Talking Point: Can heating systems save CO2?

Monitoring heating efficiency at the touch of a button

Monitoring heating efficiency at the touch of a button

Heating a hotel to suit everyone's preferences, to respond to unpredictable weather, and to meet budgets and green credentials can be a costly and complicated task. Darren McMahon, marketing director at Viessmann, offers insights, examples and advice on installing and maintaining a reliable heating system.

According to the Carbon Trust, annual energy costs in the UK hospitality sector are in excess of £1.3bn, resulting in carbon emissions of more than 8 million tonnes per year. But with some wise adjustments, investments in modern systems and technology, and changes in behaviour, hotels can achieve up to cost savings on annual bills as well as an enhanced reputation as a green hotel.

Large hotel groups tend to select replacement heating systems primarily to meet reliability, space and accessibility issues, as well as price and potential cost savings. In many cases, engineers and consultants are involved in the decision-making process where price is usually a key driver. Most sites want to keep their existing plant rooms which are often located in attics, rooftops and basements. In these cases, hotels prefer a modular solution for a boiler replacement - individual products that can be brought into the building and built and installed in situ.

The more modern, green alternative - adopting renewables - can involve building new plant rooms to house additional heating systems and equipment, as well as the extra hot water storage, for solar thermal systems, for example. This means costly construction projects and can prove tricky depending on the location and surrounding spaces of the hotel.

But independent hotels are increasingly embracing renewable technologies and are more open to investments that enhance green credentials and bring longer term cost savings, as the decision-making process is driven by the owner and the culture of the hotel.

Viessmann has worked with a range of hoteliers and hotel groups, new builds and renovations, traditional buildings and modern sites, replacing out-of-date, cumbersome heating systems with smaller, efficient, energy-saving equipment.

Boilers can break down when you least expect it, resulting in disappointed customers and a reputation in tatters. It's important for hoteliers to review all the options available to work out the ideal heating system for their establishment.

We'd always recommend hotels consider adding solar thermal heating where they can as, due to the amount of hot water required, it makes economical sense. The drawback is that the payback period is considerably long so it may take a hotelier a while to reap the return on investment, and adapt to the new technology.

One hotel Viessman has worked with is Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness, famed for hosting Robert Burns in 1747. The hotel was acquired seven years ago and has undergone a series of renovations and refurbishments, totalling an investment of around £21 million. The most recent overhaul has been of the heating system in the original hotel building - the oldest part of the hotel - which houses 57 bedrooms. The team also refurbished the showers of the adjacent leisure centre with heat and hot water.

The hotel had a 40 year-old cast iron boiler, which was prone to breaking down and had become inefficient and uneconomical to maintain.

We installed four Vitodens 200-W boilers, with high grade stainless steel heat exchanger, in a cascade formation. This approach works well for hotels, which have concentrated periods of extremely high hot water demand, as multiple smaller cascaded boilers can automatically activate individually to match requirements - perfect for staff and guests with varying needs. These smaller, more efficient units never use more energy than is needed and clever controls alternate usage between them to ensure an even spread of use to extend the life span of the whole unit, and to ensure the hotel is not without a boiler if one unit breaks down or needs servicing.

The wall-mounted system features a matrix cylinder burner and an energy cockpit with consumption indicator. Controlled via a colour touchscreen, hotel staff can check the status and efficiency of the heating and hot water system and can control the heating circuits' operating condition, change room temperature, and timing programmes as and when required.

The new system offers the most energy efficient fossil fuel burning boilers, bringing huge energy and cost savings by replacing old, inefficient non-condensing boilers.

Normally when replacing cast iron boilers, we find they are performing to an efficiency level of 64%, based on their age and a likely lack of servicing attention over the years. Introducing a 98% efficiency modern condensing boiler, running on a system for 2,000 run hours (typical for such a hotel), we find that savings of more than 140,000 tonnes of CO2 are achievable.

Cedar Court hotel in Harrogate installed a replacement boiler plant as its two existing cast iron boilers were not cost efficient and many of the parts had become obsolete. The hotel wanted a reduction in CO2, savings on the annual fuel bill and a greener system overall. Six 150 kW 200-W cascade boilers were installed to provide hot water to a plate heat exchanger as well as coils for air handling units. The project resulted in cost and energy savings for the hotel and carbon has been reduced.

These examples show hotels working to improve their green credentials, while keeping the aesthetics and original features of the building intact. They demonstrate how having sustainability at the forefront of the minds of the establishments' management teams also makes business sense.

For more information on Viessmann, visit

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