Energy-efficient models can be a cost saver for hotels

INTERNATIONAL REPORT—Energy savings is an important part of a hotel’s operational plan. And while that usually includes technology platforms that identify peak and non-peak times, and regulate lighting and temperature controls, or initiatives like solar panels, even the small things can add up to large savings over time. For many hotels, the guestrooms feature all sorts of appliances—fridges, alarm clocks, cooktops, microwaves, etc.—some of which are on all of the time. So how should a hotel plan for an energy-efficient operation?

Stephen Siegel, principal of H-CPM, a full-service construction project management and owner representation firm specializing in the hospitality industry, noted that when looking to replace appliances or buy new ones for a new development, owners pay more attention to energy efficiency when the appliance is used often.

“With selecting appliances for energy-efficiency ratings, more focus is given to appliances that are used the most,” he said. “For example, in lodging, the annual power usage of a refrigerator is more than that of a cooktop or microwave. As such, the refrigerator will be the appliance that tends to be reviewed for energy efficiency. Microwaves or cooktops, which can use a lot of power, do not get much use in terms of total operational time. Over the life of the appliances, the total energy draw is negligible, so less consideration is given. With refrigerators however, they are always on.”

Heating and cooling units also get attention, Siegel said. “When it comes to heating and cooling units, owners are always looking at methods to control power usage. To reduce energy consumption, motion-detection devices and heat sensors are quite often used. The leading challenge is finding a model that works in a manner that does not discomfort the guest.”

Walt Strasser, EVP, sales and marketing, Minibar Systems, noted that when it comes to refrigerators, energy efficiency is on the rise. “Energy efficiency is becoming more important to hotel owners/operators in all categories of hotels because of increasing operating costs and increased awareness of technology solutions to [lessen]energy consumption,” he explained.

Fatiha Babou, head of lodging, EMEA, Dometic, agreed: “Energy efficiency is of paramount importance for hotel owners as this has a direct impact to their operating cost and, therefore, their actual profitability.”

When it comes to purchasing minifridges, many hoteliers look for energy efficiency.

While energy efficiency is important, it is not the only thing that matters. Siegel said that when working with owners, they have a few top concerns. “When procuring in-room appliances for renovations or when a unit otherwise needs wear and tear replacement, most ownerships we work with first, confirms if it meets brand standards; second, if the unit fits in the space intended; and third, if the energy efficiency rating will justify the added cost,” he said.

However, LEED certification is a game-changer. “If dealing with a LEED-certified requirement, the ownership pledges to reduce its carbon footprint as much as possible,” Siegel said. “In these instances, all opportunities are evaluated.”

Babou noted that the hotel has to look at the entire cost—not just the initial cost. “While the actual cost of the equipment is an important factor for any investor, it is essential to also focus on the actual cost generated by the equipment during the entire life cycle of the unit,” Babou said. “The initial investment of such equipment has to be considered alongside other main KPIs forming an integral part of the unit ecosystem during the entire life cycle of the unit: design and construction; energy consumption; actual cooling performance; supply chain carbon footprint; and the robustness, reliability and sustainability of components used. While the initial investment is of importance, one should not forget taking into consideration the guest experience and their essential needs during their stay. Minibars in high-scale hotel segments do have an impact on guest satisfaction.”

How long do hotels typically go before replacing in-room fridges? Strasser noted that it’s typically five to six years. “Older models increase energy consumption as the compressor and motor age,” he said. “After five years, the energy consumption increases significantly.”

Babou added, “Depending on the quality and reliability of the products originally installed, minibars are replaced at every complete refurbishment project decided by the owners. Any less than that, and there could be an actual reliability issue. We have 20 to 30-year-old installations out there, and while we fully appreciate the loyalty and high satisfaction level of our customers, we endeavor to persuade them to replace their minibars, allowing them to benefit from the latest developments.”

Siegel noted that replacement often happens as a result of the brand. “A brand-mandated property improvement plan or an otherwise scheduled renovation may require appliance replacement,” he said. “This is typically due to new standards or finish changes. Otherwise, most replacements occur when a unit stops working. At the time of replacement, it is worth the time researching if the potential energy savings outweighs any extra cost of the new appliance.”

Strasser agreed that research is key. “Best practices would be to seek replacement models that feature an energy savings function similar to our SmartFridge where the unit can be turned off in vacant rooms while allowing guests to quickly cool the fridge after checking in,” he said. “This feature can save the hotel up to 50% in energy consumption by not wasting energy in vacant rooms.”

Looking toward the future, Strasser noted that there will be even more options when it comes to energy efficiency and sustainability. For instance, he said, “Our Thermoelectric GuestFridges for hotels are 100% environmentally friendly and feature no chemicals in the cooling systems whatsoever. In addition, the cooling efficiency is excellent and better than a compressor, and [the fridges]are ultra-quiet in day-to-day operations. This type of technology (also called Peltier) will likely become the standard in hotel guestroom cooling technology in the near future due to these benefits that outweigh the benefits of traditional compressor refrigerator technology.” HB

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