The 10 rules of saving energy

23 January 2015 by
The 10 rules of saving energy

When asked, most operators will claim they have done all they can to manage energy use. But with the hospitality sector responsible for energy costs of over £1.3b and carbon emissions of more than 8 million tonnes a year, there's a lot more that can be done, not only to reduce the environmental footprint - a growing priority for customers - but also to cut energy costs.

Indeed, according to a recent study conducted by the Energy Efficiency Financing (EEF) scheme, a joint initiative between the Carbon Trust and Siemens Financial Services, SMEs in the UK hospitality sector are overspending by nearly £92m per year on their energy bills as a result of inefficient technology and old equipment, a figure that could be hugely reduced by investing in solutions like LEDs, combined heat and power (CHP 0 systems or the latest biomass technologies.

Moreover, thanks to schemes like the EEF, it's possible for operators to do this with zero upfront cost, as the expected savings will pay for the investment.

Crucially, though, investing in the most up-to-the-minute green technologies isn't the only way operators can make a big impact on their energy usage - the little things really can help too, as Mark Linehan, managing director of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, is keen to stress: "It's eminently achievable for most hospitality businesses to reduce their energy consumption by 20%, which is equivalent to a 5% increase in sales. And many of the efficiencies can be achieved simply by inspiring staff to think positively and behave differently," he says.

"That can be as simple as ensuring everyone knows to only use appliances when they're needed, turning down the thermostat by one or two degrees and switching off the lights at the end of the day."

Here we reveal 10 ways - ranging from installing cutting-edge green technologies to implementing simple changes in staff culture - that can slash energy usage, boosting both green credentials and the bottom line.

1. Measurement and understanding

The first step to reducing energy consumption - before making any changes or investing in expensive solutions - is to measure and understand your use. "By accurate measurement through the use of automated meters and sub-metering, it is possible to pinpoint where your inefficiencies lie and target the best savings," explains Chris Burgess, head of sustainability at Considerate Hoteliers. "By doing this, it is possible to identify an average
10% saving in energy."

But in many cases, savings are even greater. Mike Hanson, head of sustainable business at Baxter- Storey, says: "We worked with our client RBS to introduce an energy monitoring programme using the latest technological developments. We set up a sub-metering system across the bank's three largest sites with a company called Senselogix.

This meter runs via the distribution boards and tracks the energy being used on each site. Since we implemented the meter, one of our sites has seen an impressive 20% reduction in electricity consumption."

2 Education

Educating your team to provide feedback on where energy can be saved can make a huge difference to usage, according to Mark Taylor, chief executive at the QEII Conference Centre in London. "Sometimes the simplest savings can be made by being aware, particularly with clients who leave equipment on for 24 hours, or not taking advantage of more low energy usage equipment on-site," he says. "It's incredible what you can spot by listening to your teams and the feedback from clients."

Hanson adds: "We hold site-based 'Green Flash' training sessions for staff. From an energy perspective, we want our teams to see their workplace in the same way they would see their home, and to have consideration for usage and efficiency accordingly. Therefore, we reinforce the need to turn lights off at the end of a shift, to ensure hot counters are not left running unnecessarily and avoid 'warming up' equipment for longer than required."

At the Green House hotel in Bournemouth, management has also recognised the importance of training guests. "We've redeveloped our check-in procedure so guests are told more about the energy saving principals in the rooms, such as motion detection, low-light settings on the TV and one control switch to turn off all the lights in the room when they go out," says HR manager Louise Chapman.

3 Low-cost solutions

Low-cost technologies such as occupancy, motion and daylight sensors can achieve savings of 30%-50% on lighting costs, according to the Carbon Trust, and are especially useful in storerooms, offices, toilets, cellars, corridors, function rooms and banqueting suites. At the Green House hotel the lighting system is designed so that the lights only come on when required. Daylight sensors turn off public area lighting when sufficient daylight is present, and motion detectors turn corridor lighting down when no-one is there at night.

The external lighting is controlled by a mix of presence detection, light-level sensors and time clocks, ensuring it is only on when needed.

Similarly, at the Truscott Arms, sensor lights are a key part of the team's energy efficiency strategy.

"Be careful on the timings though, so you don't plunge customers unexpectedly into darkness!," advises owner Andrew Fishwick.

4. LEDs

LEDs use up to 80% less energy than standard lightbulbs, according to the Carbon Trust, and have a much longer life span, providing around 50,000 hours of use. They have been "a revelation" at the Truscott Arms. "These are more expensive, so we are gradually working our way round the building replacing bulbs, but they have saved us over 30% on our electricity bill," says Fishwick.

