Energy Efficiency for Hotels

energy efficiency for hotels

Tips for Hotel Energy Management: How to Create a Green Machine

The benefits of energy conservation apply to the bottom line of business but extend beyond money into the realm of image, industry reputation, general conservation and social responsibility. In many cases it takes few changes, little money, and low effort to implement processes that benefit the budget, please the planet, and keep consumers content.

Competition in the world of hospitality requires more than a clean room and sparkling service. Guests are acutely aware of the world of carbon footprints, energy usage and eco-friendliness. A growing majority wants to see best practices in place, and guests want to know how a business impacts its environment. No hotelier wants to miss the chance to book an event, fill rooms or win an account because their facility doesn’t have any energy-management practices in place.

Hotel energy solutions can produce savings that range from a small percentage in a few categories to drastic reductions of overall energy usage and costs. How much money depends fully on the kind of hotel building you have, its characteristics, and the depth of your commitment to going green.

Even a new-construction hotel built to the highest of green standards with an Energy Star score of 80 will have a little room for improvement, especially as it ages and technology changes. An older building stands to improve substantially through both small, incremental changes as well as larger projects, like replacing aged equipment systems with more efficient technology.

Examine the Numbers and Make a Plan

Hotel energy efficiency can be improved a number of ways. The biggest savings and costs are typically in three, major areas:

  1. Heat and air conditioning
  2. Hot water
  3. Lights

Taking steps to improve efficiency naturally results in different savings for different buildings. Most improvements are estimated to yield savings in these ranges:

  • 30%-50% overall energy usage
  • 20% for heating and air conditioning
  • 20% for hot water
  • 30% for lighting

improve efficiency pie chart

Hoteliers can quickly apply the percentages to their own accounting situations. Generally, if a facility reduces energy consumption by 10% overall, a limited-service hotel stands to gain 62 cents on the average, daily room rate, while a full-service hotel would gain about $1.35.

A hotel energy management system (EMS) makes it easier to monitor energy usage and improve efficiency. There are many variations of EMS plans and several kinds of software or systems hotels can use to implement one, but any building can benefit from a plan.

An energy management solution might be as simple as a manual spreadsheet you update regularly or as complex as several kinds of technology with full-time staff or consultants to manage the hotels’ eco-system matters. A knowledgeable partner can help not only to analyze numbers and usage, but also create a plan for better efficiency.

Improving the efficiency of a building requires several steps:

  1. Analyze current conditions: Hire a qualified consultant to do an energy audit of the building or conduct your own, thorough inspection using a checklist.
  2. Establish benchmarks: Gather utility bills for the past 18 months and break everything into main categories of electricity, natural gas or fuel oil, water, waste and other energy-related expenses.
  3. Poll the staff: Ask them where they see waste or opportunities for saving in any of the major or minor areas.
  4. Gather information:Through your energy audit or self-assessment, make notes about what you find and see, including location and date found.
  5. Identify improvements: Make a list of things that need to be done, break them down into two or three cost categories such as high, medium and low, then prioritize each item in each category.

Once you know where things stand, you’ll have the needed perspective to set priorities and goals for what you’d like to accomplish and a timeline to accomplish them. Each hotel’s plan will be a little different but should produce the same result: More money savings, less energy usage, and a gentler impact on the environment.

Hotel Energy-Saving Ideas

Your hotel may not have a food-compost pile or water-free toilets just yet, but chances are you’re already doing some eco-friendly things that will improve your energy profile. While some improvement measures do require planning and investment, other tasks are easy and inexpensive immediate changes.

It especially pays to have a thorough examination of your hotel’s envelope, or the parts of the building that touch the outside world: Roof top, walls, insulation, foundation, basement, windows and doors. These are the places where conditioned air escapes and outside air enters, sometimes with excessive moisture or heat or cold. You will realize savings just by using insulation, caulking and weather stripping around doors and windows to stop drafts and leaks.

Experts say to pick a temperature at the lower end of the comfort scale for ambient air in common areas like the lobby, corridors and eating areas. Changing the temperature by a degree or two will save money and make hot-natured guests happier.

