Since January 2021, the UK and other parts of the world are facing an unprecedented rise in wholesale gas and electricity prices.
Pubs, restaurants, hotels and takeaways alike have all been hit with the impact of rising bills, despite support from government schemes such as The Energy Bill Relief Scheme (Moving to the Energy Bill Discount Scheme from April 2023).
So what can hospitality businesses do to reduce their consumption and lower their energy bills?
In this guide, we’ll be offering our best tips on how to maximise energy savings for businesses across the sector.
Get everyone involved
A big part of reducing your hospitality business energy consumption, is helping to raise staff awareness of energy conservation, so they can be motivated to co-operate and reduce waste.
The sector as a whole spends £1.3 billion per year on energy, producing 8 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually. Carbon Trust has estimated that most UK hospitality businesses could reduce their energy consumption by 10 to 14 percent, using measures such as those discussed here. Just imagine the difference that could make to your profitability.
More than just money is at stake
Lowering your carbon footprint is also good for your brand, and even better for the world as a whole. This is especially true nowadays, when increasing numbers of customers are aware of climate change impact and the future of the planet. They want to spend their money with businesses who share their values, and many will pay a premium to do so.
Use refurbishment as an energy-efficiency opportunity
Refurbishment is a regular feature of most hospitality businesses, occurring every seven to ten years on average. This is a significant opportunity to introduce energy efficiency features without interrupting the company any more than it would be anyway.
Some businesses have achieved 40 percent energy savings during refurbishment projects, and even a few simple measures can achieve a 10 percent reduction. Carbon Trust surveys show that measures with a payback period under 12 months can bring about a 6 percent saving, rising to 12 or more percent with a payback period of up to 2 years.
Where are the opportunities for saving energy in hospitality?
Heating is the single biggest energy cost in hotels, and both heating and lighting are the joint biggest energy consumers affecting a typical pubs energy bills. However, in reality, the savings in any business will be spread across heating and hot water, lighting, catering and the building fabric. Let’s take each of these in turn.
Make Savings with Smarter Heating
Heating and hot water systems are essential to any hospitality business —consuming more than 40 percent of the energy used in the average non-domestic building. That means ample saving opportunities are available, without compromising the all-important comfort of customers and guests.
What is the right temperature for heating?
Recommended temperatures for different areas in °C are:
- Bar or lounge – 20-22
- Guest bathrooms 26-27
- Guest bedroom 19-21
- Restaurant, dining rooms 22-24
- Corridor 19-21
- Kitchen 16-18
Keep boilers serviced and pipes insulated
Boilers must be regularly serviced — at least yearly, and twice a year for oil boilers. A regularly serviced boiler could cost 5 percent less per year to run, and it will be less likely to break down too.
Insulating boilers, hot water tanks, pipes and valves will pay back the cost in a few months, then continue to save money year after year.
Control is efficiency
Poor heating control is the most common cause of energy inefficiency in pubs, restaurants and hotels. Signs include:
- Having the heating switched on in unoccupied areas.
- Heating too high or low. Likely caused by placing the thermostat in a sunlit area or too close to heat sources.
The key is to match control to occupancy, avoiding heating empty spaces. This can be achieved by installing programmable timing switches, and reviewing the settings regularly to take account of changing seasons and levels of business.
One of the common causes of energy waste is changing a setting to deal with a temporary problem, then forgetting to reset it.
Thermostat location can make all the difference
Draughts, sunlight, proximity to radiators, fireplaces, and other heat sources can all compromise the effectiveness of thermostats. So can the use of thermostats as on/off switches.
Overheated rooms make customers uncomfortable. They also waste energy and money; so, it’s essential to check thermostats frequently to make sure they’re working as they should.
Heating should only be activated if the room falls below the minimum recommended temperature, and correctly positioned and maintained thermostats will make sure this happens.
