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Energy Efficient Lodging Toolkit

Lodging facilities can be high energy users, especially those that are medium to large in size. According to ENERGY STAR, energy costs for U.S. hotels average more than $2,000 per room each year. However, there many energy efficiency upgrades that can reduce these costs while increasing comfort and safety. While some measures are easily implemented with a quick return on initial costs, others have high initial cost with a steady, year-to-year energy-savings benefit.

A variety of energy conservation projects can be found in the following areas:

  • Building envelope
  • Lighting
  • HVAC
  • Cooling and heating
  • Fans, ventilation, and ductwork
  • Water Heating

Equipment Efficiencies

When deciding where to start, consider a whole-building assessment, a walk-through of every room in the building to evaluate energy usage and needs. The information gathered from this assessment will help create an ‘energy map’ of your facility that will help you understand how your building consumes energy and where you can prioritize projects.

Your energy bills are an important tool, too. Obtaining a year’s worth of bills detailing your energy consumption costs records can help create a more complete energy map for your facility.

Energy tracking programs are widely available and serve as a great tool in energy-reduction efforts. The online resource, Energy Management Software, identifies hundreds of options to choose from, helping you integrate new solutions with existing technologies for continued success.

The information you gather will help set realistic energy efficiency goals based on your specific property, your budget, and your desired outcomes.  Some steps to aid in short-term goal setting include:

  • Track monthly energy bills with visuals to identify changes over time and estimate baseline costs.
  • Make sure to include all energy consumption bills, not just electricity.
  • Implement goal tracking.
  • Involve as many employees as possible to help implement an energy-conservation program.
  • Create a list of energy maintenance projects.
  • Execute.

Once you have achievable strategies in place, the next step is application. The opportunities listed here are not all-inclusive, but instead serve as a general guideline to help you get started.

The following considered ‘low hanging fruit,’ opportunities with typically lower capital costs and immediate paybacks.

  • Repair damaged window and door weather stripping.
  • Reduce excessive light levels by careful de-lamping.
  • Conduct combustion testing and boiler tune-ups.
  • Repair pipe and vessel insulation for steam and hot water distribution. lines
  • Eliminate continuous operation of exhaust fan and vending machines.
  • Replace ALL incandescent light bulbs with equivalent LEDs.
  • Repair malfunctioning dampers on unit ventilators.
  • Turn off lighting in areas where lighting is not required.
  • Change air filters.
  • Replace frail or missing insulation.
  • Clean exhaust fans and repair or replace loose or broken belts on fans.
  • Clean condenser coils.
  • Insulate refrigerant suction lines.
  • Check walk-in coolers to ensure defrost timers are set properly.
  • Repair or replace leaky or damaged HVAC duct work.

There are labor and materials costs associated with these projects, costs that must be covered by capital or operating budgets. However, in most cases, these expenses will be recouped in energy-cost savings in two years or less.

Building Envelope

The envelope of an existing building can be difficult to alter.  However, there are simple, cost-effective ways to control solar gain through windows and reduce increased cooling loads that can result. Strategic use of deciduous or coniferous vegetation on the south, west, and east sides of your building can help shade surfaces and reduce solar heat gain in the building. Increasing insulation in roof, walls,  and floor when appropriate can also reduce heat gain or loss. Also consider new ENERGY STAR-rated doors and windows.


Lighting is a top energy user in most hotels. There are a variety of lighting requirements for different areas , including guest rooms,  outdoors, common areas such as foyer and lounge areas, kitchen, and laundry. Some areas require 24-hour lighting.

Lighting systems include a number of components, including lamps, ballasts, fixtures, and controls, that help provide the proper illumination levels throughout the building. Lighting strategies represent the easiest opportunities to reduce energy consumption without any major expense. Simple and inexpensive strategies include switching off lights when not in use; de-lamping; and cleaning lamps, diffusers, and fixtures. Another simple, inexpensive strategy is to  install automatic controls such as occupancy sensors, timers,  controls, and dimmers to provide lighting to areas only when they are occupied and require lighting above current daylight levels.