There are many energy-saving tips for hotels to keep in mind, across several systems:

Heating and Air Conditioning

  • Apply sun film to windows that affect interior temperature, like a Dallas hotel that tinted its windows and installed programmable thermostats to realize a savings of $50,000 per year
  • Establish the benchmark temperature(s) when neither heating nor cooling systems need to run so the two will never compete against each other
  • Clean and service utility-heating units like furnaces, boilers and stoves, as well as air-conditioning units once a year, especially evaporation areas
  • Inspect and fix any appliances connected to utilities such as washers, dryers and icemakers
  • Install programmable thermostats and position them away from direct sunlight or heat sources, such as a fireplaces
  • Implement motion sensors for heating and AC
  • Limit the range of temperatures guests can access to 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Defrost freezers at least twice per year or as needed
  • Get de-stratification fans for high ceilings to push heat back to the floor
  • Avoid unnecessary ventilation by using variable-speed fans on a timer and replace motor with highest-efficiency model
  • Install a draft-catching double door or entryway to the building to deter cold drafts in winter and hold in AC during summer
  • Close loading-dock door unless there’s a load in it
  • Cover pools and hot tubs to hold in heat and humidity
  • Implement a plan for refrigerant management or enhance the existing one.

Hot Water

  • Use less hot water if possible, which can account for nearly half the electricity or natural gas a hotel uses
  • Set hot water temperature to the recommended setting of 110 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Install water-saver shower heads, some of which have air-assisted features to maintain good pressure
  • Install spray and/or sensor faucets for hand washing
  • Give guests a choice of how often they want fresh linens
  • Mount multiple towel hooks in bathrooms.

Lighting

  • Change to LED or compact florescent bulbs, which last longer and emit less heat, to reduce the energy used for lighting by as much as 80%
  • Opt for ‘exit’ signs with LED technology
  • Install timers and dimmers
  • Use daylight-sensitive lights to reduce energy consumption by up to 30%
  • Clean light fixtures and their sensors regularly
  • Close drapes in summer to block sunlight
  • Open drapes in winter so building can absorb sunlight
  • Make it a part of cleaning routine to check lights and drapes
  • Place reminders in guest rooms about turning off lights
  • Turn off, even unplug, all electronics not in use.

Green Technology and Practices

  • Check into geothermal heat pumps as a heating system
  • Place small signs or placards in the room letting guests know they can just hang up their towel and re-use it the next day
  • Educate staff about conservation and encourage or reward good practices
  • Look for energy-efficient vending machines that use about half as much electricity as some older models
  • Replace old or broken utilities with a solar-powered boiler or series of staged boilers
  • Insulate pipes, tanks, valves and boiler parts
  • Repair any leaks promptly
  • Appoint an energy manager or hire a professional like Shipley Energy -- or both
  • Check to see if your hotel is in a deregulated market for electricity or fuels, like Pennsylvania, then compare providers
  • Use proper-sized saucepans in the kitchen, not bigger than needed
  • Consider preferred parking for hybrid and alternative fuel cars
  • Switch from small plastic bottles of shampoo, conditioner and hand soap to dispensers
  • Make recycling available throughout the hotel common areas and guest rooms, including newspaper, plastic bottles and bags and aluminum.

Overall Benefits

  • Better lighting will increase visibility and concentration
  • You’ll save money for each degree you raise the thermostat during summer or lower it in winter
  • A typical light-replacement project pays for itself within two years
  • Housekeeper testimonials say laundry decreased dramatically with towel hooks and signs about the sheet-changing frequency – one said only one in every 30 or 40 guests would want the linens changed a Saturday
  • Water-free urinals in one hotel in Washington D.C. saved about 95,000 gallons of water per year
  • Savings can be realized by coordinating with utility providers to run shifts at off-peak times.