Thermostatic radiator valves
Thermostatic radiator valves can provide more localised heat control, reducing the heat output of the radiator as the room fills up or empties. This makes it ideal for larger spaces, such as crowded pubs, public rooms in hotels, and restaurant dining areas. Radiators can also be made tamper-proof, so customers aren’t tempted to adjust them.
Technology changes frequently, so consider upgrading equipment
Switching to more efficient controls can pay back the cost quickly. The following solutions are likely to pay for themselves in a couple of years:
- A compensator automatically regulates the heating based on outdoor conditions.
- Optimum start controllers learn how quickly the building reaches optimum temperature, and can time the automatic switch-on to coincide with occupancy or respond to changing weather.
- Night setback controls automatically keep temperatures lower at night in corridors, stairwells and other common areas.
Zoning works for areas with different temperature requirements
Zoning is ideal for hotels and bigger pubs or restaurants, to ensure energy is being used to heat areas efficiently. It enables your management to turn heat off on unoccupied floors or in unused areas. It can also keep kitchens and storage areas cooler, and allow different temperatures for lounges and function rooms.
Heat pumps are often advisable for businesses with high heat requirements, such as hotels with swimming pools. Air to water heat pumps cost-effectively produce hot water for both heating and bathrooms or changing rooms.
Hot water is essential for every type of hospitality business, but the question is “how hot?” For example, the temperature of stored water needs to be at least 60°C— enough to kill Legionella bacteria and satisfy customers. Heating water to any higher temperature is usually a waste of energy.
Ways to prevent water and energy wastage in bathrooms:
- Tap controls for public toilets and leisure facilities can turn the water off after a pre-determined time.
- Spray taps and water-efficient showerheads can make a little water go further.
- Urinal flush controls that reduce the amount of water used in flushing.
Guest rooms in hotels
Overheating is uncomfortable as well as wasteful. Anything above the recommended 19-21°C is excessive for guest rooms. Advanced controls are now available that can automatically make it cooler and more comfortable at night, but allow guests to override them if they wish.
Heating pubs and restaurants
Seven-day electronic time switches can make it simpler to have different settings for different times of day, resulting in significant energy savings. The system will heat up as people arrive and cool down as they start to leave. This can be fine-tuned over days at first, and adjusted to allow for shifting patterns over the week.
Ventilation and air conditioning
Guests need fresh air and comfortable temperatures. It’s also a legal requirement in many cases—in kitchens with odours and smoke, for example. Customer expectations and regulations both demand ever-higher standards of ventilation in commercial premises.
Natural ventilation is free
The simplest way to create an airflow is by opening windows and doors on opposite sides of the room. Artificial ventilation can then be turned down or used sparingly. Always make sure it’s secure to have doors and windows open, however.
Is air conditioning essential?
In the UK’s usually temperate climate, air conditioning isn’t always necessary, and could be replaced with natural ventilation. Aside from heatwaves, the main exception is where you need to control humidity, such as in a hotel with a swimming pool. If natural ventilation solutions can be used, they are sure to be cheaper and less harmful to the environment.
A regularly cleaned ventilation system can be up to 25 percent more efficient. Dirty fans, dusty air ducts and clogged up components increase running costs and make the system more prone to breakdown. Get a qualified maintenance technician to review the system annually and replace parts before they start to cause problems.
Don’t let heating and cooling battle it out
If both are on at the same time, they are both ineffective. The trick is to set a wide enough gap between the trigger temperatures for each. For example, if the heating comes on when the temperature reaches 19°C, but cooling only starts up when it reaches 24°C. HVAC experts refer to this as the “dead band.”
Consider a mixed-mode system
A mixed-mode ventilation system is a bit like a hybrid motor car. It uses natural ventilation when possible, but switches to artificial if necessary. This minimises energy use, costs and emissions while keeping things comfortable.
Don’t waste heat, reclaim it
An exhaust air heat recovery system cleverly and efficiently uses some of the outgoing warm air to heat incoming fresh air. Some advanced ventilation systems also recirculate a carefully controlled proportion of exhaust air, mixed with fresh air as it comes in. A sensor makes sure that the resulting air meets the required air quality standard in the most cost-conscious, energy-efficient manner. Variable speed ventilation systems can also be installed. They run slower when demand is lower, and can be scaled up or down for anything from a large, luxury hotel to a small pub kitchen.