Exterior lighting should utilize automatic controls that employ a photo-sensor, shutting off when enough light is present. Another option is to install an astronomical time switch, which can be programmed for power outages. To learn more about the best lights for different spaces, see our Energy Efficient Lighting Toolkit.

Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC)

Heating and Cooling

Person maintaining HVAC systemHeating and cooling account for the one of the largest energy uses in the majority of hotel facilities, making it a great target for energy-conservation efforts. Scheduling routine maintenance on HVAC units, including cleaning burners and air-conditioner coils, replacing and cleaning air filters, and checking ducts and pipe insulation for damage, can extend the life of your HVAC equipment. Regular maintenance helps ensure optimal performance, saves energy, and provides a comfortable and healthy building environment.

Generally accepted engineering methods of calculating HVAC loads can accurately identify the best configuration for your building and help in selecting properly sized equipment. Improve HVAC controls that reduce energy use by separating the building into ‘thermal zones,’ or areas with similar heating and cooling requirements. Installing controls for time-of-day scheduling, temperature setback and set up, and variable frequency drives (VFDs) will significantly reduce energy waste.

Check out our Energy Efficient HVAC Toolkit for more in-depth information.

Fans, Ventilation, and Ductwork

A variable frequency drive (VFD) or variable speed drive (VSD) works by converting incoming electrical supply from fixed frequency to vacillating frequency. This variation allows the drive to control how the motor operates. Finding the drive that best fits your needs will help reduce operating costs and increase energy efficiency, thereby reducing future energy bills. For a detailed look at VFDs and how they can aid in conservation efforts, check out our Energy Efficient Motors Toolkit.

Efficient ventilation flow, which can result in lower energy costs, can be achieved by understanding the volume of air flow necessary for a room’s size, occupancy, and usage. To improve ventilation, use controls for air dampers and demand-controlled ventilation when appropriate. In addition, shut off outdoor air and exhaust dampers when a building section, such as convention hall, is not in use.

Ductwork represents an easy opportunity for conservation. A good first step is to seal all duct joints, seams, and any leakages. Next steps, which require little capital, include reducing pumping energy by utilizing shut-off valves and variable speed drives, and reducing heat gain or loss from ventilation exhaust air by utilizing energy recovery of preconditioned outdoor air. Finally, reduce heat gain or loss in ducts by insulating the duct work and making sure it is not travelling outside the buildings’ conditioned space.

Water Heating

Another significant energy usage in hotel lodging is service water heating. Your water-heating system should be appropriately sized for the anticipated peak load of hot water. The most inexpensive reduction effort is to consume less hot water. Low-flow shower heads, toilets and faucets, as well as water-conserving, high-efficiency washing machines are great places to start.

Pipe insulation can play an important role in minimizing distribution losses in hot water lines. In addition, utilizing point-of-use water heaters for isolated loads can reduce both water and energy use. Shower-drain heat-stack recovery units can significantly reduce water heating energy consumption in cold climates, as well. Check out the link above to see a video on recovery units.

Equipment Efficiencies

Installing more energy-efficient equipment and appliances is a good step toward reducing energy consumption. It’s equally important to educate employees  in proper operation and use of these appliances. Utilize controls to minimize usage and waste. Additionally, look for the ENERGY STAR label on refrigerators, water coolers, and printers. This label ensures that the product uses a significantly lower amount of energy than its non-ENERGY STAR counterpart.

Tax Incentives

Don’t overlook the importance of investigating rebates and tax incentives that might be available, as this can impact what projects you can undertake. In addition to state and federal incentives, local utilities often offer incentives that can make your project more financially viable.

The following links can help get you started:

Once your measures are in place, creating and monitoring a post-occupancy checklist for measuring and verifying procedures will allow you to accurately identify when action or maintenance is required. Implementing a building maintenance program will ensure continued performance.

There are many factors involved when considering an energy efficiency project for your facility. Costs and payback periods will vary, but a cost-effective measure will reduce energy costs and free up capital to use in other parts of your business.

Finally, here is a case study of a Great Falls, Montana, hotel that highlights some of the benefits associated with the energy conservation measures mentioned here.