Cutting the bills, the waste and the impact in a down market
Hotels need to explore every nook and cranny of their buildings to combat wasteful energy consumption and save money, especially during tough times. Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet solution that brings all of the possible energy savings into one easy-to-implement plan. But, those who have taken up the energy-saving gauntlet have found that shaving 10 per cent here and five per cent there can add up, if hoteliers look in the right places.
According to manufacturers, the low-hanging fruit in energy reduction is switching from incandescent to compact fluorescent lighting (CFL), which can bring energy savings of up to 15 per cent, says Paul Torris, director at Powersave Solutions, a provider based in Oakville, Ont. In fact, while replacing 1,000 incandescent lights with CFL will cost about $5,000, it has a payback period of just two years, says Phil Jago, a director at Natural Resources Canada.
In addition, many utility companies offer rebates and incentives for you to switch your bulbs, says Barry Sheen, senior vice-president at Toronto-based Westmount Hospitality Group (WHG), which manages operations for 170 hotels across Canada. “Different jurisdictions offer rebate programs that hotels should take advantage of. In Ontario, we re-lamped 50 hotels last year, and London Hydro helped us with the analysis and coordination.” But Sheen says WHG hasn’t crunched the numbers yet to determine the exact savings reaped thus far. “We know for sure there have been savings, but we also have to factor in a decline in occupancy, a mild winter and other variables to get hard numbers.”
The Fairmont Royal York in downtown Toronto embarked on an ambitious energy-reduction program in 2002. “We converted to CFL lighting then, and it lasts about four years, so we’re replacing our original installation again,” says Brian Mosher, director of Engineering at the hotel. Mosher says different CFL suppliers such as Philips, GE and Osram were used over the years, depending on the price — but he cautions against taking a similar approach. “If you switch suppliers, you wind up with different colour renditions in lighting. Hotels should stick with one to avoid mismatches.”
The Four Seasons Whistler is also doing a staged conversion to CFL lighting, says Doug Hart, director of Engineering. “We haven’t done the full swap to CFL yet, but we’re also switching to LED for 24/7 fixtures.” LED (light-emitting diode) lighting is the next big thing in energy reduction, says Torris. “The savings are minimal if you’ve already converted to CFL and then go to LED. But converting from incandescent to LED can reduce energy consumption by almost 90 per cent, and it has a longer life of about five years.”
The catch is that hotel-quality LED bulbs cost a whopping $85 each, but Torris believes the price will go down in the next five years. Hart says B.C. Hydro is shifting its rebate program away from CFL lighting, which has gone down in price in recent years to about $4 per bulb, to provide incentives for LED adoption. There are other considerations, too. “CFL lighting is good but not great. LED light is warmer and has more aesthetic value,” says Hart. Lighting is a no-brainer, he adds — although wringing out more energy savings from building operations requires a comprehensive program.
Bathrooms are an excellent place to cut down on your hotel’s energy costs, by investing in low-flow toilets and showerheads, but hoteliers can take it a lot further than that. Some truly green hotels now employ solar power and geothermal technology to heat water and heat and cool their properties (see story on pg. 13). The initial investment is quite substantial, but the payback over the long haul is worth it.
At the Royal York, a number of other energy-saving measures have been introduced, such as upgrading steam traps to capture heat generated from hot water and implementing motion sensors in storage areas to turn off lights, says Mosher. “Since we started in 2002, we’ve seen energy reductions of 15 per cent annually. Our electricity budgets are also going down, which provides further incentive to implement more energy reductions.” Integrated building automation (BA) systems make lighting, HVAC and other building systems work together efficiently to achieve more energy savings, but most hotels were built more than a decade ago with standalone building systems that work at cross-purposes.
As a test, WHG recently retrofitted integrated BA systems in four hotels, says Pedro Lourenco, engineering operations manager. “The capital costs depend on the building requirements. They range from $30,000 to $150,000, and offer a two-year payback and 15 per cent in energy savings.” The four were selected because they had bigger energy needs due to large meeting facilities or higher rates of occupancy, says Sheen. “We want to control all four from our corporate headquarters, but we’re not past the payback period yet, so we’ll decide later at what point we’ll bring more buildings in.”
But the job of finding energy savings isn’t done once a BA is in place, says Four Seasons Whistler’s Hart. “Our hotel is fairly new and was built with a fully automated Delta Controls BA system. But it’s about more than tools and equipment.” Engineering and building operations people need to work in concert to sniff out more energy savings from daily routines. “Operations can see how the building operates 24/7, and they can catch things that engineering doesn’t see. There are little things going on in the day that can result in huge savings if they’re controlled by the BA. For example, heat-recovery units can reclaim waste heat that comes out of the building.”
Additionally, hotels may also consider specialty applications they can add to their BA. In 2006, the Four Seasons Whistler implemented a Sempa hybrid-heating system that offers intelligent switching between gas and electricity, depending on the price. “In markets like Whistler, where gas is expensive due to delivery costs, we use smart-grid technology that selects low-cost off-peak electricity to displace gas,” says Chris
Witney, director of Sales at Toronto-based Sempa Power Systems.
Most BA systems don’t have that kind of intelligence, so add-on applications are needed, says Hart. “Our Sempa system cost $380,000 with a four-year payback. We’ve saved about $1.78 million in gas costs, and also reduced our carbon footprint by about 5,500 tons.”
Hotels that are shopping for a BA need to consider central control for future needs and new technologies, says Greg Turner, director of Global Offerings Honeywell Building Solutions, an international BA vendor. “They should buy a BA infrastructure that’s an open system and based on BACnet standards, so they know when they’re ready to buy a new hot-water or hotel-management system in a couple of years, their BA system will support the new technology.”
Whether it’s your lighting, your building management or a matter for the engineers, taking a closer look at the efficiency of your operation is at once an holistic and a piecemeal undertaking. Integrating systems through new advances in monitoring technologies (more and more of which are offered on wireless platforms for the appropriately configured property) is a trend that appears to be only gaining in traction. At the same time, most hotels are now evaluating the incremental benefits of replacing, one by one, their old incandescent bulbs with newer, more efficient models. With the benefit of each little change registering significant savings, maybe it’s time you take a closer look? Unless, of course, you like paying that extra 15 per cent.