According to Natural Resources Canada, electricity makes up 55 per cent of a typical hotel or motel’s energy use, with natural gas accounting for the remaining 45 per cent. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) uses 40 per cent of all electricity, while lighting accounts for approximately 25 per cent.
From an efficiency, environmental and financial standpoint, investing in energy management just make sense. And, far from inconveniencing guests, such upgrades are what they want. In fact, Booking.com’s latest sustainable-travel report notes 70 per cent of global travellers are more likely to book an accommodation if it’s eco-friendly.
Seeing the Light
As far back as 2007, the Fairmont Winnipeg switched out its outmoded lighting and reduced its annual energy use by 880,000 kWh, which translated to a savings of about $44,000 annually. Victoria’s Strathcona Hotel did the same in 2015, after applying to BC Hydro, a Power Smart Alliance member, for replacement incentives through its Power Smart Express program. Over three months, the Strathcona replaced more than 830 incandescent and 430 halogen lightbulbs with LEDs, resulting in a savings of $24,000 in the first year.
Also in 2015, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise installed more than 8,000 LED bulbs, which represents about 90 per cent conversion. And, while the hotel has been at the forefront of sustainability for some time — in 1999 it began buying back green power through certified hydro developers and became the first Canadian hotel to receive five Green Keys from the Hotel Association of Canada’s Green Key Global eco-rating program — the hotel acknowledges the limitations of its remote mountainous location.
“Most of our energy is non-renewable; it’s hard to avoid,” says Savina Caporali, the property’s regional director of Sustainability. “What we do instead is offset 50 per cent of our electricity consumption [with] greener energy. Let’s say we produce hundreds of thousands of kilowatt hours yearly, half of that we offset with renewable energy through a contract with Bow Valley Power.”
Instead of, or in addition to, a full LED-replacement program, hotels can “harness daylight” by adding more windows or repositioning or enlarging existing windows to allow for more natural light. Sabrina Donovan, Operations manager at Pacific Sands Beach Resort in Tofino, B.C., says in addition to switching over to LEDs, “We have roller shades in all the rooms so the windows can be as wide-open as possible. The beach houses have floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room and master bedroom so they’re quite bright naturally. And, as much as possible, the rooms are painted in shades of off-white,” to reflect and bounce natural light.
In most parts of Canada, it’s either sizzling hot or freezing cold, putting strain on a hotel’s HVAC system.
But advances in smart technology have brought consumption — and costs — down. Air-source heat pumps work by transferring heat from outside to inside, utilizing vapour-compression refrigeration. These pumps are useful as energy-efficient space heaters
For added control, Montreal-based Verdant Environmental Technologies manufactures a smart thermostat with a built-in occupancy sensor that scans the room for motion and body heat and adjusts the temperature accordingly, utilizing artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. “It understands when guests are in the room and when they’re not,” says Marketing director John Attala. “The guest has full control over the room temperature when they’re in the room and, once they leave, the thermostat automatically sets the temperature back by a few degrees, which is where the bulk of the energy savings come from.”
Attala says the system, which is self-installed and monitored remotely, can reduce a guestroom’s energy costs by as much as 45 per cent. Through online management, operators “can log in and see the health of their network. They can get savings figures in real time, get alerts if a thermostat is low on battery power or one HVAC unit is running longer than any other unit, et cetera.”
To manage its energy naturally, Vancouver’s Hotel Listel installed 20 solar panels in 2008 — which reduced energy consumption from the grid and allowed the property to sell back any excess — and a high-efficiency heat-recovery system on the roof. The customized system employs equipment typically used as a ground-source heat pump. Instead of an underground loop for geothermal exchange, the heat pump connects to the panels and the heat-recovery system and a 20-tonne air-to-water heat pump. As a result, Listel has reduced its greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions by 30 per cent.
“That’s our entire inventory — every GHG emission we’ve calculated, including electricity, heat, paper consumption, garbage, staff commuting, et cetera,” says Margot Baloro, general manager, Food and Beverage and Front of House, Hotel Listel. “We’ve gone down 22 per cent on heat alone.”
The Pacific Sands installed a geothermal-exchange plant to heat the property’s 22 larger units. Drilling down 400 feet into the earth to an ambient temperature, the energy is extracted and circulated throughout the living spaces, saving as much as 50 per cent over conventional electricity. “It’s at its maximum capacity,” says Donovan, noting the rest of the property’s 120 rooms are warmed using electric baseboard heating.
Chateau Lake Louise purchases 50 per cent of its electricity from wood-biomass-generated green power, decreasing its electrical consumption by 3.5 per cent since 2015 and its use of propane by 11 per cent. Due to its mountain location, only a handful of rooms are air-conditioned.
Earlier this year, Honeywell, which manufactures energy-efficiency products and technologies, launched INNCOM INNcontrol 5 — a cloud-based platform for energy management and guestroom control. The system allows hotels to monitor and manage each room in real time to identify and resolve any issues and also lets housekeeping know a room is empty and ready to be cleaned.
“Typically, a guestroom consumes anywhere from 30 to 60 per cent of the energy throughout the property, depending on the size,” explains Grant Patterson, Product Marketing manager, Honeywell. “INNcontrol can save up to 45 per cent of a hotel’s energy bill.” The company’s smart thermostats also control humidity to combat musty furniture and mould, postponing routine renovations.
And, with an AI-based analytic-services exchange (ASX) set to launch next year, the product will not only alert an operator that something needs fixing, but how to fix it and how to improve upon it.
Appliances and Fixtures
Most hotels long ago converted to low-flow faucets and showerheads to conserve water, while others have installed smart water meters to monitor water lines, which can prevent as much as $900 going down the drain from just one leaky toilet. Chateau Lake Louise saves 3.9 gallons of water per flush and showerheads save 1.5 gallons per minute. With its new water-treatment plant installed in 2015, the hotel has decreased its water consumption by 38 per cent. “In any new renovation we do, we [install] Energy Star everything — water fixtures, aerators, low-flow toilets and showerheads,” says Caporali, referring to the partnership between government and industry to make high-efficiency products available to homes and businesses, endorsed by Natural Resources Canada.
Automatic-shutdown sockets, which utilize infrared sensors or timers to cut power to any connected device when it’s turned off, have also proven to save a bundle by eliminating what’s known as vampire draw, says Attala.
All of these initiatives are vital because, “It’s important to hotels to go above and beyond to ensure the guest has the perfect experience,” says Patterson.
“We need to be aware of that and do everything we can to maintain it. After all, we’re stewards of this planet and it’s in every hotel’s best interest to protect [it],” adds Caporali.
Written by Robin Roberts