Walk into the DoubleTree by Hilton in London, Ont. and you’ll see a contemporary lobby with clean lines and muted shades, stunning light fixtures, and similarly modern suites, all of which were made possible by a recent $10-million renovation. Likewise, the Holiday Inn Ottawa recently underwent a $9 million renovation, and it has new cozy look meant to attract families and make them feel at home. Among these upgrades is something you might not immediately notice — the new heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, chosen for guest comfort, reliability and energy efficiency.
There are numerous types of HVAC systems available on the market today, including the traditional packaged terminal air conditioner (PTAC), a type of self-contained heating and air conditioning system commonly found in hotels and motels, and the vertical terminal air conditioner (VTAC), which can be installed inside a small closet instead of protruding from under the window the way a PTAC does. Newer types of HVAC are constantly being developed to address energy efficiency, make a smaller impact on the environment, and improve guest comfort.
There are numerous HVAC manufacturers and suppliers on the market servicing hotels, including NRG Equipment, Carrier Enterprise and Enercare Commercial Services. Each offers a wide range of items to address energy efficiency, room automation, guest comfort and other concerns.
Sometimes, as with the Double Tree London and Holiday Inn Ottawa, hotels upgrade the HVAC as part of a renovation. Other times, they improve inefficiencies or respond to customer complaints if the rooms are not up to date.
“Hotel operators have to update their equipment to maintain their expenses,” says Jacqueline Manitaros, vice-president, Business Development and Marketing at NRG Energy Inc. “An inefficient PTAC could be costing them money. In addition, as an operator, should you have a full house, you want all rooms to be in operation.”
“Guest comfort, reliability and energy efficiency are the primary drivers,” says Scott Beneteau, general manager at Enercare. “Through social media and numerous travel-rating websites, guests often comment if the room temperature and air quality do not meet their expectations. Upgrading to new technologies and implementing a common-sense building-controls system addresses all three of those drivers. Properly conditioned air delivered reliably will ensure repeat business and positive reviews, which will ultimately drive maximum occupancy.”
Felix Seiler, chief Operating officer of Holloway Lodging Corporation, which owns both the DoubleTree by Hilton in London and Holiday Inn Ottawa, along with numerous others ranging from 60 to 350 rooms, says “many of the smaller hotels operate with PTAC and VTAC units and we also replace those with quieter and more energy-efficient systems with remote thermostats.”
“When choosing HVAC, we look for a decrease in power consumption, more efficiency on both cooling and heating, and newer technologies for electronics and automation,” explains Seiler. “We also install motion sensors and heat sensors in rooms to ensure the system only runs when the room is occupied.”
“When installing new HVAC systems in large hotels, we always obtain an engineering opinion to ensure we get the right sized and engineered system,” he adds. Currently, NRG offers new PTACs that are designed to be direct replacements for PTACs that were manufactured 30 to 40 years ago. “Our Perfect Comfort model will be a direct replacement, so the hotel owner receives a new unit with a higher energy efficiency ratio (EER), new components and a quieter sound,” says Manitaros. “There is also an option to allow these PTAC units to work on an energy-management system (EMS) to save additional energy costs.”
“We ensure our equipment is manufactured with top-of-the-line internal components, including gasketing material to create an air-tight seal and ensure the PTACs are not always running,” she adds.
“Increasingly, variable refrigerant flow (VRF) systems are becoming a popular choice with hotels because of the ease of retrofit and the energy efficiency [they offer],” says Beneteau. “These systems consume less electricity than a conventional heat/cool system and require less maintenance over their life.”
Douglas Mackemer, director of Parts, Supplies and Specialized Equipment at Carrier Enterprise, agrees with Beneteau about the energy efficiency of VRF, adding “We are seeing property conversions, renovations and new builds utilizing this technology. Key features are the removal of large condenser farms outside, [which are] taking up ground level and roof level real estate, and elimination of separate boilers and cooling towers.” VRF also allows simultaneous heating and cooling for individual rooms, he explains. New refrigerant systems also offer environmentally friendly refrigerant gas. “Older systems use ‘R22-type’ refrigerant which is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC). HCFCs are known to deplete the ozone layer, among other things,” says Beneteau. “New systems use 410A, which is said to have no ozone impact.”
In addition, “technologies such as variable-frequency drives are used to stage fan speeds for high and low usage, and carbon-monoxide sensors to control the on/off operation of exhaust fans can dramatically reduce energy costs,” says Beneteau.
In addition to more energy efficient systems and technologies, Enercare offers programs to help customers understand the energy consumed by their hydronic and HVAC systems. “Our Validation Inspection and Equipment Walk-through (VIEW) program provides a detailed assessment of a building’s mechanical system,” says Beneteau. “We will identify low-cost, high-impact energy savings options.”
THE AUTOMATED ROOM
Enercare is investing in a number of state-of-the-art technologies for common and in-suite areas to help improve guest comfort.
“Many operators are surprised at how affordable sensor and control equipment can be,” says Beneteau. “The key is how the data from sensors and the building automation system (BAS) is managed. Enercare’s solution is to utilize existing BAS equipment to keep the cost down, provide low-cost equipment where it makes sense, and provide a managed service that drives actionable intelligence rather than simply send reports or email alerts.” “Especially impactful is the ability to provide directed maintenance where technologies allow for rapid diagnostic and repair of major mechanical equipment, saving energy and extending the useful life of costly equipment,” continues Beneteau.
Other options that appeal to hoteliers include remote-control equipment, automatic identification of poor performing equipment, and alerts and alarms when the equipment is not operating properly, says Mackemer.
Mackemer is keen to explain Carrier’s energy-management system, Founten, which interfaces with the hotel’s property-management system. “Founten can be deployed without the expense of dedicated servers or special cabling,” he explains. “It creates its own redundant self-healing wireless mesh network of communications and provides an evaluation of the performance of equipment operating on the property to target poor performing equipment first.”
“The hotelier can know of an issue [often] before a guest does,” says Mackemer.
THE RIGHT FIT
There are numerous options available for different hotels. For example, small hotels that have limited space may benefit from installing a more compact unit, such as NRG’s 16×26 PTAC model, which operates with 24-volt thermostat capability.
Properties with underground parking tend to consume more energy as a result of the need to circulate large volumes of air, and controls can help manage these costs. Older hotels benefit from upgrading their cooling system from water cooled to air cooled, which wastes less water and are much cheaper to maintain.
“Each hotel is unique and the first step is to understand what equipment you have in your building including age, state of repair and what controls systems are available to utilize,” explains Beneteau. “Once you know what you have, you can explore technology upgrades that offer the biggest payback.”
Volume 29, Number 4
Written by Sherene Chen-See