What Hotels of Any Size Can Do to Become More Energy Efficient

9 ‘Small Step, Big Impact’ Energy Efficiency Tips Hotels Can Use to Slash Expenses, Help the Environment, and Please Customers

According to Energy Star, the average hotel in America spends $2196 per room every year on energy.

If you could reduce that by just 20% using fairly simple and low-cost energy efficiency and energy-saving strategies, lowering that cost to $1750 per room, what would that do for your net profits and your hotel’s long term growth?

Yes, some energy efficiency improvements that make the biggest impacts can also be very complicated and costly to implement. The list you’re about to see has none of those. All of these energy saving tips can be implemented by hotels of almost any size, with reasonable cost.

1. Automatic Shutdown Sockets

These allow you to turn off power to specific devices while rooms are unoccupied. Unoccupied rooms actually represent many of your greatest opportunities for energy savings, as you will see as you keep scanning this list.

lighting in a hotel room over a table

2. Be Smart about Lighting

By now you probably know about LED lighting. But that’s only one way to save energy (and costs) on your lights.

But first – if you haven’t made the switch to LED lighting in as many places as possible in your hotel – now is the time. LED bulbs last far longer than traditional bulbs. Most studies have found that you recover your investment within just a couple years. And since the bulbs tend to last as long as ten years, you stand to save a lot of money.

If your fixtures use a different type of bulb, consider replacing GLS lamps and T12 fluorescents with T5 tubes. Another option may include compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). All of these last far longer than traditional bulbs, and you can save up to 80% on your lighting costs.

And, don’t forget about bulbs in common areas. These lights are probably turned on the most. So any energy savings you can reap in those areas, including exit and other emergency signs, represent your greatest potential for saving money.

But other lighting changes allow you to save even more.

The key is simply to keep lights on less often.

In the guest rooms, you can install sensors in places like closets, bathrooms, and entry ways that will turn off lights when those areas are not in use. Sometimes guests forget to turn off lights and then leave the room for the whole day.

Also, in your common areas, conduct an inventory of which lights are on, at which times of day. Do you need all your common area lights on during the day? Turn them off when natural light does the job. And with dimmer switches, perhaps you can lower the brightness of lights in areas seldom used during the middle of the night.

3. Optimize All Temperatures

In summer, bedrooms don’t need to feel like refrigerators. In winter, guests don’t need to feel like they’re in the tropics. If you have more advanced thermostats that can also be controlled by the front desk, you can set your system to not heat rooms until the temperature falls below a certain level, and to not cool them until it rises above one. There is a range of temperature when neither heating nor cooling are really necessary.

Also, you can set fixed limits on the range of your thermostats so the temperature cannot be set above 80 or below 60, for example.

Those few guests who feel they need the more extreme temperatures can get them. But the majority of your guests won’t mind, or probably even notice.

Also, in your backrooms, you don’t need the temperature to be quite as optimized as in guest rooms. And in the common areas, especially during low-traffic times like the middle of the night, consider reducing the strain you put on the system.

Every 1 degree difference saves you 2-3% on energy costs. 

With regard to water, some hotels have their water heaters set far higher than is necessary. For hot water used by guest rooms, temperatures between 110 and 120 will serve guests fine. These are considered standard temperatures, even in home water heaters.

For water you use for cleaning dishes and other sanitation procedures, you might keep that water heater set at a higher temperature.

In hot climates, tinting your sunny windows can reduce cooling costs substantially. Here’s a hotel in Dallas that saved $50k per year by combining tinted windows with programmable thermostats.

And one note about programmable thermostats: Don’t install them right over the heater or in a place where they will be hit with direct sun, as this tricks the sensor into thinking the room is hotter than it really is.

4. Book Rooms in Clusters

Heat emanates between walls. In winter especially, during parts of the week when your hotel is not typically filled to capacity, try to book guests into rooms that border each other. And think three dimensionally. Eight rooms, four on each floor on top of each other, is a nice cubic cluster that will retain more heat between rooms.

And reserve the extremities of your hotel for last when booking in winter. This includes your entire top floor as well as the corners. And in the summer in warm climates, this includes your west-facing rooms.

If you know that during certain times of the year, your hotel never reaches capacity for several weeks or months, consider completely powering down some of these rooms. Just don’t forget to power them back up before your reservations start to increase again!

5. Reduce Unnecessary Laundry Costs

Most people don’t wash their sheets every single day. There’s little reason to do it in your hotel rooms either.

An effective way to empower your guests to reduce laundry is to put a laminated note on the bed that tells them if the note is not on the bed when housekeeping comes in, their sheets will not be washed. This method works well because even people who don’t read the note will still move it, meaning the sheets won’t get washed.

Likewise, when you provide guests with more places to hang wet towels, they will be more likely to reuse them for multiple days.

These simple changes will drastically reduce your laundry volume, saving both water and energy costs, as well as staff labor.

6. Install an HVAC System that Allows Central Control

Depending on your current system, this may or may not be an easy or low-cost option. However, giving your staff the ability to control the temperature in guest rooms will allow them to manage unoccupied rooms, including rooms with guests who may be gone throughout the day and probably do not need the room kept as cool or as warm as when they are there.

Again, even just a couple degrees makes a big difference in your bottom line.

7. Service Your Boiler Consistently

Keeping this critical piece of infrastructure working at peak energy efficiency can, by itself, slash your energy costs by 10%, depending on how long you usually put this off.

And while you’re at it, make sure to repair water leaks in bathrooms and kitchen areas.

hotel team members gathered around a table

8. Train, Empower, and Incentivize Your Team

All your departments can play a role in energy conservation. Teach your leaders and team members to always be on the lookout for ways to improve energy efficiency in their departments. Set goals for them. They will likely find small ways to cut energy costs that would never have occurred to you.

And if you have a way to track energy usage in different parts of your hotel, you can offer bonuses or other incentives to departments that achieve the greatest savings or exceed goals set for them.

By making this a positive aspiration, rather than a burdensome requirement, you can get complete staff-buy-in.

Simple suggestions you can start them off with include:

  • Defrosting fridges
  • Buying higher-rated fridges
  • Resetting thermostats to minimums when they check rooms – if you don’t have central HVAC control, this is a less costly way to partially achieve the same goal
  • Close drapes in empty rooms

9. Explore Solar Energy

Hotels use a lot of energy, and this will always be the case. The long term savings you can accumulate through solar energy can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, perhaps even millions in large hotels, over the life of the solar panels.

Solar isn’t right for every hotel. A lot of factors such as the pitch and orientation of your roofs, tree coverage, and other issues can come into play. But if you want to take the biggest possible bite from your energy bills all in one single action, this is the one.

See 5 ways hotels can save money and draw customers through solar energy

6 hotels and resorts already using solar, and the money they’re saving

Over the minimum 25-year lifetime of solar panels, it is a nearly guaranteed way to slash your energy costs. And your savings will likely increase each year because of inflationary utility costs.

The more of these energy efficiency and energy saving strategies you can put into play in your hotel, the more money you will save. It all pays off eventually. Take massive action by combining many of these at once, and the difference in savings will be most dramatic.

Interested in receiving a quote and cost-savings analysis for your property? Visit our solar power for hotels and resorts page.

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