SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, CALIF.—As of July 20, the owners of the Embassy Suites Lake Tahoe Hotel & Ski Resort had spent $250,000 less than they had expected to spend on energy this year. According to David Hansen, director of engineering at the 400-suite property, the hotel could come close to a total of $500,000 in energy savings by the end of 2009. When comparing the first six months of this year against the first six months of last year, electricity consumption dropped by 575,000 kilowatt hours ($98,902 savings) and natural gas consumption by 9,314 dekatherms ($67,709 savings). The hotel also experienced increased efficiencies in waste management, reducing by 48 tons the amount of waste sent to landfill. This resulted in an additional $15,250 savings.
The Embassy Suites Lake Tahoe Hotel & Ski Resort’s efforts got started in January when a team including the hotel’s general manager, director of hotel operations, owner’s representative, and Hansen met to discuss potential projects. After completing a property survey, the team began rolling out a series of energy-saving improvements that ultimately would cost $200,000. Hansen told the hotel’s owners they should expect a two-year payback on their investment. The systems put in place, however, have generated far greater dividends than anticipated and the property’s owners will recover their investment in just 10 months.
Hansen and his colleagues began with purchase of a Web-based energy management system that allows the property to better manage heating and cooling in meeting spaces. With the scheduling software, they eliminated heating and cooling of unoccupied areas. They then installed motorized dampers on the outside air returns. This allows them to cool the building without air-conditioning during the relatively short South Lake Tahoe summer.
“The building is about 20 years old,” Hansen says. “We had vents but no dampers. We could not adjust the volume of incoming outside air. We installed motorized dampers in the ductwork. For most months we can just pull in 100 percent outside air for cooling. I always thought it was possible.”
Variable Frequency Drives Reduce Run Time
Staff then looked at the pumps the property has for cooling and condensing water, and the heat pump loop. They discovered that the pumps were running constantly at full speed. Variable frequency drives were installed on the pumps. Now they run at less than 50 percent of capacity.
“The drives sense what the necessary load is and adjust,” Hansen says. “It is a ‘brain’ that goes on each pump.”
A new ozone laundry system is also paying big dividends. At first Hansen thought the salesman’s pitch was too good to be true but the system has turned out to be everything the salesman said it was. The $24,000 invested in the ozone system will be recovered in just seven months. Hansen said the heating of hot water for the laundry has been eliminated, the wash spin cycle has been cut in half, drying time has been cut in half, and sheets no longer need to be dried. They go straight into the ironer after washing.
“Executive housekeepers tend to resist change but ours love the ozone system,” Hansen says.
Additional Cost-Saving Measures
Here are some additional examples of measures that have been taken to either reduce energy consumption or minimize environmental impact in other ways:
• Kitchen grease exhaust fans were put on timers. They had often been running around the clock but now they run only when the kitchen is open.
• Forty-watt incandescent bulbs in 165 exit signs were replaced with 1-watt LEDs. Compact fluorescents (CFLs) were also installed throughout the hotel. More than 200 13-watt bulbs that provided unnecessary lighting were removed. In the hotel’s garage, all T-12 ballast lighting is in the process of being replaced with more energy efficient T-8 ballast lighting.
• Lighting occupancy sensors were installed in all offices and store rooms. An occupancy sensing energy management system was installed in all 400 suites.
• Styrofoam has been eliminated and the hotel now uses biodegradable products in food service areas.
• Thanks to a new composting program, five cubic yards of food waste a week is taken to a local composting farm.
• By recycling aluminum cans, bottles, newspapers, plastic, toner cartridges and cardboard, the hotel has reduced its waste hauling bill by $3,200 per month. Costs are further offset by approximately $400 per month by hauling cans and bottles to the local recycling facility.
• Rather than continuing to purchase, transport and store chlorine for the swimming pool, a salt water system keeps the water clean and cuts down guest and staff exposure to harmful chemicals.
• Plans are underway to heat the pool and spa with solar panels.
• A Sustainability Committee consisting of five employees and 10 managers meets weekly.
Power Company Recognizes Efforts
For its efforts to reduce electricity consumption, Sierra Pacific Power will soon present the Embassy Suites Lake Tahoe Hotel & Ski Resort with a $10,000 rebate check. The utility will also present hotel employees with 250 12-packs of CFLs.
Hansen says water conservation is the next challenge to tackle, although some initiatives such as a towel and linen reuse program and low-flow showerheads are already in place.
When asked if he had any advice for engineers at other hotels, Hansen said, “Every property needs to take a good hard look at their energy consumption and waste management processes. That is where one can reduce one’s carbon footprint in large amounts. The savings in those areas will help pay for the rest of your sustainability program.”
No environmental program is successful without a champion. For the Embassy Suites Lake Tahoe Hotel & Ski Resort, Hansen has been that person. In fact, Embassy Suites Hotels recently presented him with its Spirit of Embassy Award, recognizing him for his environmental work.
Go to the Embassy Suites Lake Tahoe Hotel & Ski Resort.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at email@example.com.