New technologies to increase energy efficiency in hotels
Good for the planet, reducing energy consumption decreases depletion of our natural resources and the impact of greenhouse gas emissions. It’s also (really) good for your hotel’s bottom line.
Concerned consumers increasingly expect “green” options, and hotels must become champions for climate mitigation to stay competitive in the market. The value of building efficiency goes beyond marketing as climbing energy costs cut into profitability. Energy represents the single fastest-growing operating cost in the lodging industry and EnergyStar estimates that the average hotel spends $2,196 per room on energy each year. Luckily, technological advances in lighting, heating, cooling, and building controls are simultaneously improving visitor satisfaction and comfort as well as energy efficiency. Here are just four options, but there are scores of other choices out there for the conscientious, cost-conscious, and everyone in between.
1. LED LIGHTING AND CONTROLS
The low-hanging fruit of going green, retailers can switch to LEDs and get the same amount of light for less electricity/money. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, LEDs use up to 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs! These high-efficiency lights also last up to 25 times longer than traditional bulbs, which means lower maintenance costs. Manufacturers have recently developed a broad range of LED products available for indoor and outdoor use, and many options include built-in controls, such as timers, dimmers, and occupancy/motion sensors. More affordable than ever, these can be used in guestrooms, bathrooms, meeting spaces, hallways, elevators, lobbies, restaurants, and everywhere in between.
2. HEATING UPGRADES
Traditional furnaces and boilers send a portion of the air they heat up the flue, wasting the energy that was used to heat that air. Today’s equipment utilizes a sealed combustion system so the furnace or boiler will bring outside air directly into the burner and release exhaust gases (combustion products) directly to the outside without the need for a draft hood or damper. In other words, these sealed-combustion units eliminate that waste. Combined with other improvements, new furnaces/boilers have an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) of between 90% and 98.5%, which means the vast majority of the energy in the fuel becomes heat for the building. Only about 10% escapes up the flue or elsewhere. In comparison, older heating systems have an AFUE of just 56% to 70%. With that much improvement, upgrading to a high-efficiency boiler can potentially cut a hotel’s fuel bills in half!
3. AIR CONDITIONING UPGRADES
Innovations in air-conditioning technology are making cooling units substantially more energy efficient. Developments in heat exchangers with fewer joints, variable stage fans, multi-stage and variable compressors, better refrigerant blends that absorb and release heat better (and also are more environmentally conscious), geothermal systems, ductless options, and economizers all reduce energy consumption while improving guest comfort.
4. BUILDING AUTOMATION SYSTEMS (BAS)
Building automation systems are smarter than ever, and hotel owners/property managers can significantly reduce their energy bills by installing and properly maintaining one. A BAS manages the heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, security, and fire safety systems through one “brain” to optimize the overall performance of the building. Controllers take the data from sensors installed throughout the hotel (in air ducts, water valves, guestrooms, stairwells, etc.), decide how the building should respond, and send commands to the appropriate systems. These controls are designed to minimize energy waste and maximize operational performance by making subtle, yet cost-effective, adjustments based on data over time.
“We have made it our gold standard to incorporate BAS systems with all of our designs, no matter what type of building the project may be. Due to the impactful amount of energy saved vs. using conventional equipment controls, these systems have wonderfully short ROIs,” said Joseph Sigg, LEED AP, Refrigeration Engineering Department head at CoolSys Energy Design. “We have seen buildings save thousands of dollars every year by utilizing a BAS.”
Overall, scientific breakthroughs and technological advances in HVAC, lighting, and building automation are significantly and continuously improving the energy efficiency of properties around the world. The first step toward taking advantage of the latest and greatest systems available is to have a comprehensive energy audit performed by a qualified professional. Whether you own or run a small independent boutique hotel or world-class chain resort, now is the time to optimize your facility. Go green and save green this year.