At the QEII Conference Centre, which underwent a complete refurbishment in 2014, installing LED lighting to the exterior and in the garden, the energy saving is 25%. And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to its energy efficient lighting strategy. "We have [also] installed new LED house lighting to replace the original fluorescent overhead lights… throughout the ground level and first floor [and] we are already planning to introduce more of these during our third phase of work in 2015," Taylor says. "Although we are yet to have a precise and detailed breakdown of savings, they are very real and already noticeable."

5 Energy-efficient kitchen equipment

Around 25% of the energy used in catering is expended in the preparation, cooking and serving of food, so it is crucial that kitchen equipment is as efficient as possible.

"Purchasing more energy efficient equipment - such as low energy dishwashers and induction hobs - may seem like a luxury, but will prove a godsend in the medium to long term," says Linehan.

Two of the most efficient cooking technologies are induction hobs and combi-ovens. Induction hobs deliver heat to the pan using a magnetic field and require 15%-50% less energy than a conventional gas or electric hob, as well as less ventilation as they generate less heat. Combi-ovens reduce energy use by 25%-50% compared with equivalent appliances.

6 Building fabric adjustments

Improving the building fabric - for example, by upgrading insulation or installing new window glazing - can have a surprising impact on a business's energy use; indeed, around two-thirds of heat in a typical hospitality building is lost through its walls, floors and ceilings.

Damp can reduce a building's insulating properties, and unused doors or windows can be sealed to keep out draughts.

Owners can also insulate roof spaces, unfilled external cavity walls and hot water pipes (this can be done most cost effectively during refurbishment projects) or install high-performance glass.

At the Green House hotel,insulation has been made a key priority: not only has the hotel inserted cavity wall insulation between the outer and inner skin of the external walls of the building, additional thermal insulation (recycled newspaper) has been added between all floors and the loft space,
and draughty windows have been replaced with double-glazed windows.

7 Innovative heating technologies

Biomass heating systems, which burn wood mainly in the form of pellets, provide buildings with space heating and process heating as well as meeting their hot water requirements. They are a fairly new concept for hospitality businesses, but more and more providers are popping up.

Avanti Renewables, for example, offers funded schemes via the government's Renewable Heat Incentive, as well as simply selling the systems with
optional operational support.

Similarly, CHP systems, which simultane-ously generate electricity and heat and are almost twice as efficient as conventional power generation systems, are becoming increasingly popular.

Operators that have invested in CHP systems include D&D, which has a system installed in its South Place hotel; Green House hotel, which uses a CHP system to achieve efficiencies of 80%-90% at the point of use and exports any electricity it doesn't need to the National Grid; and the Savoy,
where its CHP plant alone saves more than £10,000 per month.

8 Reclamation

Some of the most innovative energy efficiency initiatives across the hospitality sector involve turning one thing - whether it's refrigeration, heat, food waste or even used cooking oil - into another, usually power.

At the Savoy, for example, there's not only a scheme to turn food waste into renewable energy, but also an initiative through which heat is reclaimed from kitchen refrigeration units and used to pre-heat the hotel's domestic hot water. Over the past year, this has allowed the hotel to elevate the temperature of the incoming water between four and six degrees - heat that would otherwise have been lost to the atmosphere.

Used cooking oil can also be recycled and turned into power by companies such as Living Fuels, which recovers used cooking oil and transforms it into an environmentally friendly bioliquid that can be used to generate carbonneutral electricity.

9 Ventilation and extraction solutions

Proper kitchen ventilation is crucial to a safe and comfortable working environment for staff, yet the ventilation system is one of the biggest single energy users in a catering operation.

According to the Carbon Trust, it makes up as much as 11% of total energy use. Fortunately, there are myriad ways to reduce this, including switching off ventilation equipment outside operating hours; cleaning, which can improve efficiency by up to 50%; variable speed drives, which match the speed of the fans to its current requirements; heat recovery and smoke capture solutions; and temperature sensors to automate ventilation control.

At the Lancaster London, several of these solutions have been applied to the kitchen's extractor canopies. For example, capture jet technology increases smoke capture by 15% and allows the equipment to operate with less exhaust flow rate, while timers on the extractor hoods control their usage.

10 Solar panels

According to Siemens Financial Services, solar photovoltaics, or solar panels, are one of the most attractive technologies for hospitality operators.

"The primary business case… is an immediate reduction in energy costs. In addition, the client is effectively 'hedging' their risk against future energy price rises and this can be a very important factor for clients with significant bottom-line costs," a representative from Siemens Financial Services says.

Moreover, the government's Feed-In Tariffs scheme for electricity-generating technologies from renewable or low-carbon sources means businesses could be paid for the electricity they generate from solar panels - even if they use it themselves.

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