Hotel Hunts Down Wasteful Spending on Energy with Lighting Retrofit

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff December 19, 2006

A lighting retrofit in July 2005 involving 7,300 fixtures at the 390-room Baltimore Marriott Hunt Valley Inn made for a summer of delight—not discontent—for executives of privately held HEI Hospitality LLC, the Norwalk, Conn., company that owns and manages the property.

The hotel cut wasteful spending on energy for lighting over 50% by simply replacing outdated incandescent and fluorescent lamps with dimmable, long-life plug-in and screw-in compact fluorescent lamps, high-efficiency T8 linear fluorescent lamps and electronic ballasts.

“We’ve helped the hotel hit a 50% improvement on kilowatt savings alone,” says Richard G. Lubinski, president of Ohio-based energy consulting firm Think Energy Management, LLC, a consultant to HEI. “There’s also a tangible reduction in electrical demand peaks (KW), lower maintenance hassles and lower costs whenever long-life lighting products are applied.”

Lubinski reports that the six-month performance of the new lighting nets out as a recurring annual savings of 1,250,000 kWh of electricity consumed, compared with the old lighting. Most of the retrofit involves compact fluorescent lamps used for down-lighting and general lighting applications in hotel hallways, banquet rooms, conference rooms and guestrooms.

“HEI has expressed a keen interest in duplicating these results at other properties,” says Lubinski.

Lubinski’s firm and HEI collaborated with the lighting manufacturer to develop a self-funding energy-efficiency initiative that not only cuts wasteful spending on energy for lighting, but also delivers lower maintenance costs and better quality lighting throughout the hotel. Thus far, the partnering companies have conducted investment-grade lighting audits and established lighting retrofit standards for 28 HEI properties. As new properties are purchased by HEI, the new energy efficient lighting standard will be applied.

“In the hospitality industry, our profitability ties directly to our approach to energy management,” says Bob Holesko, vice president of facilities for HEI. “While we can’t control escalating electricity and natural gas costs, we can control our properties’ energy consumption with responsible demand-side energy management projects. Our Marriott Hunt Valley Inn is a classic example of how a simple lighting upgrade can greatly improve a hotel’s financial performance.”

Pursuit leads executives out back, up front and upstairs Back-of-house operations at the hotel, previously illuminated by T12 40-watt linear fluorescent lamps operating on magnetic ballasts, were retrofitted with a system that combines T8 linear fluorescent lamps and electronic ballasts. For about 500 linear fluorescent fixtures, HEI saw light output improvements jump from 4,950 lumens to 5,170 lumens. Color rendering also improved.

HEI’s energy-efficient lighting program has generated a new best practice: it now conducts periodic group re-lamping at its properties to maintain lighting quality and to optimize energy efficiency.

Many down lighting and general lighting applications in hallways, banquet rooms, conference rooms and guestrooms—where up to 200-watt incandescent lamps had been used—now feature dimmable plug-in or screw-in compact fluorescent lamps. A 42-watt CFL from GE Consumer & Industrial, for example, offers up to 72 percent energy savings compared with a 150-watt incandescent lamp used near a guestroom reading chair.

From nearly $2.3 million invested in new lighting at all its properties, HEI executives expect to achieve over $1 million in annual lighting energy cost savings. HEI looks for payback periods of 3 years or less for its lighting retrofits.

According to ENERGY STAR, an EPA program that helps businesses and individuals protect the environment through superior energy efficiency, U.S. hotels spend about $4 billion on energy every year. It further notes that reducing these costs by just 10 percent is the equivalent of a $0.62 ADR increase for limited-service hotels and a $1.35 ADR increase for full-service hotels.

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