As new hotels are built and others in Costa Rica begin to modernize a number have added a system that theoretically helps save energy. In fact it’s complicated pain in the neck that doesn’t accomplish anything.
The assumption driving the system is that guests are too irresponsible and wasteful to be relied on to turn off extra lights and the air conditioner when they leave the room.
The system requires the room entry keycard (only one issued per room) to be inserted in a detector inside the door to turn the power on in the room.
In theory it keeps a lot of energy from being wasted in empty rooms. In practice it’s hugely inconvenient, annoying and doesn’t save anything.
In practice I get up at 4:30 a.m. and head out for a walk while Sue “sleeps in.” I usually return around 5:30, do a little work on the computer, start the coffee and then deliver it to her in bed around 6:00 or so.
With the keycard system I have the choice of either being locked out of the room and banging on the door to wake her up to open it or taking the key leaving her in the dark with no air-conditioning.
I’ve learned to threaten and cajole the reception desk into giving us a second keycard.
Not Even Marginally Useful
At one point I thought the system might still be useful as as an energy saving master switch – a quick easy way to shut things down when we were both leaving the room. Unfortunately it’s not even good for that because it shuts down too much.
We tried it when we headed out for a four hour tour on the canopy bridges in Monteverde. We returned around lunch time, packed everything up and hopped in the car to head to our next destination on the beach.
Along the way we discovered that the phone we had left charging in the room while exploring the cloud forest was completely dead along with the spare camera batteries.
Out of the four hours we thought they had charged they only got five or ten minutes before we left and after we returned because of course the clever keycard energy saver system had shut down the power to the outlets.
How to Disable It
Get a spare keycard at check-in and leave it in the detector effectively negating the entire system…except for the resources wasted to install it and the energy required to operate it while it does nothing.
We manually turn off the air-conditioner and lights just like we would in a completely Luddite style room with no expensive computerized rf-id keycard interlock system.
About half of the properties we’ve stayed at with the system have had enough complaints that they provide a spare card at check-in.