Helping the hotel industry to transform and accelerate the path to net zero


27 April 2023
Hybrid VRF from Mitsubishi Electric at London’s Strand Palace Hotel

Decarbonising the economy is a top priority in the UK and the government's Build Back Greener strategy means that every industry must adjust how it operates to meet net zero by 2050 – as well as other regulations like the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES), says James Harman, Business Development Manager for Corporate Sales at Mitsubishi Electric.

This is particularly true for the hospitality sector. A new report by the Travel Foundation shows the tourism industry is responsible for between 8% and 11% of global direct and indirect CO₂ emissions, and accommodation represents 21% of the industry’s direct emissions. Tourism is expected to double in size by 2050, meaning emissions will increase by 73%, and 66% of the remaining climate budget will be used by the industry between 2023 and 2100. Companies in the air conditioning ecosystem – such as installers, contractors and specifiers – have a huge opportunity to implement energy-efficient HVAC solutions to support the hotel industry, and the tourism industry more generally, on its way to net zero.

Installers are already at the forefront of moving many industries towards modern – more efficient – systems to reduce emissions. By supporting the hospitality industry to embrace more renewable and lower-carbon forms of heating, cooling, and ventilation, installers can ensure that hotels become more energy efficient while minimising costs for owners and project managers.

The impact of new legislation

When recommending more sustainable and energy-efficient HVAC solutions to the hospitality industry, installers face a number of evolving regulations. For example, F-Gas regulations have been implemented to limit the total use of F-gases in air conditioning equipment and prevent their emissions by focusing on leak detection, servicing and recovery of the gas at the product's end of life. Installers need to help the hospitality sector to consider these factors when installing new equipment to future-proof investments against ever-changing regulations.

Installers must also be made aware that current regulations can increase the time and cost associated with HVAC equipment and its maintenance. For example, regulations such as BS EN378 mean that leak detection equipment may need to be deployed for occupied spaces and regularly assessed. 

A Hybrid Variable Refrigerant Flow (Hybrid VRF) system is one solution installers could recommend to avoid these additional equipment and maintenance costs. The distinctive feature of Hybrid VRF systems, which provide heating and cooling, is that water replaces refrigerant to transfer heating and cooling around most of the building, removing the need to install leak detection equipment in occupied spaces. Overall, Hybrid VRF systems help reduce installation costs, as well as expenses linked to annual maintenance, as each leak detector would have to be checked and recalibrated every year. For the hotel industry, where every room is occupied by guests, this can be a valuable recommendation for installers to make. 

Helping hotel guests reduce their carbon footprint

Climate change is a pressing issue for much of the general public, and people are becoming more committed to reducing their environmental footprint over time. As such, they care more about the impact of the companies they use – including the hotels they stay at. 

In response to this rising environmental awareness, hotels often now offer several options to help customers limit their environmental impact. For example, in some hotels, guests can decide to skip daily housekeeping services such as towel washing and sheet changing to minimise the use of energy during their stay. But with guests' expectations continuing to rise, installers can support hotels to go even further and help them adopt more sustainable technologies to show customers they are dedicated to helping the country reach net zero.

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An obvious solution to increasing energy efficiency in hotels is to install lower-carbon technology that provides heating and cooling to guarantee guests' comfort while minimising emissions. For example, certain air conditioning systems can monitor individual rooms to avoid waste and offset cooling in one area with heating in another to maximise energy efficiency. Such technology can help the hospitality industry reach its goals.

Offering an enjoyable experience in a more sustainable hotel

While renewable technology is a huge benefit to hotels, installing it has the potential to cause disruption. Large spaces – or even the whole hotel – may need to be closed off to guests during building construction, refurbishment or installations. This can lead to significant losses in revenue and of course impact guest experience, but installers can help. Advising a system that can be installed in stages to minimise disruption, especially if the work needs to get done during peak seasons, is key. For example, the flexibility of the Hybrid VRF system is a real asset – it can be installed floor by floor, minimising disruption for guests elsewhere and allowing hotels to remain operational.

A Hybrid VRF system was installed at the Haymarket Hub Hotel in Edinburgh

Another important consideration is noise disturbance for guests. To ensure customers have an enjoyable experience, installers must consider whether heating and cooling systems can operate at low noise levels.  Another element that gives flexibility to the design is that the HBC (hybrid branch controller) boxes can be strategically placed in the ceiling void or surrounding laundry cupboards, keeping any risk of noise disruption to an absolute minimum for guests while also ensuring easy access for maintenance. For example, a Hybrid VRF air conditioning system was installed in the Haymarket Hub Hotel, a boutique hotel in Edinburgh, which helped both minimise the noise for guests thanks to the HBC boxes placed in the laundry room, and reduce the running costs during winter.

As the UK continues on the journey to net zero, the hospitality sector must be an area of focus to decarbonise and promote renewable HVAC systems. Installers are already leading the way in implementing modern systems to reduce emissions across many industries – and hospitality can benefit from this expertise too. Installers must now ensure that hotels are informed about the energy-efficient solutions they can benefit from and how they can minimise costs while keeping guests happy.

The lounge area at the Haymarket Hub Hotel

A deluxe studio double room at the Haymarket Hub Hotel