Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah


High Hot Water Demand Places Strain on Aging Equipment

With 19 buildings, 700 hotel rooms, three restaurants, an RV park, a campground, three swimming pools, and a laundry facility handling 19 tons of laundry per day for Ruby’s Inn, the resort’s hot water system was under a tremendous amount of strain. Often, six tour buses will check in at one time, causing a large demand for hot water in the showers all at once.

Needless to say, it presented quite a challenge for the resort’s water heating equipment. According to Lance Syrett, Ruby’s Inn general manager, the resort can have as many as 4,000 visitors lodging at its facilities on a typical summer night. Ruby’s Inn was operating on an older infrastructure with no redundancy system in place for its boilers, so when a boiler went down, the resort could go two hours without hot water.

Cold showers and customer dissatisfaction led to significant financial loss for the resort to the tune of approximately $60,000 a year in guest discounts and refunds, according to Ron Harris, Ruby’s Inn manager.

Propane Provides Clean, Efficient Water Heating Solution

The hospitality industry knows how important reliable hot water can be to a successful operation. Water heating energy represents seven percent of all energy use in commercial buildings, but just six building types — lodging, healthcare, retail, education, food service, and office — represent 85 percent of all commercial building water-heating energy consumption.

To curb the cold water at Ruby’s Inn, Rinnai removed several high-efficient 199,000 Btu storage tank water heaters, older model open-flame boilers and storage tanks, and installed 175 propane-powered tankless water heaters throughout the resort, giving it a completely revitalized system.

Propane tankless water heaters offer key benefits for commercial buildings like Ruby’s Inn. Commercial tankless systems have the versatility to meet a wide range of load types while offering reliability, efficiency, and a space-saving footprint. These systems are available in a variety of capacities and can be combined into larger arrays for water output rates of several hundred gallons per minute. Plus, they don’t waste energy or space while keeping a large water tank hot at all hours.

Beyond the system’s energy efficiency, propane tankless water heating also supports the resort’s environmentally conscious approach. Based on an energy and environmental analysis of different energy sources, propane tankless systems reduce carbon emissions by up to 50 percent compared with electric storage tank systems.

“Being located next to a national park, we always think about our carbon footprint,” Harris said. “We feel confident about our carbon footprint and propane being a good energy source for us to use.”

In addition, businesses operating with propane are never limited by proximity to the grid, which is great for Ruby’s Inn — located more than 25 miles from the natural gas line.

“Whether it’s restaurants, an apartment complex, hospitals, schools, or a large resort like ours, I’d recommend it,” Harris says.

Ruby’s Inn Retrofit Boosts Customer Satisfaction, Savings

The resort’s retrofit to a propane tankless system immediately helped them lower operational costs, enhance guest comfort, and save up to 7,000 gallons of propane per month — about $6,000 in monthly savings.

Two years after the retrofit, Ruby’s Inn is still reaping benefits from its new tankless system — and so are their visitors. Harris said the resort has yet to refund one dollar for hot water problems and estimates a savings of over 73,000 gallons of propane per year.

Since the retrofit, Ruby’s Inn has seen an increase in positive online reviews. Online reviews have become more important than hoteliers might assume. In fact, Trust You and TripAdvisor have both performed surveys that outline the level of focus guests put on reviews and the importance of hotels to manage them. Most notably, the results revealed that 96 percent of respondents consider reviews important when researching a hotel. Additionally, 79 percent of travelers will read between six and 12 reviews before making a decision and 88 percent filter out hotels with an average star rating below three.

“One of the biggest contributors to good business for the industry we work in is social media reviews, and we’ve seen an uptick in positive online reviews since the retrofit,” Harris said. “Some even comment on the hot water availability despite showing up with a bus tour full of families.”

High-efficiency systems also allow Ruby’s Inn to lower operational costs and save money during busy seasons and in times when keeping business costs low is a must. These ongoing savings have allowed Ruby’s Inn to put extra money into capital expenses like furnishings, updated fixtures, and even a new boiler system. Last year, the resort replaced two outdated boilers in the main lodge with two new 3.5 million Btu propane boilers. The new system heats the pool, spa, and provides space heating in the main lodge. Since installing the boilers, Ruby’s Inn has saved 13,000 gallons of propane per month.

“We were, without a doubt, going to go with propane,” Harris said. “There’s no other way to heat everything. (The price of) electricity would have been astronomical.”

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