Plan Your Way Toward Low-Tech Energy Savings
By Steve Kiesner, Director of National Accounts, Edison Electric Institute
A business buzzword at the moment is sustainability-or operating with concern for the planet's natural resources, so that future generations will be able to meet their needs. As interest in sustainability grows, so too does the importance of using energy more efficiently. Getting more use from every dollar you spend on energy will help to lower the nation's greenhouse gas emissions and improve its air quality. It will, of course, also create significant opportunity for saving money.
In the hotel industry, energy typically accounts for three to five percent of total operating expenses. By becoming more energy efficient, you can lower your operating costs, which will create money to spend on guest amenities, on staff salaries, or on other vital areas.
Too often, though, the goal of becoming more energy efficient is seen as something that can only be reached through large capital expenditures. But in reality, there are many no- and low-cost steps that your company can start taking today to use its energy more wisely. And in doing so, you can lower your energy bill by 10 percent or more. Spending more to save more is always a good idea, but you do not have to put off becoming more energy efficient.
To realize what I call these low-tech energy savings, you need to follow three simple steps:
To get started and organized for success, you must build a team. Ideally, the team should be a task force of several people from various departments within the organization. Key groups are housekeeping and the kitchen staff. Little things they can do, such as resetting thermostats and closing drapes, or turning off lights and appliances that are not needed-will add up to make a big difference in energy costs.
Pull the team together for a planning session and start laying the groundwork. The easiest and least expensive way to identify and evaluate where to start making energy-saving improvements is by having your team conduct a 'walk-through' energy audit. You can find significant energy-saving opportunities this way. The decisions your employees make regarding lighting, heating and cooling, and other appliance use have a major effect on how energy is used in your hotel. The walk-through audit pays particular attention to identifying habits and procedures that can be adopted to use energy more efficiently.
Before you conduct a walk-through audit, the team should understand what a hotel's major energy users are. On average, the largest energy users are heating public and private rooms (31%), heating water (17%), cooling rooms (15%), and lighting them (12%). A small improvement in one of these areas can make a large impact on the bottom line.
One simple measure to lower heating and cooling dollars is to find out whether office and public areas are either too hot or cold and then adjust temperatures accordingly. Also check to make sure that heating and cooling in these areas is kept to a minimum during unoccupied hours. Find and seal any leaks in the ductwork, and make sure that the heating and cooling systems are regularly serviced.
The building's envelope-everything that separates the inside from the outside-has a major influence on the heating and cooling bill. When the building is operating effectively, when it is limiting heat losses as well as gains, the building will require less energy to maintain a set temperature. Easy steps to improve the envelope include caulking and weatherstripping to reduce air leaks around windows and doors, and keeping exterior doors closed.
Water heating is the next largest energy user. Steps to begin saving money include lowering temperature settings to 105 degrees Fahrenheit for hand washing, fixing hot water leaks, insulating water heater tanks if they are warm to the touch, and reminding staff and guests to "Please turn off the water". These are all easy ways to control energy use for water heating.
To reduce the cost of lighting your hotel, turn off unneeded lights in offices and public areas. When replacing bulbs, see if lower wattage bulbs or ones that are more efficient can be used instead. Install compact fluorescent lamps in guestrooms, bathrooms, foyers, corridors, and elevator. Their higher cost will be recouped by greater energy savings and lower replacement costs. Control outdoor lighting-use only the lighting necessary to do the job. And install photo sensors on exterior and landscape lighting that do not need to be on all the time.
Other areas where the team can look for quick energy savings are the refrigeration equipment, food preparation, and office machines. Turn off any equipment that is not needed overnight. Operate the equipment in efficient manner, and check any automatic controls for proper working condition and settings.
Once your team has identified where the energy-saving opportunities are, the next step is to create an action plan to achieve the top priority energy-saving measures. This plan will need to define success with goals that are realistic. The plan will also need to determine the base against which those goals will be measured, and how and when those measurements are to be made.
The plan should assign whom to do what by when and within what budget. And be sure to give employees tasks that they are cable of accomplishing. Then celebrate your successes. Do not wait until the end of a two-year program to announce results. Create regular milestones and incentives to meet them. Make all hotel employees feel a part of the program's success and it will take on a life of its own.
The third part of improving your facility's energy efficiency is taking advantage of all the help available. And there is a lot of help available. Your electric utility is likely to be a good source for information and assistance to help you get started. Your electric utility representative will likely have historical data about energy use in your business.
The local electric can be also help you with answers about:
You can find a national list of electric utility incentive programs at: http://www.eei.org/industry_issues/retail_services_and_delivery/wise_energy_use/programs_and_incentives/progs.pdf
The federal government is another resource that can help you become more energy efficient. The IRS is offering a tax deduction of up to $1.80 per square foot when your new construction or renovation project saves at least 50 percent of the heating, cooling, ventilation (HVAC), water heating, and interior lighting energy cost of a building that meets ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2001.
Partial deductions of $0.60 per square foot can be taken for improvements to one of three building systems-the building envelope, lighting, or the combination of heating, ventilation, air conditioning and water heating. These deductions are available for buildings or systems placed in service from January 1, 2006, through December 31, 2008.
Federal tax credits are also available for on-site distributed generation systems-solar energy, microturbines, and fuel cells-that meet certain efficiency requirements. The deadline for these tax credits is also December 31, 2008. You can find more details about the tax credits and deductions available at www.energytaxincentives.org
You should try to combine the federal credits with any applicable state incentives as well. A good web site that shows state programs is DOE's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy site: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/femp/program/utility/utilityman_energymanage.html. Based on the amount of money set aside, the best states for incentives are: Northwest (WA, OR, ID, MT), Northeast (NY, NJ, and ME), Upper Midwest (MN, WI, IL, and IA), CA, and Florida.
Once you decide to improve your company's energy efficiency, I encourage you to take the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) ENERGY STAR Challenge. This is a national call-to-action to improve the energy efficiency of America's commercial and industrial buildings by 10 percent or more.
Challenge participants and their members are encouraged to:
The EPA estimates that if the energy efficiency of commercial and industrial buildings in the U.S. improved 10 percent, Americans would save about $20 billion and reduce greenhouse gases equal to the emissions from about 30 million vehicles. To find out more about the Challenge, please visit: www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=challenge.bus_challenge.
One other resource that I encourage you to visit is a new Web site produced by the electric utility industry, "Get Energy Active": www.getenergyactive.com. Besides learning more about how to improve your company's energy efficiency, the new Web site also provides information on a variety of electricity-related issues such as climate change, the growing demand for electricity, and the electric utility industry's efforts to maintain an affordable and reliable electricity supply.
With these goals in mind and your team in place, you are now ready to begin. As you move forward, I encourage you to remember that saving energy will be long-term project. But it is a mission that will pay off in greater protection for the environment, higher satisfaction for your guests and employees, and of course, more dollars for your bottom line.
Steve Kiesner is Director of the Edison Electric Institute’s National Accounts Program. Based in Washington, D.C., Edison Electric Institute (EEI) is the association of United States shareholder-owned electric companies, international affiliates and industry associates worldwide. Our U.S. members serve approximately 90 percent of the ultimate customers in the shareholder-owned segment of the industry, and nearly 70 percent of all electric utility ultimate customers in the nation. They generated almost 70 percent of the electricity generated by U.S. electric utilities. Mr. Kiesner can be contacted at 202-508-5000 or email@example.com Extended Bio...
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