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Old 06-18-12, 11:25 AM   #1
bennelson
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Default Confusing European Hotel Light Switch



You think I would be smart enough to figure out how to turn on the lights.

Apparently, I am not. I just returned from a trip to Vienna, Austria. I was invited there by a University and auto components manufacturer to participate in a “think-tank” program to help create innovative fuel, energy, and carbon-saving features on the cars of the future. But first, I had to check into my hotel room.

Let’s just say that I had already crossed enough time zones that I wasn’t exactly thinking straight anyways. Combine that with my LACK of any knowledge of the local language, and drop me off in a hotel room.

I looked around and didn’t see anything that looked like the typical American light switch. Instead, there were large square toggles, but they didn’t do anything. I flipped several and nothing happened. I also went to the lamps in the room and rotated the switches on the lamps, with no effect either.

Hmmm. It took me a bit to realize that there was an odd card-slot device near the front door. I hadn’t noticed and walked right past when I came in. I experimentally stuck my room card key in, and one of the lights in the room came on. I went around the room and tested the various square toggles, and was able to turn on all the lights.

I’m sure to some of you, I sound like a complete fool. OF COURSE that’s how that works. OF COURSE those big square things are light switches. It’s funny how so many little things are taken for granted – unless, you simply don’t know about them. (It reminds me a bit of the film DEMOLITION MAN, where neither Sylvester Stallone, or the audience, understands the “Three Shells” in the bathroom, but it’s obvious to the people of the future…..)

Once I figured out the “room lights kill switch”, it was hard not to think it was a great idea. I’ve always disliked how hotel rooms are typically set up, when I have to walk all over to turn off lights and lamps individually before leaving, or waste energy leaving several on.

So how else could we apply this? Many American homes have “switched outlets” for lamps, which could also be used for other electronics which don’t need to be on while you aren’t home. Perhaps the home of the future might have a big switch right next to the front door that turns off all non-essential circuits when you leave the home?

Anyways, I feel just slightly less foolish, and a little better traveled for the experience.

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Old 06-18-12, 02:55 PM   #2
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Ben, don't worry about the door key slot - I would have sat in the dark for a few days, and have found out how it worked when I checked out at the reception I stayed one night in the Vienna airport hotel and don't recall those slots, but that was back in 2005.

It is a good idea, though. I sometimes turn off the circuit breakers for the upstairs and the basement when I leave the house and know that no-one will be back before me. The breakers are next to the front door, so it might just be my laziness not wanting to go back upstairs to turn off the router when I won't be needing it. One idea is to have the house alarm system (if you have one) turn off everything except a few outlets (fridge, heating/cooling, entrance hall lights) when in 'Away' mode. Another is to have a set of hooks for the house's occupants' keys. If all hooks are empty, then the house is empty, so most things can be turned off.

On the other hand, automatization can make you forget about simple, everyday things you do. I don't know about the rest of you, but at my age I need to keep training my memory to keep it from wimping out on me

The rocker-type light switches are pretty much standard in Europe, I haven't seen any of the American style flip-type switches here. It turns out that some Europeans would be just as confused if dropped in a hotel a few time zones west of home. Found this.
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Old 06-23-12, 07:33 AM   #3
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Sounds like a great idea to me. I know I have a base load on my house of about 100W (2.4 kWh/day). It would be great to lower it.
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Old 06-23-12, 08:17 AM   #4
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100 watt base-load sounds pretty good, compared to what I have seen for typical houses in our area.

One day, I played around with my circuit breakers and a power meter, and it was really hard to get below 55 watts. I have smoke detectors that run on AC house power (with battery backup) and a few other things that I want to make sure are always on.

It would be really easy to design a house in new construction with an electrical system designed for efficiency in mind. Retro-fits tend to be more difficult, more expensive, and give less bang for the buck.

There is one thing that I can think of as a simple "starter-plan" for household electric conservation....

For people who have switched outlets (designed to remotely turn lamps on and off) you could plug other non-essential electric items into the switched half of the outlet. When you leave the room, you flip the light switch, and kill all the phantom loads in the room.

It used to be that items like VCRs, televisions, and fancy stereo tuners were a real hassle if you had to unplug them. Typically, you would need to reset the clock, the timer, reprogram all the stations. But that isn't necessarily true anymore. Many "Energy Star" and other newer electronics have capacitors or batteries inside that saves all that information. I can unplug my LCD television, and when I plug it back in, everything is fine - no reprogramming or anything.

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