Tom Hall looks at what can be done to help hotels prepare once we get beyond the current restrictions

There's no doubt that the COVID-19 shutdown has hit the hotel and leisure sectors hard.

As an industry based on face-to-face interaction and service, the impact has been enormous.

A recent report from PWC (‘Where next for travel and leisure’) states: “COVID-19 is the most significant challenge the travel and leisure sector has faced. Never before have we seen these markets almost entirely unable to operate.”

But as we look beyond the current restrictions and people gradually venture out more often, there is a new focus on what happens next.

As the PWC report comments: “While the initial focus has been on looking after staff and customers and remaining solvent, there’s a pressing urgency to think about the future.”

While the hotel sector faces a challenging return, the move towards efficient and environmental operation continues

Tom Hall Tom Hall Corporate Solutions Business Development Manager

Increased ventilation

Along with regular and thorough cleaning, ventilation is an area that the government is advising on as an essential element of diluting the risk of COVID-19 spread.

Right now could be an opportunity to re-think old ventilation, cooling and heating systems and to adopt more modern approaches – that deliver better indoor environments while reducing operating costs.

There are other drivers to taking a close look at the performance of HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) systems in hotels.

Environmental issues

Despite a global pandemic, environmental issues are very much to the fore in the hotel sector.

Several leading businesses, including Hilton, Hyatt and Intercontinental Hotels Group had already made public commitments to reducing their carbon footprints in the years before 2020.

Supply of heating, cooling and hot water in hotels is responsible for a significant proportion of carbon emissions.

Making these services more energy efficient can make a big step towards better carbon performance.

Refrigerants

Another factor at play here is the shift in regulations around refrigerants.

New rules are phasing out refrigerants with high global warming potential (GWP). These include R22, R404A and R410A. 

Clients face significant risk if they rely on a refrigerant that is about to be phased down/out, as costs for replacement rise significantly during this phase.  

Some of the alternative, low GWP refrigerants (e.g. R32) are designated 'slightly flammable' (A2L). They are covered by rules requiring leak detection in occupied spaces (BS EN378) where such refrigerants may be present.

A Hybrid solution

Mitsubishi Electric has worked widely in the hotel sector and had developed several products to meet this range of challenges. For example, our Hybrid VRF system combines the familiarity and reliability of a VRF system with the use of lower GWP refrigerant (R32) in much lower volumes.

With the Hybrid VRF approach, all refrigerant sits in an outdoor unit, and cooling/heating is delivered to indoor units via water-based fan coil units in each hotel room.

Hybrid VRF provides simultaneous heating and cooling – with no refrigerant at all present in an occupied space. Not only does this remove the need for (and cost of) in-room leak detection, it also reduces the total amount of refrigerant in the system, lowering overall system GWP.  

For hotel owners looking to reduce energy consumption and also to take a more environmentally-responsible approach to property management, Hybrid VRF offers a flexible and reliable option.

Renewable hot water

With a growing focus on decarbonising heat, more clients are looking to switch all of their heating and hot water needs away from fossil fuels –  reducing their overall carbon footprint.

Heat pumps are an excellent choice for this approach as they're extremely energy efficient. Recently, Mitsubishi Electric has launched the Ecodan QAHV.

QAHV uses CO2 as a refrigerant – with a GWP of 1. What's more, the QAHV can provide hot water at 90oC.

As a result, the system does not require gas boilers as back-up for hot water provision, even at times of peak demand.

There are different system options available where heat pumps meet peak demand; alternatively, hot water can be stored in a tank, with the heat pump sized to bring this to higher temperatures at peak times.

While the hotel sector faces a challenging return, the move towards efficient and environmental operation continues. The latest range of HVAC products can help to achieve this, while also helping to control long-term energy use and costs.

Tom Hall is Corporate Solutions Business Development Manager