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5 Questions About Energy Every Hotel Chief Engineer Should Know

It’s an understatement to say that Chief Engineers are “busy.” As the head of hotel facility operations, the Chief Engineer is under the gun to make sure all of the guests — and staff! — are safe and comfortable in their home away from home. This means maintaining equipment, managing hazards and regulations, dealing with downed equipment, and responding to guest complaints.

But firefighting day-to-day issues can’t be the Chief’s sole focus. You must also understand and manage the hotel’s energy use.

Even though it can feel impossible, there are 5 simple questions that every Chief Engineer should know the answer to to drive their costs back to bottom line for ownership — and for their own success.

1. What is my electricity billing rate?

Do you know how much you pay for energy? What about for demand? Peak demand? Part-peak? Do you know the difference between the rates in the summer and the winter?

If you don’t, you’re probably spending more than you should on electricity. For example, if you knew what time your peak happened every month, you could work to reduce that charge (often $13 or more per kW!), adding up to thousands in savings.

It’s not always easy to learn about your billing rate if you are part of a chain or brand managed. Ask your GM or Controller if you don’t have access already.

You might also need energy monitoring services to look more deeply at times of energy use to really save money on complex billing plans. You don’t have to do it all yourself!

2. Is everything that can be automated, automated?

It’s easy to “set it and forget it” when it comes to automation, but have you audited your settings lately?

Many engineers are surprised when audits find lighting, monitors, and other part-time or “standby” equipment drawing power for many hours — or even days! — of non-use time.

Don’t guess! Check your building automation systems, and consider installing energy monitoring hardware and software to audit your building yourself. Sometimes even when you think you’ve scheduled lighting on/off times, they do not work as planned.

3. How do my end-use categories benchmark against comparable hotels?

One quick measure of your energy management success is a quick social comparison: how does my usage of energy for lighting, HVAC, plug loads, and other categories compare to other hotels or facilities of comporable size and weather?

Although not a simple question to answer, one start is to become familiar with the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey. There are online tools to look-up your expected energy use by zip code and building type.
Once you know comparable usage, the next step is to examine your own building’s energy use disaggregated by end-use category!

4. Is my equipment operating at maximum efficiency?

With more and better technical advances on the market every day, it’s easy for your own equipment to be far behind in energy savings. While some hotels choose to run equipment to failure to save money at the expense of their guest ratings, the best run hotels are using data to track years of use and benchmark against gains in making new capital investment.

It takes some time at first, but staying up on equipment inventory means that you can strike at the right time, when efficiency gains from a new investment outweigh the cost of the upfront capital.

5. How close are we to our goal today, and what do I need to do to get us there?

How does your ownership or brand calculate progress? Is it year-over-year gains in efficiency? Are you factoring in occupancy?

It’s important to track your progress toward energy goals not just as the bills come in, but by staying on top of areas for potential savings in your facility and projecting completion times.

It can also be deceptive to only look at a single bill because you miss out on categorical increases that may spike or change over the year.

More granular analysis of energy use is helping chief engineers identify where they stand across the entire facility, and identify areas for improvement.


So, how did you do? Did you know the answer to all of the questions? Need to go back and brush up?

At Verdigris, we specialize in collecting and analyzing all the data you need to stay on top of energy. Check out our white paper on 15 things you can do with energy data, and drop us a line to just chat about energy, or to help you meet your energy goals!