Reducing energy consumption

Reducing energy consumption and switching your remaining power needs to renewable sources doesn’t just benefit the planet. It can also lower your operational costs.

Fixing bike

As populations and economies grow, so does the demand for energy. Unfortunately, our energy is still supplied primarily through non-renewable sources like fossil fuels. Besides fossil fuels being the primary contributors to global warming and climate change through the release of carbon emissions, their effects are being felt with the frequent occurrence of severe weather events worldwide. Each month sees regions impacted by the destructive forces of flooding, storms, wildfires, and record-high temperatures. Beyond the significant toll on lives and the environment, this undeniably affects the hospitality industry, including hotels, B&Bs, and vacation rentals. 

The hospitality industry uses a significant amount of energy, resulting in about 1% of global carbon emissions. A typical property releases between 353 and 440 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per 11 square feet of room floor area. Many energy-saving opportunities exist, including quick wins through cutting unnecessary loss and waste. But a more sustainable industry also requires investing in longer-term, global solutions.

To reach the crucial goal of net zero emissions by 2050 and prevent severe temperature rise, it's essential to cut energy use and shift to renewable sources. An in-depth study on the global accommodation sector identified four key steps we as an industry can take to achieve this. On the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance website, you’ll find comprehensive guidance on sustainability actions for accommodations. Vacation rentals can also use a free sustainability roadmap from EnviroRental and other resources to kickstart their sustainability efforts.

In this section, we’ll look at the benefits of reducing energy consumption for your business and the environment. We’ll also cover some of the measures you can take to reduce your consumption and improve the sustainability of your business.

Four benefits of reducing your energy consumption

1. You’ll cut costs

The potential savings made by reducing your energy consumption are significant. Studies on European hotels found potential energy savings of up to 20% on heating, 30% on cooling, 70% on hot water, and 60% on lighting. These translate to significant operational cost reductions. For example, Hilton's LightStay platform, which oversees environmental performance across its portfolio of hotels, has saved over 1 billion USD in cumulative utility costs by cutting energy, carbon, water, and waste. These savings can be used to further invest in reducing consumption.

2. You'll reduce your carbon footprint

Cutting back on fossil fuel-generated energy not only lowers your utility costs but also minimizes carbon emissions, leading to a smaller environmental footprint. To support this, various accessible smart technologies, such as motion sensors, HVAC monitoring, and LED lighting, are available. Host Hotels & Resorts, for example, reduced their GHG emissions by 35% per square foot through a range of energy-saving initiatives, including building automation systems, light-emitting diodes (LED) retrofits, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) enhancements, and renewable energy investments.

3. Smart energy systems improve guest and employee comfort

In addition to reducing energy consumption, these smart technologies can enhance guests' comfort and simplify your employees’ work. For example, smart monitoring technology deactivates electrical devices in unoccupied rooms and can regulate air conditioning units to prevent unnecessary usage. On top of that, smart building systems control HVAC by automatically adjusting to humidity or air pressure. These systems improve guest comfort by maintaining a comfortable indoor climate.

4. Renewable energy makes you future-proof

Fossil fuel isn’t just an energy source contributing to the warming of the planet – it’s also susceptible to disruptions in global supply chains, such as conflicts or political unrest. As private and public sectors worldwide recognize this fact, more and more investment is being made in renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Investing in renewable energy is increasingly cost-effective, with quicker payback periods and government incentives available globally. This not only lowers energy costs quickly but also provides resilience against fossil fuel market fluctuations, all while reducing your carbon footprint.

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How to reduce your energy consumption

Analyze your energy consumption

The first step for managing your energy consumption is measuring it. Your primary source of data is your energy bills. Sub-meters can give you a more detailed picture of energy use per area/department. Measuring and tracking your baseline energy consumption over time provides insight into your consumption. You’ll also be able to identify energy-saving opportunities and later assess the effectiveness of any measures you take. If you run a hotel, you can find guidance here. For vacation rentals, upon signing up with EnviroRental, you'll gain access to a measurement guide covering energy, waste, and water. 

Ask your energy provider if they provide a dashboard to measure and monitor your energy consumption. If they don’t, use the data you gather to benchmark your property’s energy performance against industry standards to see its energy efficiency. You can use the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative’s (HCMI) free methodology and tool to calculate the carbon footprint of stayed nights and events hosted at your property. When comparing properties with varying facilities and weather conditions, make sure you adjust measurements to account for these factors.

Switch to renewable energy

Limiting the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels was established as a priority in the 2015 United Nations Paris Agreement. Presently, we’re not on course to meet this target. Yet, scientists believe there’s still an opportunity to achieve it. Switching to renewables significantly cuts operational emissions. When done right, it increases demand for this type of energy in an area, encouraging more renewables in the local power grid. This is vital for meeting global energy needs and phasing out fossil fuels.

