The air around HVAC systems in Indian Hotels
16 Jul 2012

When you walk into a five star hotel, the first thing you notice is the strong gush of cold air conditioned wind in your face which is a pleasant change from the heat outside. While walking through the lobby or climbing the stairs, using the lift, going to a restaurant or even going back to your room the cool temperature surrounds you. This is done by HVAC systems used by hotels to maintain a certain temperature throughout the building.

HVAC systems are common to all hotels which centrally treat the temperature. Various sizes of hotels house various sizes of HVAC systems but the main principle remains the same.

India Hospitality Review decided to understand this aspect of hotels as HVAC systems account for the lion’s share of hotels’ revenue and power consumption could well become the next burning issue.

What are HVAC systems?

Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning systems (HVAC) are centrally monitored systems in buildings such as hotels or huge offices that cool the air and maintain a certain temperature. Their function is not very different from a regular AC which mainly sucks air from outside, treats it by making it cooler, and then sends that treated air inside the hotel. This also leads to production of hot air which is then treated again so that it could be rejected outside the building. (Generally hotels have to treat the hot air as they cannot be rejected outside right away according to current norms)

To treat the temperature of a luxury hotel of, say 3000 rooms, (which could be as big as a football stadium) requires huge MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing) equipment. According to Netscribes, an average five star hotel consumes about 8.8 Million Kwh of energy, which consumes up to 18 per cent of its revenue.

That in figures adds up to Rs 90 lakh annual electricity bill for an average five star hotel. This is an overwhelming figure but not as overwhelming as the macro statistics. According to latest tariff available, around Rs 2200 crore* is spent by hotels annually on electricity.

HVAC systems in terms of electricity usage consumes about 40-45 per cent of this chunk.

Moreover there are many more hotels coming up in the country which are going to be bigger and more luxurious than the ones that are already present. The demand in energy is only going to rise which is not only worrying as this energy is non-renewable (66 per cent of energy is generated by Thermal Power Plants) but also will make energy more expensive thereby increasing the overall costs stated above and make it even more difficult for hotels to keep a healthy bottom line.

“Market trends suggest that the demand for energy resources will rise dramatically over the next 25 years. Global demand for energy sources is forecast to grow by 57 per cent in that period,” says Pankaj Saxena, GM Aditya Park.

Since India and China are the main focus at present for all international hotel chains to grow and expand, “by 2030, 56 per cent of the world energy will be used by Asian countries,” Saxena opines.

“The energy prices will also rise dramatically due to increased demand & constrained energy supply, this will impact profits due to high operating cost. So hotel management has to take action and start implementing the energy saving procedures,” he adds.

This has already started. The idea is simple, save energy, save revenue, hence more profit.

More Saving, More Profit

“In Accor we practice Energy saving through design, installing efficient equipments and optimize operations. Each unit of energy saved is revenue earned, that’s the motto we work towards. Our goal across all our owned and leased hotels worldwide is to reduce our Electricity consumption by 10 per cent and water consumption by 15 per cent between now and 2015,” says Jean-Michel Cassé, Sr. VP Operations, Accor India.

Energy saving methods used by hotels vary from simple steps like turning off air conditioning systems in winters, keeping walls insulated, cross ventilation in public areas, saving excessive drainage of water to more clever and complex engineering solutions. Both work.

“For Air Conditioning systems selection of chiller with high efficiency, the water pipes and air ducts shall be well insulated, heat recovery systems installed and usage of variable frequency drives for energy and equipment efficiency. In electrical systems, we save energy by installing CFLs  and LEDs, low energy fittings in back of the house areas, for tube lights we install electronic ballasts , for façade lighting timers are used  and in guest rooms card key and occupation sensors are used for energy saving,” informs Cassé.

Water plays the second most important natural resource which is heavily consumed in hotels in various forms and needs to be preserved.

“We implemented number of initiatives to reduce water consumption including treating & reusing water on site & installing water efficient fixtures initiatives. These initiatives include - sensors on all taps & urinals in public as well as back area to reduce the water usage, controlling water pressure in guest rooms and public area, 200KLD capacity of STP plant to treat the waste water and reuse for gardening, flushing and cooling tower make up,” says Saxena.

