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Hotel Tech-in: The smart shower heads combatting water waste

Several hotel groups are now testing Oasense shower heads, which maximize water flow rates to reduce waste.


Published Feb. 28, 2024 By Noelle Mateer



Some 30% of hotel water usage comes from bathrooms in a property’s guest rooms, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. And what’s more, the average 300-room hotel wastes 1 million gallons of hot water annually, according to a study conducted by the city of Seattle.  


“We’ve heard from hotel managers, especially at these convention hotels, and they said people will just turn on hot water and watch TV for an hour because they’re trying to steam their clothes,” said Chih-Wei Tang, CEO of smart showerhead company Oasense, with a laugh. 


Most hotel guests don’t waste water that egregiously, of course. But even eco-conscious travelers end up wasting water — while they wait for it to heat up, for example. 


Tang and his co-founders launched Oasense in 2019 to design and sell shower heads to automatically reduce water flow in the moments when it’s not necessary. Since then, the hotel industry has taken an interest. 


Water scarcity


Oasense began as merely an idea, in 2018. California suffered a severe drought that year, bringing water conservation to the forefront of residents’ minds, including the Stanford University-based co-founders. 


Water-reducing shower heads were already something that existed, but their low flow of water usually created a poor showering experience. Tang believes that water reduction “doesn’t need to be terrible.” Oasense worked to create a shower head that would reduce waste while keeping the experience of showering pleasant. 


Hotels were a natural fit for the technology, but by the time the product was ready to be tested, the pandemic hit. Oasense shifted its strategy to market its product to consumers interested in making their home bathrooms more eco-friendly, all while tweaking design. 


When they were ready to officially launch a tested version, it was late 2022 — and hotels were back in business. Since then, Tang has worked with hotels at the corporate and property level to pilot the shower heads in-room. As of late February, the technology was being tested at a Hyatt and another five-star hotel in San Francisco, and has been deployed at a handful of other properties. 


The shower head is designed to be easy to install; at some properties, Tang said, room attendants were able to slot it in place in seconds. 


“The most common feedback we got was no feedback,” Tang said, which was ideal — guests hadn’t even noticed the switch to water-saving showers. 


The demand for sustainability  


When it comes to the hotel industry, “sustainability has gone mainstream,” Choice Hotels International VP of ESG Megan Brumagim told Hotel Dive in July. 


Several hotel companies, including Choice, and hospitality management companies, such as Highgate, are now releasing annual environmental, social and governance reports. The public-facing documents increase pressure on hoteliers to operate more sustainably, and while Tang said messaging about the shower heads will be up to individual properties’ managers, guests increasingly demand environmentally friendly stays. 


Additionally, sustainable tourism is among the top trends driving hotel investment this year, according to JLL. All of that puts pressure on hotel executives to save energy where they can. 


Several hotel companies have made commitments to greener forms of energy, such as community solar or innovative IceBricks. But Tang believes that a simple opportunity for innovation is hiding in plain sight. 


“Everything around us is so advanced compared to 40 or 50 years ago, but our faucets and showers have been largely the same,” he said. “We’ve got to do better.”


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