Power Play

A new generation of high-efficiency heating and cooling systems is easy on the environment and hoteliers' bottom lines.

By Don Douloff

Since they regulate climate and therefore directly affect guests’ comfort levels, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) constitute a crucial part of any hotel’s operation.

HVAC also represents a significant cost. Hoteliers’ power costs alone are huge. For example, according to figures provided by Hydro Quebec, the monthly electricity bill for a large hotel in that province can range from $20,000 to $70,000, with the average clocking in at about $30,000. At Starwood Hotels and Resorts, energy is the company’s second highest expense after payroll, according to a spokesperson.

Hotel climate control is most commonly provided by a packaged terminal air conditioner (PTAC). Self-contained heating and air conditioning systems—many of which are designed to fit through a wall—PTACs feature vents and heat sinks both inside and outside.

What’s more, a new generation of high-efficiency PTAC systems enables easier management of HVAC, uses less energy and is bringing savings to hoteliers’ bottom lines.

AJM Solutions, for instance, offers the Amana DigiSmart Wireless Energy Management System, which employs an in-room wireless thermostat and occupancy sensor jointly operated by one button. This allows hoteliers to connect all the PTACs in a particular property so they can be monitored from a single controller. At any time, the hotel’s operations team can ascertain if the unit is running, if a room is occupied and view whether maintenance is needed on any of the connected PTACs. Furthermore, the system can reduce energy costs upwards of 30 per cent.

For common areas served by rooftop packaged heating/cooling equipment, Belimo Americas (Canada) carries a digital ZIP Economizer control that matches air intake to the number of people present in those spaces. This type of control can bring savings of 10 to 40 per cent off the cost of heating and cooling common areas. Moreover, many Canadian utilities offer incentives for installing this upgrade.

Elsewhere, Gordon R. Williams Corp. carries Honeywell’s Inncom energy management/room automation system. When no motion is detected upon guests’ exit, the thermostat allows the temperature to drift plus-or-minus 5˚F after 10 minutes or setback plus-or-minus 10˚F after 14 hours from guests’ desired temperature while the room is unoccupied. Result: enhanced energy savings. Inncom features both a regular and deep setback and therefore does not interfere with guests’ comfort.

For its part, LG Electronics’ PTAC systems feature owner-selectable settings to regulate temperature operation ranges for cooling and heating. For example, in heating mode, a property owner can set the unit to allow maximum settings of ranging between 22˚C and 30˚C. The same settings can be enabled for air conditioning minimum temperatures. The control panel’s energy saver mode button will set the indoor fan to run only when heating or cooling.

An energy saver mode is also offered on NRG Equipment Inc.’s PCNTB Series 26-inch PTAC system. Using environmentally friendly refrigerant, the system offers such features as an efficient rotary compressor, electronic touchpad thermostat and four-way adjustable air discharge.

HVAC case studies

Lobby at Microtel Inn & Suites.

Lobby at Microtel Inn & Suites.

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Microtel Estevan, SK, which opened in Oct. 2012, is the first Microtel under the brand’s new prototype and features 80 guestrooms/suites. The second property under the new prototype opened in Timmins, ON in March 2103 and features 93 guestrooms/suites.
MasterBUILT Hotels, which owns the Canadian territorial development rights for Microtel, conducted “a lot of analysis” before deciding on a General Electric Zoneline PTAC system, vice-president of construction David Bengert told CLN.
The GE system is tied into a ‘smart’ thermostat that senses occupancy levels in guestrooms. If the thermostat doesn’t sense any movement, it adjusts the temperature cooler (when heating) or warmer (when cooling). When the guest returns, the thermostat resets the temperature to the original level.
The GE system limits the available range, within which guests can set their room temperature, to a 7˚C swing. In summer, the thermostat limits the lowest possible cooling setting to 17˚C and in winter, it limits the highest heating setting to 24˚C—with the hotel operations department determining the precise settings.
MasterBUILT’s initial costs for the GE system, including the ‘smart’ thermostat, were $100 per room higher compared to another system it was considering, but the company opted to spend more up-front in order to realize longer-term cost savings, said Bengert.
Taking Estevan as an example, that hotel features the lowest utility rates of any similar-sized property managed by MasterBUILT, said Bengert. Furthermore, by installing the energy efficient PTAC and undertaking other electricity savings measures, the Estevan property, in its first year, saved enough in power costs to pay back its extra capital investment, he said.

Lobby at Residence Inn, downtown Vancouver.

Lobby at Residence Inn, downtown Vancouver.

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RESIDENCE INN By Marriott Vancouver Downtown

Owned and operated by SilverBirch Hotels & Resorts, the 201-room property opened in July 2012 following a $25-million retrofit that rebranded it from the Cascadia Hotel & Suites.
The hotel has all new high-efficiency boilers, chillers and room fan cool units. Thermostats are digital and feature motion sensors and auto reduce temp (another name for “setback”) if there’s no motion detected in the room.
Domestic water is heated from main boilers to storage tanks and pre-heated by chiller condenser waste heat. This practice saves energy because it uses heat from the chiller condensers that is normally lost to the atmosphere. “We use heat exchangers to recover this heat and add it to the domestic water,” said Steven Henley, the hotel’s chief engineer.
Parkade exhaust fans are tied to carbon monoxide sensors. This saves on electricity because the fans don’t run continuously and only start operating when the carbon monoxide level is too high.
All lighting is energy efficient and uses LEDs; compact fluorescent lights, which use less electricity for the same wattage output of other bulbs; and T5, the newest type of fluorescent tube, which uses much less energy than older T8 models.
On most equipment, variable frequency drives were installed to control motor speed at the most efficient level, limiting speed depending on temperature, flow requirements, etc. Consequently, motors only run as fast as needed to satisfy a certain condition—“usually a fairly good savings in energy,” said Henley.
Henley estimates energy savings at about 30 per cent for natural gas; 10 per cent for electricity and 20 per cent for water, compared to the costs before the retrofit.

The Element terrace.

The Element terrace.

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ELEMENT Vaughan Southwest

A franchised hotel owned by Zzen Group and managed by Atlific Hotels, this 152-room extended-stay property opened in June in Vaughan, ON, about half an hour north of Toronto.
The hotel is designed to meet and exceed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Canada for New Construction 2009 requirements.
Conditioned fresh air is delivered through two engineered air heat recovery units, each equipped with a minimum 60-per-cent heat recovery wheel, according to hotel general manager John Caneco. These units provide tempered air to ClimateMaster heat pumps for heating and cooling to provide ideal conditions.
To ensure optimal guest comfort, lighting levels and energy efficiency are maintained throughout. Johnson Controls environmental control system monitors and regulates ground floor and public spaces.
Each suite is equipped with individual ClimateMaster Tranquility vertical heat pumps controlled by Inncom 4G thermostats, which provide accurate temperature readouts and fan speed control with manual on/off controls, according to Caneco.
LED lighting installed throughout the building. In addition, LED exterior facade/parking lighting contributes to the building’s energy efficiency targets.
Through the combination of energy efficient equipment selection and design, Element Vaughan Southwest’s anticipated annual energy consumption is reduced by 56 per cent, resulting in a 35 per cent annual energy cost savings reduction compared to the Model National Energy Code for Buildings (MNECB) 1997 equivalent building, according to Caneco.
Based on the National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (NECB) 2012, Element Vaughan Southwest’s peak energy demand has been reduced by 164 kilowatts or an annual reduction of 66,496 kilowatt hours. This results in a calculated equivalent greenhouse gas emission reduction of 537 tonnes.