Switch to a Building Energy Management System (BEMS)
For larger premises, ask your architects or advisors about installing a network of heating, ventilation and air conditioning controls that can be accessed via a single computer display, with instant controllability of one or all. This has been shown to reduce energy costs by 10 percent or more.
The Key to Efficient Lighting
Hospitality businesses of all types need to look attractive. Lighting has a crucial role in this, as well as in more functional roles. Using a lot of lighting means consuming a lot of energy at high expense, but this can be reduced and controlled. Lots of hotels and restaurants have been able to reduce their lighting costs by as much as 50 percent without compromising on aesthetics or effectiveness.
- Theme or mood lighting for signage, reception areas, guest rooms, bars, restaurants and public spaces.
- General lighting for corridors and other access routes.
- Security and safety lighting.
- Exterior lighting, including car parks.
Lights off, bills down
A “switch off all lights when not in use” policy is the way forward for every business. Simple stickers reminding staff to do this can be surprisingly effective. The only exception is in corridors, stairwells and other places where darkness could endanger health and safety. The advice of health and safety and lighting professionals will ensure the right decisions are made.
Clean, well-maintained lighting costs less
Experience shows that windows, skylights and fittings that are poorly maintained can lead to a 30 percent drop in light levels over a two to three year period. This happens so gradually that it may go unnoticed. Whether it’s because the business uses extra lighting to compensate, or simply becomes less attractive, the result is always a loss of money.
Check your timings
As with heating, it’s essential to make sure that lighting operated by timers is appropriately adjusted. Otherwise, lights come on and consume electricity outside trading hours when no-one is present. As a recent Carbon Trust campaign points out, lights left on overnight in an average-sized office would use enough electricity in a year to heat a home for three months. So, the potential gains are significant.
Light is visible heat
Physics tell us that light and heat are just different forms of energy, so lighting equipment inevitably emits heat. That means cooling and refrigeration equipment have to work harder when the lights are on. Low energy lighting produces less heat, so it is doubly energy-efficient, reducing both lighting and cooling costs.
Switch to LED
Light-emitting diodes (LED) are the most effective, long-lasting and controllable of the widely used types of lighting. No warm-up period is another LED advantage. At first, they were expensive, but the cost has dropped rapidly in recent years. The technology has also become more reliable.
The result is that they can now provide all types of lighting at a fraction of the cost of traditional alternatives, with no need to compromise on aesthetics. LED technology can replace all the legacy solutions, including filament bulbs.
A standard incandescent bulb has a lifetime of 2,000 to 3,000 hours, and its luminous efficacy is up to 20 lm/W. The equivalent LED bulb lasts up to 75,000 hours, and its luminous efficacy is up to 150 lm/W.
It may sound extravagant to replace all or most of your current lighting with LED, but the savings mean that the investment will quickly pay for itself. The proof is that LED lighting is now chosen more frequently than the legacy alternatives in commercial projects, such as hotels and restaurants. Hard-headed businesses are analysing the numbers and coming to the obvious conclusion.
Occupancy sensors make sense
The nature of the hospitality sector is that people move around unpredictably. This is why most businesses find that occupancy sensors can drive substantial savings on lighting costs—estimated at 30-50 percent.
Experience shows that they are particularly useful in toilets, function rooms, banqueting suites and ‘backroom’ areas, such as store-rooms, offices and cellars.
Even in areas like corridors and stairwells, where health and safety concerns demand constant lighting, occupancy sensors can deliver energy savings.
Daylight hours and natural light levels vary significantly in the UK. That’s why photocells, also known as daylight sensors, can provide more precise lighting control than timers.
They have proved incredibly valuable in car parks and for external signage, often paying back the investment in less than 12 months. Furthermore, lighting consultants can recommend sophisticated systems that combine time switches and occupancy sensors.
