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Report: That Hotel Room Thermostat Might Just Be for Show Only

Report: That Hotel Room Thermostat Might Just Be for Show Only
Jeff Edwards

Chances are, many hotel guests are only given the illusion of in-room climate control with the actual temperature pre-set or controlled from elsewhere.

A new study confirms what many frequent flyers have long suspected. A report by The Wall Street Journal finds that many hotel thermostats only give the appearance of allowing guests to raise or lower the temperature.

According to an investigation by the WSJ’s Scott McCartney, thermostats that allow guests to adjust settings for heat or air conditioning are, in many cases, pre-set for optimum economy or at the very least dependent on sensors that limit how warm or how cool a room gets no matter what temperature the thermostat reads. A large number of properties are also said to employ motion detectors to save energy when rooms are unoccupied, however briefly.

“The humble hotel wall thermostat, once just a mechanical temperature sensor and fan-speed switch, has become an infrared heat and motion detector wirelessly networked into building controls that cut costs by reducing energy consumption,” McCartney explains in the report. “Many are tied to door switches, shutting off when people leave the room or even open a window or balcony door.”

According to the research, more and more thermostats are being retrofitted to pry control away from guests, and instead obey a series of protocols determined by hotel management. As might be expected, the growing trend towards computer- rather than human-controlled climate settings is very much inspired by the quest for a healthy bottom line. After Hilton adopted the practice in many of its properties more than five years ago, energy use decreased by nearly 15 percent.

There is some good news in the report for tech-savvy travelers. Like many modern inconveniences, there is often a hack that will allow consumers to reassert dominance over the AC. A Google search of the thermostat model will, in some cases, reveal a workaround to allow guests to input their own preferred temperature settings.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (5)


  1. KRSW

    February 7, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    I’ve bypassed many thermostats over the years. Sometimes I’ve even had to jumper-out the thermostat using a paperclip. I have no problem with hotels wanting to save money — BUT not at the expense of my comfort and/or sleep. Nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night with a stuffy nose because the AC shut down and humidity’s almost dripping off the walls.

    If hotels want to save $ on AC, look at lowering your indoor humidity! People feel far more comfortable at a wider range of temperatures in low humidity. We did this at our office building awhile back. They used to run the ACs from ~65F-72F. Now with humidity control, it’s ~40% humidity 75F-80F and everyone’s comfortable.

  2. AsiaTraveler

    February 7, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    I don’t mind hotels trying to control their costs to a point. The motion activated ones are ridiculous, though. Clearly, there are 6-8 hours when people are sleeping and typically not at the sensor level. The heat turning off isn’t terrible, but waking up sweltering after the a/c has been off for hours is not cool.

  3. IAN-UK

    February 9, 2017 at 4:56 am

    Anyone want to help with how to bypass thermostats ? Increasing i’m waking up in an uncomfortably warm room at 3 am.

  4. snn47


    February 9, 2017 at 6:49 am

    What about the health risk due to defective/turned of AC?

    Similar to when an AC is defective, leaving the AC off when a room is not occupied/rented to guest, is especially in an warmer environments a health risk. Then bacteria and fungus will grow. At the Dakar Meridien all AC were not working for days. Meridien reservation however did not find it necessary to inform us during reservation. Back at home I had to consult a Dr, who luckily for me sent in a swipe for a test. It took a few days for the (expensive) test results to return, and luckily there was an antibiotic left that the bacteria was not immune against.

    Other hotels
    – do not repair their AC for years (e.g. Paris Neuyille),
    – bypass room controls enforcing winter, summer or fixed temperature setting for all rooms
    – Limit the air volume that the ventilator in the AC can push through the heat exchanger reducing the cooling power to value not sufficient for cooling the room down (e.g. Holiday Inn Brussel airport)

    Most hotels have not a sufficient AC cooling power to just compensate the heat getting into the room due to badly isolated rooms/ windows. If you are lucky you can leave the shades closed to reduce to help the AC a bit (e.g. Double Tree Orlando airport).
    The higher the floor the warmer rooms can get, which often the floor awarded to frequent guests.

  5. Jasatt

    February 9, 2017 at 7:29 pm

    I once about froze to death at a beautiful light house hotel in New Groton CT, in a January. They only had a wall unit that had been painted a couple of days before and they painted the low wall unit door shut. Try as I might I could not get it open. At 2:00 AM with a meeting at the Navy base the next morning, all I could think do was run a hot bath and try to sleep in that all night but I had to keep draining it and refilling it. I feel so stupid now for not waking up management and complaining

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