Unfortunately, many energy providers falsely assert their energy is clean and renewable. When selecting renewable energy sources, it's crucial to keep a few considerations in mind to ensure genuine sustainability and support for a fossil fuel-free world:

  • The best choice is to invest in renewable energy installations in your property, such as solar panels for hot water and photovoltaic panels for electricity. These options have a significant positive impact because they help reduce or eliminate reliance on fossil fuels and contribute to generating clean energy, especially if you can feed excess electricity into the local grid.
  • If onsite installation isn't an option, consider switching to a renewable energy source. Check with your current supplier first, and explore alternative providers if they don't offer renewable options. Keep in mind that having a Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) or Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin certificate (REGO) doesn't by itself guarantee a more renewable energy supply.
  • Check independent sustainability rankings for renewable energy providers. This will help you understand the environmental impact of buying energy from a specific company and assess the overall sustainability of the product.

Switch to energy-efficient lighting

Incandescent and halogen lights, commonly used in hotels, are highly inefficient, converting only 20% of energy into light, with the rest lost as heat.

Switching to more efficient options like LEDs can cut energy use by up to 75%, and they can last up to 25 times longer than regular bulbs. They generate less heat, reducing air conditioning demand and overall energy consumption, and are easily recyclable.

Note: Some bulbs contain hazardous materials. To prevent them from ending up in landfills, you should recycle them instead of disposing of them in regular waste.


Implement occupancy-linked controls

People often behave differently while traveling compared to when at home. With occupancy-linked lighting control, lights only turn on in occupied or used areas. You can apply various occupancy-linked controls to different situations:

  • Lighting timers
    Use timers to automatically turn lights on or off at specific times each day. This is handy for spaces with consistent daily occupancy, like restaurants or conference/meeting rooms.
  • Motion sensors
    Motion sensors turn lights on when they detect movement and turn them off after a set period of inactivity. They’re beneficial in less frequently used areas, like public restroom facilities, and can save up to 60% of a room's energy usage. Additionally, they’re useful in vacation rentals, accommodating varying daily patterns of guest occupancy.
  • Daylight sensor
    Daylight sensors detect when there's sufficient natural light and adjust by dimming or turning off the lights. Various types are available based on the size of the area you want to light.

Adopt a smart temperature management system

Small changes in thermostat settings can lead to significant energy savings. Lowering the thermostat by just 1.8ºF in winter reduces heating energy consumption by 10%, and similar savings can be achieved with air conditioning in summer. You can automate this by using motion and heat-sensing technology in an energy management thermostat, which lowers the temperature when a room is empty.

Improve the insulation of your building 

Properly insulating walls, windows, and roofs can significantly cut energy use by maintaining indoor temperatures and lessening the strain on HVAC systems. This lowers energy consumption and can lead to substantial cost savings, especially during extreme temperatures in winter and summer.

Upgrade to energy-efficient appliances
Despite the initial cost, investing in energy-efficient appliances can bring significant long-term savings. Begin with low-cost, quick payback upgrades before moving to more expensive solutions. Consider upgrading appliances in these areas of your property:

  • Kitchens: fridges, freezers, dishwashers, stoves, ovens, and exhaust hoods
  • Guest rooms: air conditioning units and electronics like TVs
  • Reception: computers, monitors, phones, and digital display screens
  • Building infrastructure: boilers, heat pumps, and HVAC systems

Wash your towels and linens at 140°F
Washing towels and linens is a regular task in the accommodations industry and can contribute significantly to a property’s energy consumption. Higher temperature settings result in higher costs. The ideal temperature for washing towels and linens is 140°F to eliminate bacteria and viruses and remove stains. By lowering the temperature on washing machines, you can reduce energy usage while ensuring a high-quality wash.

Install solar shading
If your property gets a lot of direct sunlight, using solar shading can be a budget-friendly way to reduce energy consumption. Solar shading passively controls the amount of heat and light from the sun that enters a building, reducing reliance on air conditioning or internal shades to counteract the sun's effects.

Show travelers what you’re doing

Once you start making your energy more renewable and cutting consumption, or if you've already taken some steps, share it with travelers through our platform. Doing so can enhance your appeal to the growing demographic of environmentally conscious travelers, potentially driving more bookings.

Let us know if you've applied any of these practices to save energy or decrease carbon emissions:

Bicycle rental
Bicycle parking
Electric vehicle charging station
You use room key card or motion-controlled electricity
All the windows at your property are double glazed
At least 80% of your food is sourced locally
At least 80% of your lighting uses energy-efficient LED bulbs
100% renewable energy is used throughout your property
Insulation in your property’s outer wall and roof structure
Dynamic or automatic sun shading for your guest room and common area windows
Elevator software with “stand-by” mode that automatically shuts off lights and fans
Variable speed pool heat pump enabling lower-speed settings for energy efficiency
Pool cover to reduce evaporation and condensation
Reduced laundry temperature to 140°F for towels and linens
Installed cooling systems using hydrocarbon or natural refrigerants like ammonia or CO2 instead of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
Energy-saving thermostats
Energy-efficient appliances in guest rooms, kitchen, laundry, and reception/offices

Want to learn more?

Take the next step on your sustainability journey with our free online course about energy management. Developed in partnership with UN Tourism, the course is packed with expert insights and practical tips you can use to integrate more sustainability-related practices into your business. 

Sign up for the course

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