Innovation is Crucial for Hotel Energy Management

Mar 12, 2014

Stuart Smith

Stuart Smith

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Lowering hotel energy cost is a high profile objective at virtually every major hotel organization. As a result, there are new innovations popping up every day. This post takes a look at some of the innovations that are excellent investments for better hotel energy management.

Loews Coronado Bay, San Diego

But before we go into a listing of innovations it is important to understand what is at stake for hotels and why lowering hotel energy cost is receiving a lot of attention.

Why Hotel Energy Cost is so Visible

Hotel energy costs are a relatively small but significant percentage of overall expenses. It is difficult to predict the energy expense for any given hotel because the actual amount of costs will vary depending on the hotels location, type of assets in use, the age of assets and of course how proactive hotel maintenance is.

According to the data contained in HVS’ Hotel Investments Handbook, Chapters 19-21, the percentage of energy cost represent approximately 12-15% of variable operating expenses.

In contrast, Energystar, which is usually the most quoted, has estimated this number to be approximately $2,196 per room or about 6% of all operating costs. However, this was based upon a 2003 study by the U.S. Energy Administration and is completely outdated.

* A new energy study was started in 2013 but no timetable has been given for the release of results.

Regardless of how energy costs are measured, the amount spent may range from tens of thousands to millions of dollars per year for a hotel. With that said, compared to labor and other ongoing operational costs, why is hotel energy management so visible?

Hotels are Grabbing the Low Hanging Fruit

The high visibility is not because of an energy shortage or dare I say it is not because of rising energy prices. The reason for visibility is far simpler. For hundreds of years hotels have been designed for glitz, glamour and elegance with little regard for energy use.

As a result, energy costs (which includes electric, gas, water, solar …) often go to waste. This waste of energy is the target of hotel operations and maintenance managers. The bulk of hotel energy waste comes from heating, cooling and lighting.

Heating, cooling and lighting can easily account for 50% or more of energy costs. Throw in a few water fountains, leaks and a kitchen and it becomes easy to see there is an opportunity to reduce energy use.

Reducing the obvious energy waste is relatively easy with modern technology. Even though solutions may cost a few investment dollars the hotel energy opportunity is considered a low hanging fruitA low hanging fruit is viewed as a low cost, high reward opportunity with a great hotel system ROI. Just an energy savings of 10-15% can easily justify the costs for some of the innovations that are in the marketplace today as well directly impact hotel profitability.

Innovations for Improved Hotel Energy Management

Innovations for better hotel energy management are available in many forms. Most originated as common sense solutions and others are a product of better design or increased efficiencies.

Some of the more notable innovations available for hotels today include but are not limited to:

  1. Common sense solutions (turning off the lights, HVAC and power)
    • Lighting technology
      • Replacement of incandescent bulbs with LEDS ((light-emitting diodes), halogen or compact fluorescent bulbs. Note many governments have already banned incandescent bulbs. The U.S.A. has scheduled phase outs beginning in 2014.
      • Occupancy sensors that turn on or off lights in areas not being used.
      • Lighting controls that can be programmed to turn off and on lights in a given area.
    • Low-Flow Fixtures and Flow Restrictors (water).
    • Programmable HVAC controls for turning on/off air for meeting rooms, ballrooms, conference rooms based upon their scheduled use.
    • CO Sensor/VFD System for parking garages makes the exhaust fans run only when needed.
  2. Better Design
    • New hotels are often designed or retrofitted to minimize the carbon footprint and/or make use of alternative energy sources.
    • Nanotechnology and biotechnology – special coatings to reduce energy and maintenance costs.
    • Solar film for windows to reduce heat coming in.
    • Hotel room key card energy systems control the energy use of a room based on occupancy.
  3. Increased efficiency ROI 1-5 years
    • Chiller – new chillers are 25-50% more energy efficient that chillers manufactured just a decade ago.
    • HVAC
      • HVAC cycle managers for better compressor control.
      • HVAC ultraviolet (UVC) to kill mold and bacteria affecting heat transfer.
      • CO2 sensors that reduce the need for outside air.
    • Rooftop Solar Water Heating System.
    • Almost waterless laundry with washing machines by Xeros that use 70% less water and 50% less energy.
    • Waterless urinals.
    • HVAC System with Energy Recovery Units and Variable Refrigerant Volume Heat Pumps.
    • High Performance Cooling Tower Blowdown System.
    • CMMS – CMMS systems control the scheduling of inspections, maintenance and repairs for all assets (new or old).
Hotel CMMS Special Note

I did not add CMMS to the list because I write for a software company (laughing). I added CMMS to the list because the ROIthat a salesman claims for any one of the products above has to be mitigated with the fact that is must be subject to regular inspections and maintenance.

The reason for this is that assets breaks due to use, part failures, corrosion and accidents. Assets also get dirty (HVAC air filters, dust in motor parts, sensors etc.). For example; a clogged air filter or a rusty fan needs much more energy to maintain the required output.

In another example, dust or moisture in a sensor can impair readings causing the sensor to malfunction. The same principle applies to water or fuel leaks. Each leak not only waste energy but also increases energy consumption.

Assets that are subject to a proactive maintenance program keep all their equipment in better operating condition. The better the operating condition, the less energy is wasted.

In addition, it would be unwise to add innovation without a system to monitor its effectiveness and act as a centralized database of an asset’s condition. ROI is increased whenever you can effectively lengthen the useful lifecycle of an asset.

In review, any number of the above innovations can result in significantly lower hotel energy costs. New innovations are occurring all the time. In the meantime, all hotels should be taking immediate steps to replace incandescent bulbs and implement a CMMS.

We hoped that you enjoyed this article and see that hotel energy is not just an expense, it is an opportunity to improve hotel ROI. Tell us what you think.

Stuart Smith

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