Specialist occupancy-linked controls for hotels
Switching lighting, heating and cooling services off when guests vacate a room can be made possible by several control systems now available. Some are operated from the front desk, while others are linked to key card access or use occupancy sensors. Experience shows that such systems can pay for themselves within a year.
The building fabric
Your building’s fabric can play a decisive role in how energy-efficient it is. An estimated two-thirds of the heat in a typical hospitality building can be lost through the walls, roofing, floors and windows.
In fact, the problem is more acute in hotels, pubs and restaurants, which often occupy older buildings.
Keeping the building in good repair means regularly checking for roof leaks and blocked gutters or damaged windows. This is an essential aspect of reducing energy bills, and will help to prevent draughts or damp conditions.
Refurbishment projects are integral to the life cycle of hospitality businesses, and they present an ideal opportunity to make energy-efficiency improvements.
What causes your building to lose heat?
- The temperature difference between inside and outside.
- The insulating properties of the building.
- The amount of outside air entering the building, whether it’s via controlled ventilation or through ill-fitting doors and windows.
How improving your building fabric can help to save energy
Improved customer comfort and staff morale
People respond positively to comfortable and attractive working environments. Reducing draughts, minimising solar glare and preventing overheating can help to maximise the comfort of customers and guests. It can also improve staff morale and enhance productivity. And, of course, it will keep energy consumption down.
Lower running costs
Heating draughty rooms or cooling spaces overheated by direct sunlight are both a waste of energy—and money. Such problems are fixable by merely keeping the building properly maintained, resulting in better temperature control. Prioritising energy efficiency during refurbishment will also help to deliver lower long-term running costs.
Lower capital expenditure
Regular maintenance checks are inexpensive compared to the high cost and inconvenience of emergency repairs or having to replace equipment. You may even be able to replace the current heating or cooling systems with something more economical.
Enhancing property values
Hotels, pubs and restaurants are properties as well as businesses. Looking after the building fabric and investing in energy-saving features increases the property’s value.
Kitchens and catering equipment
Big kitchens run on heat. They are major energy consumers and always will be. Nevertheless, a few simple, low-cost or no-cost measures can make a significant difference. They can also make working conditions more tolerable for kitchen staff.
5 percent of kitchen heat goes into the food
Startlingly, 65 percent of the energy supplied by kitchen equipment, on average, is extracted by the canopy in the form of convection heat. Another 30 percent enters the kitchen as radiant heat. That leaves just 5 percent to be retained by the food as it is cooked. Clearly, there is room for greater efficiency.
Encourage people to switch off
In a busy kitchen, it’s tempting to leave everything on at all times. More seasoned chefs may even insist on this, because ovens and grills traditionally take a while to reach optimum temperature.
However, most modern catering equipment needs little pre-heating, so there’s no excuse not to switch hobs, ovens, grills and fryers off, or at least down, when not required. The same goes for extractor fans and lights.
Try placing stickers on equipment reminding users of the pre-heat time, and to switch it off when not in use.
Maintaining and cleaning kitchen equipment isn’t only essential for hygiene. It also keeps the kitchen as energy-efficient as possible. One necessary routine check is ensuring that gas burners show a blue flame. A yellow flame is a sign of inefficient combustion, probably caused by a greased-up burner. Checking seals and gaskets on oven doors is another routine operation that will pay energy-efficiency dividends.
Other tips for saving energy in the kitchen:
- Use the right size of saucepan.
- Always put lids on pans when practical.
- Use a frying pan rather than a whole griddle for one item.
- Keep freezer and fridge doors closed.
- Fill dishwashers before switching them on.
Replace equipment thoughtfully
A hectic commercial kitchen gets through a lot of pots, pans and equipment, so it makes sense to replace old items with the most energy-efficient alternative.
Modern induction hobs are worth considering, and hobs incorporating pan sensors have been shown help reduce fuel costs by around 5 percent.
