Most of us in the U.S. try not to waste electricity, especially these days when so many of us are watching our pennies. When we travel, though, it’s easier to forget to turn off lights or televisions. We’re thinking instead about where to go for a meal or what shopping to squeeze into our trip. There’s little thought given to how much juice we are sucking from the local power grid; maybe we assume the price of the hotel room includes as much electricity as we want. Or we don’t think about it at all.
There are many places in Europe – and I’m sure this goes beyond Europe – where you will use less power than you would at home because electrical systems are designed to provide power only as long as you need it.
The types of electrical switches I’ve come across are brilliant innovations and could easily be made more widely available in the U.S., not just in hotels but also for residential use.
The first type of switch controlled the hallway lights at my small hotel in Paris. There were no windows in the hall, so it was dark even during the day. When I got out of the elevator, I found the light switch and the hallway lights came on as hoped. My room was at the end of the hall, farthest from the elevator but I didn’t know that so I was reading all the room numbers and, about halfway down the hall, the lights went out. Pitch black. Wooooo! At first I thought the bulb had blown out, but there was more than one fixture in the hall and they had all gone out simultaneously. Hmmmm. There was no one in the hall turning the lights off. Hmmmm. After a few seconds standing in the dark, I saw another switch, identical to the one I’d hit near the elevator not far from where I stood. I tried it and voila! the hall lights came on again. I wasted no time finding my room; the lights went out again as I unlocked the door and stepped into my room, bright with light from the windows.
The other clever invention for energy conservation is the room key power slot. This is how it works… Inside your hotel room door, usually next to the door frame, is an eye-height slot where your hotel room electronic key-card fits perfectly. This is more than just a great way to remember your key-card when you leave the room: until you put the key-card in the slot, there is no electrical power in the room. Card into the slot: light switch works, TV works, electric kettle works. Bingo! The first place I experienced this was in Sofia, Bulgaria, but I’m finding it in more and more cities and countries.
While on the subject of electricity – very often, individual wall outlets will have their own power switches. Sooo… if you did everything else right and the electric kettle or whatever you turned on still doesn’t power on, check to see if the wall socket has a switch and fiddle with that before calling the desk.