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Air conditioning: the science of well-being

The need to air condition is now clear throughout the profession. But its implementation is sometimes delicate. Between technical, budgetary and environmental requirements, its installation is no light matter. Particularly when alternative solutions are developing at the same time...

When it comes to air conditioning in the hotel industry, there is the year before and the year after summer 2003. According to an Icom Survey by MKG Consulting that included 262 air-conditioned hotels, nearly 68% of them adopted the technology after the disastrous heat wave. One good reason for this: all those properties that were already equipped saw their occupancy shoot up that summer... Not only did demand experience unprecedented growth, but it also affected all categories. Consequently air conditioning is no longer just for international upscale properties. In just a few years it has gone from being a luxury accessory to a standard offer the same way –or almost– the television did. Two-star and even one-star segments now constitute a real market. Still, according to the study, up to 22% of no-star hotels are air conditioned! The trend towards equipping these economy segments mostly concerns low-cost chains that saw air conditioning as a way to differentiate themselves. Etap Hotel or B&B, for example, launched major campaigns to equip their respective inventories. The final goal is for everyone to benefit from this installation. The market remains vast since 85% of today’s hotels did not have air conditioning when they opened...A final, more pragmatic, argument that is considerable plays in favor of the fan: artificial cooling through air conditioning costs 20 to 30 times more and tends to dry out the air, which bothers some people. At a time when scientists agree that the climatic change is only going to continue in an increasing manner, climate control at hotels is becoming an absolute priority. But each site has its particular needs. What works at one may be insufficient at another (or present unpleasant secondary effects). Because of this, the reflection and analysis phase is the most important. And in this field there is nothing like professional advice...The heat wave is an extreme situation, but air conditioning is hardly a gadget, even during “normal” periods. Sleep quality is partly a function of the energy a body must exert to regulate its temperature. The less effort it has to make to stay at 37°, the nicer and more refreshing the night’s sleep will be. And we all know what customers want first and foremost... International clientele, in particular, have difficulty conceiving of any lack of air conditioning, which for them is as obvious an amenity as heating in the winter. So it is difficult to draw the line at such a device. And yet this is often where things get complicated. With the multitude of solutions available, where does one go? What is best for this or that property?The air conditioning systems currently available use one of two techniques: direct expansion or the cold water system. As is often the case, it is difficult to determine whether one is better than the other as each presents advantages and disadvantages depending on the hotel type. A certain number of parameters must be considered:-* air hygiene, -* the integration of air conditioned rooms into the design, -* acoustic comfort...Philippe Van Tinh, president of Van Froid Climatisation, is very familiar with these questions. According to him, the most important criteria during installation are the “geographic and architectural environment, particularly if the building is listed or historic; the hotel’s category and, of course, the client’s budget”.In short, one modus operandi is case by case. The hotelier’s goal remains receiving a return on his investment. Today, direct expansion systems are the most frequently chosen for hotels. Its advantage is that it uses smaller tubes and thus less bulky structures. There is no risk in case of leakage thanks to a cooling liquid that rapidly evaporates in the air unlike water. Its installation is also easier when it comes to renovations... All these advantages are noteworthy. But every rose has its thorn: this equipment is limited in terms how many rooms it can treat, and it is often more costly to install (even if in the long term its maintenance cost is lower).Maintenance is, in fact, at least as important as the choice of the equipment itself. “It is the hotelier’s only guarantee that he can concentrate only on his business,” explains Philippe Van Tinh. “Inspection and cleaning of heat exchangers and filters makes it possible to guarantee a clean installation with low energy consumption for the client. This is why Van Froid Climatisation offers global maintenance contracts for up to seven years including labor, visits and materials. Thus, the property’s administrator has certain fixed operating costs for this entire seven-year period, which corresponds to the average frequency for renovating a property”.But is indirect air conditioning, which is based on a cold water system, so inappropriate for hotels? this is not so certain. It can prove to be more appropriate for wide scale installation in an entire supply, particularly on the mid-scale and economy segments. The system is less flexible, but it performs better when it is a matter of regulating the temperature of vast surface areas. The situation is difficult to analyze and often requires help from a specialist. Most suppliers and installers can provide expert advice. They will be the most able to determine the best solution for a property.Fans set trends astir Not so popular, or at least not well known in Europe, the ceiling fan is a standard fixture in North America. And yet things are changing and the phenomenon could easily intensify to respond to the “green fever” that is taking over the planet. “It is today’s great concern,” confirms Claude Pichegru of the company Guibb. “It satisfies both a need and a fashion. Ceiling fans are totally in this vein. In a way it is a solution that is happy just giving nature a little help. It does not pollute at all. It involves no complicated cooling equipment...”Despite being impact-free for the environment, ceiling fans have often been classified in the public eye as simple “automatic hand-held fans”. This disregards their other hidden talents. That they cool in the summer is clear, but they are also able to help heat in the winter by pushing warm air down to the ground. Beneficial in the summer, the winter... and even between seasons. “Between seasons they are also useful when rooms must remain closed: when several people occupy a room, and it is neither hot nor cold, but the room must remain closed for one reason or another (outside noise, need for calm...), fans can homogenize air, making it more pleasant. And that, without feeling the movement, thanks to a system that compensates by using aspirating and pressure pumps via des pompes apirantes/refoulantes and inverting the direction of the blades”.By setting open spaces to their best advantage, this equipment also prevents violent temperature changes upon entering and leaving a room. In the fan range, innovations are keeping pace, particularly in terms of design. While air conditioning systems target discretion and try to be as invisible as possible, the fan has no other choice but to be visually appealing and integrate the decor. And this can be an advantage when it becomes an element that contributes to the room’s ambiance. “Hunter, the brand we distribute, is in the lead in this area,” stresses Claude Pichegru. “They sell a replica of the first fan, which is more than a hundred years old through its Classic Original range. It is a fine object made of cast iron with retro appeal. Other models take inspiration from the Art deco period and the design trend of the 30s known as Streamline”. Most models are available in three and five blade versions. It is all matter of aesthetics: the three blade models are lighter, more discrete, while five blade models are massive objects with a strong presence that can participate in the overall decoration scheme.A final, more pragmatic, argument that is considerable plays in favor of the fan: artificial cooling through air conditioning costs 20 to 30 times more and tends to dry out the air, which bothers some people. At a time when scientists agree that the climatic change is only going to continue in an increasing manner, climate control at hotels is becoming an absolute priority. But each site has its particular needs. What works at one may be insufficient at another (or present unpleasant secondary effects). Because of this, the reflection and analysis phase is the most important. And in this field there is nothing like professional advice...

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