Perhaps the greatest friend to the sustainability movement in the world today is technology. Our minds have become familiar with the notion that we need to conserve, reuse and sustain in our personal and professional lives for the long-term security of our planet. Others have devoted themselves to making technology possible to accomplish these goals. In an effort to explore another sustainable technology, I’ve decided to communicate the benefits of hot water technologies and their influence on our industry’s environmental impact.
Round and round we go
Think about it. More likely than not, none of us actually consider the life cycle of our hot water on a daily basis. We simply proceed to take long showers, wash our hands, clean dishes or complete the household laundry. It is safe to say that the majority of us only really worry about our hot water supply when we don’t have any! Now imagine you’re a guest in a hotel without hot water. Nothing is quite like the experience of having 50 guests calling the front desk during peak hours of the morning complaining of no hot water.
The truth is that our business spends large amounts of money to run boilers and water heaters to ensure this doesn’t occur. However, newer recirculation technologies are a smarter, greener way of ensuring the tap never runs cold. The premise is simple: A recirculation system such as D’MandRecirc by Enovative Group is a smart pump system that only operates during peak demand periods. This can substantially reduce outward costs associated with running a system 24/7 to supply hot water to all of your properties fixtures. By generating the hot water only when needed, these systems reduce energy expense associated with running a hot water heater, reduce unnecessary pressure on piping systems which can reduce long term maintenance costs.
I spent years in the hotel industry and understand the need for a hot shower is priority number one which made me a skeptic of boiler management and hot water distribution technologies. In the past couple years we have been working with US Energy Solutions installing their Hot H2O Saver system into several of our hospitality energy projects. This device has specific sensors in place to react to the need for hot water which in turn activates the pump system to satisfy demand. Consider that people generally utilize hot water only 15% of the time. This means that you are currently paying to heat water for the unused 85% as well. A system that runs solely at the point of demand can generate untold utility cost savings!
Turn down the heat
The general idea behind these energy saving technologies is simple. Reduce the time needed to run costly and energy depleting elements of our business. This reduces individual property costs while reducing the impact on the environment. Do you utilize a boiler system for your hot water supply? Natural gas prices across the nation may be lowering lately, but the energy market is far from stable. Imagine having the ability to reduce your line item utility costs while not sacrificing the services your guests expect and deserve? We all can agree that a more predictable utility expenditure can greatly improve revenue flow in real time and aid us in better planning for our annual budgets.
A boiler economizer system may be one way to improve overall performance and cost effectiveness of your hotel’s hot water needs. For those of us reliant on this type of heating system, an economizer acts in a very similar capacity as a circulation system. Economizers, such as the Intellidyne Controls LCH Boiler Control, act as a “brain” on your traditional boiler system. This device monitors the temperature of the water exiting the system and adjusts the burner run pattern to match the system’s “heat load.” Essentially, this system will ensure that the proper temperature water is exiting the system at peak times. This can reduce wear and tear on the boiler unit itself thus increasing its lifespan- All while reducing operating costs! Installation is incredibly simple and the cost reduction is immediate. Typically a system such as this can reduce the operating costs of a traditional boiler by 10-20% per property. It reduces the environmental impact and allows the money to “flow” directly to your bottom line.
Let the Sunshine in
In the world of renewable energy sources, the Sun reigns. Solar energy is abundant in supply, incredibly clean and, for all practical purposes, is free! Solar technologies have had a huge impact on the overall sustainability movement both in hospitality and other business sectors. Properties across the country have installed solar panels on their roof systems to sell back renewable energy to local utilities, solar powered landscaping and parking lights are more common than ever before, and the power of solar energy is being harnessed to heat our guests’ water supply.
Solar thermal water heating systems are a cost effective and practical application for some sustainability plan. These types of systems use solar panels to heat the water supply to the holding tank in a clean and efficient manner. Imagine a circuit-style loop on a grand scale. Water is pumped from the tank through pipe that links with the solar panel and heating elements. It then travels back into the holding tank for distribution. By harnessing the abundant energy provided daily by the Sun, these systems reduce overall utility costs to almost $0! Consider that a typical residential application of a similar system has an average wash of investment costs within 5 years. The cost savings can easily be offset on a commercial application given the reduction in energy costs.
With companies such as UMA Solar andFLS Energypioneering the production of these renewable energy technologies, the efficiency and productivity of these systems for larger commercial use is improving. Cogenera represents a hybrid technology allowing the capture of the heat produced through PV electric generation. In some areas of United States there are rebates, incentives and no money out of pocket programs guarantying rate reductions. Many of these systems are designed to have little to no maintenance associated post installation as well as typical life expectancies of 30 years or more! Aside from the reduction in energy costs, users of solar thermal water heating systems enjoy energy independence and a clean and durable source for their hotel’s hot water needs.
Water on demand
Can you imagine jumping in to a swimming pool in the middle of winter? For guests that encounter no or limited hot water, that’s what you’ve asked them to do. Peak demand hours in hotels can be a drain on the hot water supply and can limit its performance. A guest that experiences a cold shower can be a guest that is lost for good. Tankless water heater systems allow a property to have “on-demand” hot water that can provide an endless stream of hot water to every shower, faucet and laundry facility on a hotel’s grounds.
Some of the most popular tankless systems are manufactured by companies like Rinna, Rheem and Takagi. Used in both residential and commercial applications, this technology allows for a custom designed system to maximize performance and productivity. The core of the technology relies on specific heating elements that are utilized only when the system senses the need for hot water. When the demand for hot water is not detected, the system rests-Using no energy! Tankless systems offer incredible value for the investment based on their benefits over traditional water heaters:
- Longevity: A typical tankless water heater can have a life span in excess of 20 years! This is almost double the lifespan of a traditional tank heater!
- Energy savings: Not only does the heater operate only when demand is generated, it also eliminates the cycle of heating and reheating the same tank of water.
- Clean, fresh water: Traditional tank heaters can corrode and rust, causing water to become contaminated. A tankless system eliminates this threat.
- Space savings: A tankless water heater system can be installed on the wall, thus freeing up valuable floor space.
For commercial applications these heaters can be linked together to provide more than adequate coverage for any hospitality environment. As with some of the other technologies mentioned earlier, these systems can easily provide a short timeframe for return on investment.
Time for a change?
With options to fit just about any existing setup, the ability for a hotel to begin providing a more efficient hot water supply to their customers is viable and within reach of any budget. The impact over time can benefit not only the experience of our guests, but also the greater sustainability initiative as a whole. Consider the options that exist today to deliver a better, more efficient product to your guests and the potential revenue these technologies can provide. Sometimes the simplest amenity can be altered in such a way that it benefits everyone involved.
For more information on EcoGreenHotel’s sustainable solutions for hotels, contact us at
About the Author
CHRIS LEWIS, EcoGreenHotel DIRECTOR OF ENERGY SOLUTIONSVeteran with over 17 years in the hospitality industry both in the U.S. and abroad managing and directing all departments including hotel operations, food and beverage, renovation and construction. Lewis brings broad experience with full and select service hotels, facility management, property improvement, environmental initiatives, openings and multi-property management to the team. He previously served as Development and Construction Manager at OTO Development. Lewis’s expertise includes mechanical systems, equipment specs, purchasing habits, standard operating procedures and project management. Lewis was responsible for the “green initiatives” for several properties that successfully qualified to achieve Florida Green Lodging, EcoRooms and EcoSuites, California Green Lodging and Irvine Build Green certifications.