It also makes sense to plump for ‘A’ rated models when replacing fridges, freezers and dishwashers. Any additional cost will quickly pay for itself in energy savings.
Keep refrigeration appliances in good condition with a regular maintenance schedule and frequent defrosting. This will keep food fresher and save energy costs. It also helps to extend the equipment’s lifespan, and reduce the likelihood of expensive repair bills.
Faulty door seals on cold rooms and frozen food stores are another potential cause of wasted energy, avoidable with regular checks.
Non-perishables don’t have to live in the fridge
Canned drinks, for example, are best kept in a cool place, then chilled to the required temperature just in time for customers to enjoy them. This will help to avoid overcrowding in refrigerators, which is a common reason why they run inefficiently.
Extractors and other forms of ventilation are integral to any commercial kitchen, but they’re also magnets for grime. Regular cleaning can increase energy efficiency by as much as 25 percent, as well as promoting hygiene and comfortable working conditions.
Don’t lose heat, recover it
You can reuse the large amounts of warm air produced in a kitchen. Heat recovery devices have been shown to reclaim up to 50 percent of this heat, which can be used to pre-heat hot water via an air-to-water recovery device.
Pub cellar energy efficiency
Keeping drinks cool accounts for around 5 percent of the average pub’s energy consumption. So anything that can make the process less energy-thirsty can result in significant savings. Ways to achieve this include:
- Keeping heat-generating devices, such as icemakers, outside the cellar.
- Insulating pipes that run through the cellar.
- Replacing traditional lighting with low-energy LED alternatives.
- Keeping refrigeration equipment cleaned and well-maintained.
Hotel leisure and fitness facilities
Many hotels attract customers with gyms, fitness suites, saunas, health spas and indoor swimming pools. All are high consumers of energy. A swimming pool is usually heated to around 28-30°C, and the air temperature around it must be kept at 1°C warmer than the water to minimise evaporation.
Swimming pool maintenance also includes regular backwashing to remove the detritus that collects in the filters. Adding heat exchangers to the pool equipment can promote energy efficiency, reusing warmth from the backwash to heat the pool water.
If a swimming pool, spa pool or jacuzzi is not in use for long periods, a cover can help to reduce heating and ventilation costs. This allows the heating to be turned down or off at night. Covers generally pay back the cost of the investment in 18 months to three years.
Solar heating can help
Water heating powered by solar energy is increasingly popular, and can often be integrated into your system. Talk to the manufacturers about the projected payback period, so you can make sure it’s the right option for your site.
Make exercise equipment work
Fitness equipment tends to have peaks and troughs of usage. If these are predictable, timers can be fitted to ensure that the machines are switched off when not in use.
Displaying clear “switch-on” instructions for guests is a much more economical approach than leaving the machines permanently on. Remember that gym equipment emits heat while it is using energy, so it impacts on cooling costs
Six ways hospitality businesses can save energy
As you’ve hopefully seen so far, there are many simple measures that can lead to savings on energy costs and lowering your carbon footprint.
We can summarise them in six steps:
1. Identify opportunities
Walk around your premises with this guide in mind and make a list of every energy-saving opportunity you spot.
2. Talk to the specialists
Lighting, HVAC, and refrigeration experts will know about new energy-saving products and technologies.
3. Set targets and measure the savings you’re making
Inform staff about how much energy is being consumed, and of any saving targets. Compare your original consumption figures with the new ones, so everyone can see the difference their efforts are making.
4. Lead from the top and involve staff
You can’t achieve any of this without the active co-operation of your staff, so tell them what you have in mind and show them why it matters. Leadership by senior management can make a big difference, supplemented by little things like putting “switch off” stickers on light switches, heaters, and other devices.
5. Listen to and implement feedback
Modern hospitality businesses actively seek feedback from guests and customers, so use this information to check how energy is being consumed. Also confirm that your measures are having a positive effect on your customer appeal. Extend this to staff too for a complete picture.
6. Keep it going
Create policies and action plans, rather than one-off initiatives. That way, people won’t slip back into old, wasteful habits.
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