RED DEER, ALBERTA—The 88-room Comfort Inn & Suites Red Deer in Alberta, Canada, would have a pretty hefty heating bill given its northern location. “Would” is the key word here. It does not have high energy costs thanks to a roof-based solar heating system.
The system employs equipment normally used as a ground-source heat pump, designed to exploit the stable ambient temperature of the earth to provide seasonal heating and cooling. The Comfort Inn design, however, does not have an underground loop of liquid-filled tubing for geothermal exchange; the heat pump is connected to 60 roof-based solar collectors and a highly efficient heat recovery system.
The system heats and cools the building and its guestrooms and converts waste energy from the hotel’s other systems. The solar panels on the angled roof are visible and tilted at a 50-degree angle to collect the most possible amount of sunlight.
Because of the volume of water, the solar energy is never wasted. On a sunny day, if the automated system, which shunts heat from areas requiring cooling to areas demanding warmth, cannot use the collector’s thermal energy anywhere else in the building, it stores it in a 60,000-liter storage tank. The system captures enough heat to heat the entire hotel, its indoor swimming pool and hot tub.
Hotel Opened with System in Place
The installation cost the owner of the hotel, Red Deer-based Squirrel Inc., $1.4 million. The system was installed during construction in 2005. The property, which is managed by Toronto-based Atlific Hotels and Resorts, opened in October 2005.
Al Simoneau, general manager of the hotel, says the solar installation was the idea of Brad Gabrielson, principal owner of the property.
“When he started to look at feasibility studies, he came across the name of a solar panel company,” Simoneau says. “He contacted [Swiss Solar Tech Ltd.] and everything unfolded from there. It was a pretty easy sell.”
“I have always been environmentally conscious, and this allows me to do my small part to protect the environment,” said Gabrielson at the time of the hotel’s opening. “It also makes good business sense, as the energy costs I save will result in a payback time of five to seven years.”
Simoneau says the hotel can go up to 14 days without sun and the system will still have enough energy stored to heat and cool the property. If really needed, a backup boiler system will kick in automatically. Maintenance is minimal; there is some meter reading and heat pump monitoring required.
“I certainly would recommend this type of system,” Simoneau says. “At the time of the opening, we were the most energy efficient hotel in Canada.”
The hotel’s general manager adds that Choice Hotels International and the Hotel Association of Canada have both been very supportive of the project.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.