Ten Quick Ways to Improve Your Hotel's Energy Efficiency

By Steve Kiesner Director of National Accounts, Edison Electric Institute | November 02, 2008

With the cost of all energy supplies rising, the nation's electric power industry is committed to ensuring that electricity, one of our most versatile energy sources, remains affordable and reliable. We are investing in the nation's electricity system today. We are advocating public policy positions to ensure that the supply of electricity can meet the country's ever-growing demand tomorrow. And we are encouraging our customers, particularly the nation's hotel industry, to use their electricity wisely. With electricity demand expected to increase 30 percent over the next 20 years, these supply and demand measures are the best long-term solutions for our energy future.

In the short term, using natural gas and electricity more efficiently is vital. For the lodging industry, energy conservation is a well-recognized element in lowering costs. On average, America's 47,000 hotels spend $2,196 per available room each year on energy, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This represents about six percent of all operating costs. Through a strategic approach to energy efficiency, a 10 percent reduction in energy consumption would have the same financial effect as increasing the average daily room rate by $0.62 in limited-service hotels and by $1.35 in full-service hotels.

There are also a number of quick and easy steps your company can take right now to step up its control over energy use. These are probably already second nature to you, but here are 10 no- or low-cost ideas to start saving energy today:

  • Get the housekeeping staff on board. Little things they can do in each room-resetting thermostats, opening drapes on sunny days this winter, reporting water leaks, and turning off lights-can really add up.
  • Lower the water temperature setting-for hand washing and showering, 110 degrees is the recommended setting.
  • Set thermostats to 68 degrees in offices and public areas during occupied hours, and lower during unoccupied hours. For each degree you raise the temperature in the summer and lower it in the winter you can save 2-3 percent on cooling and heating costs for those areas.
  • When replacing beverage and snack vending machines, choose energy-efficient machines, which can cut electricity use by up to 50 percent.
  • Turn off unneeded lights in offices and public areas.
  • Have your heating, water heating, icemakers, laundry, and refrigeration equipment periodically serviced and adjusted as needed.
  • Check automatic controls for proper working condition and settings.
  • Keep loading dock doors closed when the loading dock is not in use.
  • Change out "EXIT" signs to ones that use light emitting diodes (LEDs). These use about two watts or less, compared to up to 40 watts for an incandescent EXIT sign.
  • When your fluorescent lamps start to flicker, replace the old T12 lamps and magnetic ballasts with energy-efficient T8 fluorescent lamps and electronic ballasts-you'll lower your lighting energy use by up to 25 percent. For more ideas, contact your electric utility. Your electric utility will likely have historical data about your energy use. Utility representatives can also help you with answers about their efficiency and demand response incentive programs, discount electricity rates, energy-efficient equipment, or any other energy-related question.

Electric companies typically offer free advice on using energy wisely, and many offer no- or low-cost programs that can help hotels take control over their energy use. These programs will have an impact on natural gas, as well as electricity use.

Some sample electric utility energy management programs include:

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The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.