Hotels look beyond lighting to cut utility costs

(New York Cornish)

Lighting used to consume the lion’s share of energy costs in hotels, but that has since shifted to other areas, such as the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Michael Serour, director of sales for Verdant Environmental Technologies, a developer of energy sensors, said that high HVAC costs are nothing new, but lowered lighting costs have turned all eyes on environmental systems.

“The biggest way people waste energy and create costs is by heating and cooling rooms when unnecessary,” Serour said. “There is no LED-like replacement there, but heating is the bigger beast to tackle when compared to air conditioning.”

Serour said one of the greatest challenges facing hotels in this area stem from stigmas created by early pioneers in energy management who developed technology that saved money at the expense of guest comfort. “In hospitality we are uniquely focused on comfort, something older technology didn’t consider,” Serour said. “Now, the technology exists to prioritize guest comfort over all else.”

Ron McGill, director of engineering for the Grand Hyatt New York, said the development of Wi-Fi-based HVAC controls have significantly lowered costs because hotels no longer have to run communication cables through the property to facilitate the system’s operations.

The Alexander

“Running building-management communication cables through an existing building can be very difficult depending on the accessibility through ceiling and walls,” he said. 

Another challenge McGill brought up was the increased demand hotels are placing on local power grids due to continued development and a higher reliance on electricity. “Energy reduction is imperative in order to reduce the chances of blackouts and power loss,” he said.

Michael Moros, GM of the Alexander, A Dolce Hotel in Indianapolis, said the costs associated with chilled water are so high that the hotel invested in a chilled water tower next to the property, something he expects to pay for itself in roughly seven years. Buying chilled water through the city of Indianapolis became such an expense that the Alexander began experimenting, finding that tweaking the water’s temperature by just one degree in a public area could create savings without affecting guest comfort.

“We are always looking at different ideas, but for me the battle has been with water,” Moros said. “We are moving on our water tower, but reducing all usage is huge.”