Whether looking to upgrade, replace, or control usage on their energy-hogging equipment, hoteliers are taking a good, hard look at their budgets to pinpoint where they can save energy costs at their properties.

As a company that specializes in conversions, Oshawa, Ont.-based Sunray Group of Hotels is constantly reviewing ways to improve energy efficiency within its 22 properties, says Sandeep Gupta, VP. “We look at a few different variables, depending on the type of project, including budget, age of equipment and timing.”

More often than not, the easiest savings to be gained are in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and lighting systems. Upgrades in these areas are on the drawing board for Mike Melenchuk, owner, Hearthstone Hospitality in Dartmouth, N.S., for good reason. “Some of our properties were built in an era where electricity was reasonably cheap,” he says. “Since then, electricity bills have at least doubled.”

Then there are those who have the opportunity to go green from the ground up. Opened in 2013, the Element Vaughan Southwest is a LEED-certified property, which is the epitome of energy efficiency, says John Caneco, GM. “Some of the initial costs [of going green] are higher, but you realize savings over time.” He calculates that 4.4 per cent of the hotel’s entire operational budget is dedicated to HVAC and lighting systems alone.

Keeping Up with Heating and Cooling

When it comes to HVAC systems, Sean Kearley, commercial manager, Reliance Home Comfort Ltd., Commercial Division, a Toronto-based supplier, says smaller units pack a bigger punch. “Hotels used to put in units that were much bigger than they needed. But oversizing means extra compressors and electrical requirements. Now it’s totally different, not just because of the cost, but [because of the] whole idea of wasting energy and how that affects public perception.”
Gupta says a majority of hotels Sunray owns and operates have packaged terminal air conditioner (PTAC) units in guestrooms. “Where we can, we are upgrading to GE systems with built-in heat pumps, because they deliver big energy savings over the long-term, even though they cost about $150 more than a standard unit. I would say the ROI is about two years.”

For one 200-room Oshawa, Ont. property being converted to a Courtyard by Marriott, Gupta estimates that the cost to replace the PTAC system will be $250,000, including sleeves and grills. “When you add in the upgraded thermostats, locks, motion detectors and labour, it goes up to about $400,000. That’s really quite low when you consider the overall renovation budget is around $12 million.”

While it may cost too much to replace large rooftop air-handling systems, operators can turn to energy-saving options such as swapping standard motors with variable-frequency drives that ramp up and down according to demand, advises Donald Dodge, business development manager for Efficiency Nova Scotia in Dartmouth, which provides energy solutions for businesses, from custom solutions and rebates to technical assistance and financing options.

The Control Factor

Hoteliers can boost energy savings with add-on technologies such as thermostats and key-lock systems. Sunray is investing in infrared sensors and Bluetooth-enabled radio frequency identification key locks that can be networked with the PTAC units. The systems can be managed from the front desk and turn on and off automatically when a guest enters or exits a space.

At the Element Vaughan Southwest, HVAC units will only operate when windows are closed. The property uses an INNCOM control system to manage the ClimateMaster-branded units. “If a guest opens the window to let in natural air, the a/c will turn off automatically,” Caneco explains.

At the Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver, a new digital building management system helps regulate heating and cooling based on outside air temperatures, says Max Huie, chief engineer. “We’ve just replaced the digital thermostats with occupancy sensors with the help of subsidies from BC Hydro. Also, every individual meeting room fan system is now controlled by computer, so it can automatically sense occupancy and increase air volume and lower the temperature accordingly.”

Let there be LED light
Lighting is the proverbial low hanging fruit when it comes to energy savings. “Most operators in the province have at least done the first cut, which is converting room lighting to LED,” Dodge says. “Most have also gone in and replaced T12 lighting in hotels and lobbies with LED. Now they’re looking for opportunities to switch to LED for parking lots and parkade lighting.”

Hoteliers can realize anywhere from a 40- to 70-per-cent savings in lighting energy costs with a simple switch to LED, depending on the type of lighting they are converting from. LED boasts a longer life (30,000 to 50,000 hours), which translates into less labour and maintenance requirements. “With [LED] you can add room controls such as dimmers and motion sensors. More people are looking at those now,” Dodge notes.

The Fairmont Waterfront team is currently replacing incandescent bulbs in its convention and ballroom areas with LED at a cost of about $28,000, Huie says. “We had to wait longer to replace those because the lamps are on a dimming system, which LED did not allow for. But LED technology has come a long way.”

Getting the most out of your LED investment means not cutting corners, Gupta cautions. “Many operators make the mistake of going for lower quality, no-name bulbs to save costs. We made that mistake and found they only last a few months, so we now use Canadian products from established companies like Philips Canada and are having great success.”

Above all, rebates will make it easier to install new energy-efficient devices at the property. “Government rebates make it much more feasible to allocate funds to replace systems,” Gupta reports. “Incentives are huge right now. Depending on the province or region they can be as high as 75 or 80 per cent. Once you factor that in, payback can be as little as three years.”

Written By: Denise Deveau

Volume 27, Number 6


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