Preservation of water becomes even more important for hotels such as Suryagarh Jaisalmer which is located in an area where the natural resource is already scarce.

“We are currently developing a 3 crore litre rain harvesting structure. It will be Jaisalmer's second largest manmade lake after the Ghadi Sagar,” says Manvendra Singh Shekhawat, Managing Director of Suryagarh Jaisalmer.

The hotel on a usual day has to source 12-15 tankers of water, a requirement that it plans to fulfil through rain water harvesting at least in the lean seasons.

Engineering Solutions

The engineering solution end is the clever part of the problem. HVAC systems are complicated designs which deliver a certain output. People who install HVAC systems in the hotel and tweak designs to suit its needs are consultants. These consultants who are hired by the owners of the hotel in consultation with the operators, study the building and its requirement and decide which vendor they will use to install the HVAC system. These vendors are international companies such as Carrier, Trane, Daikin Mcquay etc which manufacture and install these HVAC systems.

To generate energy with the least amount of leakage and maximum output has had consultants, engineers and vendors wracking their brains over it.

“Hotels use various types of Chillers and these are based on the past experience of the Owner or recommendation of the Consultants or based on offer by manufacturer which makes value preposition interesting for the owner,” says HVAC vendor, Geev Panthaki, MD & CEO of Greenwave Products Pvt Ltd.

HVAC consultants and vendors play a crucial role in this matrix since not only do they design the chiller system but also tweak it at places with various engineering solutions to suit the hotel.

“The engineering solutions to increase efficiency of HVAC systems includes, maintaining log book of daily records to find what could go wrong before it stops, checking functioning of room thermostats, working of pressure gauges, use of calibrated thermometer to check water temperatures, checking of flow of chilled and condensing water, oil levels and oil filters replacement among others,’ maintains Panthaki.

Greenwave has its own solution to the problem with a product called Frigitech.

“Frigitech which when added to the Chiller in small quantity improves cooling performance by removing oil fouling permanently and this itself guarantees minimum 5 per cent energy saving. There is no modification required and is a simple method to remove oil fouling from the system which otherwise reduces the Chiller output,” says Panthaki.

The age of information is incomplete without information technology. With time more and more hotels have started depending on IT related solutions to their problems, energy costs are no different.

“The saving each hotel can make on their energy cost depends on the kind of solution adopted. If a hotel uses a passive energy management solution like a key card, this could result in a small saving which could range from 5-10 per cent. However if a hotel uses an intelligent, occupation based energy management solution, it could make a significant saving which could range from 20-25 per cent,” says Solomon James, Vice President, IDS Network Group.

IDS Network which has been working closely with hotels on various problems has its own solution to offer to save energy.

“Our energy management solution is simple passive infrared occupancy sensor located in a room. Hardware consisting of low-voltage wiring connected to a small energy management unit which is installed behind the room thermostat or inside the wiring chamber of the fan coil unit or packaged terminal air conditioner (PTAC). The installation process takes between 20 – 35 minutes per room and programming is performed by the technician or installer based on a specific room characteristics.”

The Way Ahead

Hotel chains have decided to start early. While many companies are still battling issues of saving energy and reducing consumption in their existing properties, they are becoming far more cautious in their future endeavours.

“While choosing a site, hoteliers can make sure to use environmentally friendly construction materials, maximizing the use of renewable and/or passive space-conditioning and shading/lighting technologies, and maximizing internal transport requirements,” Shekhawat opines.

Many hotel chains also look for using renewable source of energy like solar, wind, hydro vis-à-vis conventional sources while starting new properties.

“These renewable sources of energy should be sought and compared with locally available resources to determine the choice of technology,” Shekhawat adds.

As the age progresses, so will companies know of better ways of saving up.

“Today, there is a myriad of different types of technology and equipment that the hotels use to save energy, from simple stickers on bins to help sort waste to Business management systems (BMS) which allow the engineering team control all areas of air-conditioning within the hotel to solar power units and STP plants which recycle waste water to the hotels having their own vegetable gardens,” maintains Cassé.

At the end, along with these measures, Cassé believes that the true change will work to an optimum level with training, awareness and engaging staff members to commit themselves to monitor and control consumption and save energy. 

(*This was calculated based on the total electricity consumption by hotels in India and total number of hotel rooms.)