Beyond the Bottom Line of Hotel Energy Savings

Studies show people will consistently seek and pay more for a hotel that consciously treats the environment kindly. A growing number of larger corporate accounts issue a request for proposal that includes requirements for the hotel’s eco-friendly practices. Prospective clients may ask a number of questions about your hotel’s sustainability practices:

  1. What is the Energy Star score of the building?
  2. Is the building LEED certified?
  3. Does the business use green-certified cleaning products?
  4. Is there a management program in place for indoor air?
  5. Does the building have a bike rack?
  6. How much of the landscape is irrigated?
  7. Do drivers in carpools or alternative-fuel vehicles get preferred parking?
  8. Does the hotel recycle?
  9. Does the hotel use low-flow showers, faucets and other fixtures?
  10. How is the building storm water managed?

Eco tourism is a movement of people who want to stay at ultra-sustainable places—where the power comes from an on-site windmill and the sun heats hotel water. Not everyone wants that experience, but tourists, travelers and other kinds of consumers increasingly seek the greenest route. Whatever practices your hotel already has in place or may implement, it won’t hurt to make them known to guests, right down to locally sourced food in the restaurant.

hotel waste statistic

One report says 54% of a hotel’s solid waste can be re-used or recycled, such as one hotel that introduced a recycling program and yielded an annual savings of $6,000. Recycling and composting also lead to less trash accumulation.

Hotels have many programs and initiatives to go green, but employees may be the top resource for figuring out how and where waste is happening and what solutions may stop it. Assemble a green team that can work together in a systematic way to identify waste, propose solutions, examine costs and introduce new concepts.

Those ideas often lead to more ways of saving money, and involving employees in the process means they take pride and ownership in the practices and results. And while not every process or idea will be one that saves a significant amount of money, going greener is worth it for the good of a hotel’s business, its guests and its workforce in ways that cannot be measured monetarily.

Build Sustainability Bit by Bit

Developing an energy-management strategy can be overwhelming process. An expert energy consultant, such as Shipley Energy, can help you develop an effective hotel energy management solution.

There are options to join the government’s voluntary Energy Star program, which labels products and buildings in efficiency as well as offers data and other resources to make existing buildings greener and help new ones achieve the highest possible energy standards. The EPA created Energy Star in 1992 as a way to reduce energy consumption and pollution and increase the nation’s energy security and sustainability.

Now consumers recognize the logo and label that applies not only to appliances, electronics and consumer products but also entire buildings, homes and industrial applications. It offers a number of tools to aid hotel owners and managers in tracking usage, creating a plan and measuring progress.

Energy Star assigns an efficiency score from 1-100 for 21 kinds of business buildings, with about a score of 50 as average and 75 as high. The U.S. Green Building Council offers certification for a green-building standard called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, with a few levels of achievement: certified, silver, gold and platinum. Both the LEED and Energy Star programs use a point system to rate a building’s energy efficiency and sustainability, and there are a number of ways to achieve the points.

Energy Star aims to conserve finite resources and help address rising costs and demand. For example, a clothes washer with the Energy Star label will use about 70% less power and 75% less water than a washer made 20 years ago.

clothes washer statistic

Energy Star says the average building wastes about a third of the energy it uses. The EPA suggests a staged approach to improving energy efficiency, with the first focus on operations and maintenance plus behavior across departments. Next you can move along to systems and see what improvements can be made and how much they’ll cost. The more data you have, the better able you will be to prioritize your projects.

Shipley Energy can do a commercial-electricity analysis of your building and help even out utility bills to make them more predictable. Shipley has been a leading supplier of natural gas, propane, diesel and heating oil and gas for more than 85 years, serving commercial, industrial and residential customers throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Every hotelier’s steps to a green-machine building will be different, except for the common goal to make substantial and measurable improvements and achieve a better, overall energy profile. Collective attention to all the things that contribute to a hotel profile may well produce bigger percentages of savings and cost reduction than you expect.

The studies and statistics coalesce to indicate that saving energy matters for a business, financially and in other ways. A hotel’s practices, philosophy and social awareness make a difference in how guests and employees perceive a hotel, so each business continues learning and improving to remain competitive and create the best hospitality environment possible.