At the Lodging Green and Sustainability Conference and Expo in Dallas, experts discussed the ins and outs of energy and water efficiency audits. Here are a few tips for benchmarking your hotel’s performance and identifying cost savings that will benefit the bottom line.
—Start off simple by talking to your housekeepers, front desk agents, and other associates to identify areas in the hotel where you might realize water and energy savings, says Wes Shirley, director of engineering at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta. Then, create a baseline. “Most hotel brands have some kind of benchmarking,” Shirley says. “Make that your rule of thumb each year.”
—Compare your current performance to your property’s historical performance or the performance of comparable hotels in the area. If consumption levels aren’t where they should be, run some checks to figure out why you’re in the red zone, says Renee Swoger, director of capital administration and energy for G6 Hospitality. For instance, if your water meter is spinning rapidly at 3 a.m. when not a lot of guests are consuming water, you probably have an undetected leak. One easy way to identify a leak is to use toilet dye tablets. Multiple leaky toilets in a 100-room property can cost a substantial amount of money a year. “These are things you can do at the property level that are less capital investment related and more behavioral driven,” Swoger says.
—Take advantage of free energy and water efficiency audits from utility companies to collect information and data, Swoger says. “When you’re in charge of managing energy performance for 550 locations, you have to do it remotely,” she says of G6’s corporate-owned hotels. “We only have a certain amount of field engineers; we don’t have dedicated engineers for every property. We take advantage of free data when we can. There is a lot of good information that will come from those audits that will benefit you and you’re not obligated to buy anything.” In some cases local utility companies will cover part of the cost for a level one or two energy audit, says Amanda Townsend, manager of energy efficiency at Oncor. “At a minimum, they will perform a walk-through assessment to identify low-hanging fruit and what ROI you can expect from that,” Townsend says.
—From flat rates to demand and energy charges, utility bills can be hard to understand. Ask for help so you can measure the true impact of your energy use, Townsend says. “In the case of being a local hotel owner, you should have an area manager or representative from the company that can explain the charges, what will change and what won’t,” she says. “It should be a free service.”
—Find rebates and incentives offered in your state for HVAC upgrades, LED lighting, low-flow toilets, showerheads, and other equipment to get the best ROI on capital driven projects for energy efficiency. “A lot of times utility incentives can drive the majority of where we spend capital dollars,” Swoger says.
—Teach employees how to properly use energy efficient technologies and controls or else projects will be completely wasteful, Townsend says. “When you do these things, make sure education goes all the way down, even to housekeeping,” she says. “They’re the ones that are going to be using that facility.”
—Perform a regression analysis to measure your hotel’s performance after a project is complete. “Once you implement initiatives and investments that come from an audit, make sure you’re measuring performance correctly and isolating controlled variables that are going to impact your performance,” Swoger says.
Photo credit: Maintenance worker reading meter via Bigstock