solutions.