Top 12 Ways to Save Energy in your Tourism Business

Originally published: 2018
Last updated: 2022
Author: Angela Nagy

In the face of rising energy costs, carbon prices, and all the uncertainty we have experienced over the past several years, saving money on energy and doing something about climate change has been a big topic of discussion! However, with a myriad of green technology options, many businesses either don’t know where to start, feel that they don’t have the time to figure it all out, or think it’s going to cost too much, so they never really get around to it.

Not only is this lack of action costing many businesses thousands or tens of thousands of dollars per year in wasted energy, it’s also contributing to the negative impacts of climate change, which in turn negatively impacts businesses, and our health. It’s a vicious cycle.
I’m happy to share that integrating clean and green technology into existing businesses will save money. Lots of money. And I’m not going to tell you to get solar panels or a windmill (but I’ll be sure to discuss those in a future article), because there are multiple clean and green technologies that are “low-hanging fruit,” i.e. low-cost, or even no-cost actions that almost any business can take to cut costs.

Here are the top 12 recommendations we make for businesses wanting to reduce their energy consumption, reduce their carbon footprint, and save money by going green. These same ideas can be applied to homes with great results.

1. Develop an Energy Management Program (it’s free)!
An Energy Management Program is simply a series of procedures and protocols that employees follow to help minimize energy consumption. No matter how big or small your office or building might be, you can create an energy management plan. It may include items such as:

  • Keeping lights off in rooms and common areas where natural daylight provides sufficient lighting
  • Power down office equipment at night individually or on power bars
  • Require housekeeping to close guest room blinds or draperies, keeping rooms cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. In common areas, keep blinds or draperies closed during the hottest times of day and open in the evenings during the summer, and closed at night during cooler weather, where appropriate.
  • Have housekeeping manually return thermostats to predetermined set-points, ideally 23C in the summer and 18C in the winter.
  • If you have mini-bar fridges, have housekeeping them turned to the highest temperature setting or better yet, keep them unplugged (and slightly open to avoid smells), with stickers on the front to request your guests plug them in should they wish to use them. They cool down very quickly.

2. Use low energy lighting
Skip the CFLs and go straight for the LEDs. Not only are LEDs up to 90% more efficient that incandescent lights and 30% more efficient than CFLs, they last longer than both varieties – between 10 to 25 years, providing significant savings on labour costs. Whether you invest in major LED retrofits, or simply replace them as they burn out, this is the one of the most simple and cost effective ways to reduce your energy costs. Be sure to buy your bulbs from a reputable dealer, and look for CSA approval and an Energy Star rating. Cheaper imported bulbs might seem like a better deal, but they often don’t last or look as nice. Also, pay attention to colour temperature (i.e. cool or warm light), and lumen output to ensure that you’re buying the right bulbs for the right spaces.

3. Install Sensors and Controls
Sensors and controls are a step-up from a basic energy management program which depends on human behaviour to make it work, to one that is run by technology. The most common and cost-effective systems are photo sensors for indoor and outdoor lighting, controlling lights based on the levels of natural light available, and occupancy sensors/key card systems for guest rooms to control both lighting as well as heating and cooling. When a room is unoccupied the lights automatically turn out and the temperature can return to a programmed set-point, typically 23C in the summer and 18C in the winter.

4. Energy Efficient Appliances
When it comes to appliances, spending a little extra on a high efficiency, Energy Star rated products can result in significant savings, up to 50% when replacing old equipment. It’s a wonder not all appliances are required to be Energy Star rated! Refrigerators and freezers, dishwashers, televisions, and washing machines are all appliances that you should be sure to purchase in the highest Energy Star rating you can find, the next time you need to replace this equipment.

5. Maintenance and Positioning of Refrigeration Equipment
Ensure that door seals are tight and units are regularly defrosted with no ice build-up. Have larger commercial systems serviced regularly and keep vents unobstructed and grime-free. Ideally, position units away from heat sources such as ovens and enable sufficient spacing for ventilation. Walk-in freezer units should have screens or curtains to ensure any cooling losses are minimized.

6. Hot Water Tanks
Similar to appliances, a high efficiency hot water tank can add up to big savings. If you’re not ready to replace yet, insulate! An un-insulated or poorly insulated hot water tank wastes energy. It should be insulated to least 50mm/2”. Pipes should also be well insulated to reduce heat losses.

An alternative to a hot water tank is an instant on-demand system that produces hot water when required. There are no heat losses associated with storing hot water. On-demand systems are available in both electric and natural gas models.

7. High Efficiency Boilers
A boiler is responsible for providing heating and hot water. Given a cool climate in Canada, its efficiency is an important cost as well as an environmental impact. A boiler’s efficiency is measured by how much of the fuel it burns is converted into useful heat. Modern condensing boilers are the most efficient and are recommended for fossil fuels. They can achieve efficiencies of over 90%.

Biomass boilers are also of growing value and can be very practical in areas where there is a readily available waste wood fuel supply. Care should be employed to ensure feedstock is dry to ensure the fuel provides maximum calorific value. A biomass boiler using wood pellets or other renewable fuel supply should have an efficiency of above 80%.

8. Heat Recovery
Heat recovery units extract waste heat from ventilation and refrigeration systems, typically in swimming pools, kitchens, bathrooms and toilets. By using a simple cross-flow heat exchanger, they can recover heat that would normally be lost. Units range from whole-building systems to smaller exchangers for individual extractors.

9. Roof Insulation
Approximately 20% of a building’s heat loss is through the roof space, and sufficient loft insulation can significantly reduce energy consumption in heating, particularly in older, poorly insulated buildings. Contact a local insulation company for an evaluation and estimate to determine the current insulation value of your roof and what improvements are possible.

10. Glazing and Draught Proofing
Approximately 15% of a building’s heat loss is through windows and glazing. Secondary, double or better glazing will save energy. If these options are not feasible, use blinds and heavy curtains, and implement an energy management program. Draughts from doors and windows also cause heat loss. Have maintenance ensure that windows and doors are properly sealed. Caulking and weather stripping is relatively inexpensive, but the savings can be significant.

11. Variable Frequency Drives and Inverters
Over recent years there have been developments to motors which allow them to operate at variable frequencies and in so doing draw less power. Often called inverters, these motor controllers reduce power consumption by 15-30%. Talk to your HVAC company or engineers about what options might be available for you.

12. Renewable Energy Systems
Unless you’ve already tackled all of the above recommendations, you might want to hold off on investing in a solar, wind or another form of renewable energy generation. Not that we don’t think these systems are super-cool, but unless you have a money tree or an unlimited budget, you will likely find a better return on investment if you tackle some or all of the previous items first. Then you’ll have reduced the energy-demand of your building significantly, and will be able supply more of your own energy needs, improving the payback and ROI on your renewable energy investment.

Of course, if you don’t consume much energy in your tourism business, i.e. a sailing company or small tour operator, considering solar PV to replace a diesel generator for creating electricity or a solar thermal system for hot water, could be a great option for you.

What’s Next?
Go ahead and choose one, two or three of the “Top 12 Ways to Save Energy in Your Tourism Business,” and get started! We suggest starting small, because setting realistic goals that you can achieve is better than trying to do everything and getting overwhelmed, frustrated and ultimately not getting very far.

Don’t forget the three M’s: Measure – Monitor – Market
Measure – Before you get started, measure your baseline so you can compare your progress over time.

Monitor – Track your reductions in energy consumption to see if you’re getting the anticipated results.

Market –  Make your changes part of your green story – your guests, community and other stakeholders love these feel-good stories and it’s a great way to connect with the values of consumers who are increasingly looking to support responsible business.