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Renewable Heating And Cooling

RHC for Lodging

About This Sector

In 2003, the United States had more than 142,000 buildings in the “lodging” sector, which included more than 5 billion square feet of space.1 Lodging covers a wide array of buildings such as hotels, motels and inns, dormitories, retirement homes, nursing homes, assisted living or other residential care, and more. These buildings used more than 500 trillion Btu of energy:2

  • 160 trillion Btu for water heating
  • 113 trillion Btu for space heating
  • 25 trillion Btu for space cooling

Occupants in these buildings spent nearly $7.5 billion on energy-related expenses, or roughly $52,000 per building on average.3

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Sector Opportunities and Challenges for Project Development

Several factors make buildings in the lodging sector good candidates for renewable heating and cooling (RHC) projects:

  • Photo: generic "hotel" signLodging facilities tend to exhibit large and relatively consistent demand for hot water on a daily and seasonal basis. These facilities often have large onsite domestic water heating loads to meet guest room, housekeeping, pool heating, and food service requirements.
  • Renewable technologies can help lodging facilities reduce hot water costs by as much as 70 percent.
  • Renewable heating and cooling technologies can play a significant role in attracting customers who value hotels that adopt sustainability practices.
  • Many lodging facilities present good sites for installing solar water heating systems or for subsurface ground source heat pump loops.

Renewable heating and cooling projects in this sector also face some challenges:

  • Awareness among lodging building owners regarding renewable heating and cooling opportunities and benefits is a primary challenge for development.
  • Some establishments may be concerned with disrupting building operations during project installation. However, with careful planning, systems can be designed to limit disruption and be installed during periods when the least impact will be felt.
  • Designing and installing renewable heating and cooling systems into buildings with decentralized room-level heating and cooling systems can be challenging, if not technically or economically impractical.
  • Some lodging facilities can find it difficult to site additional storage tanks for hot water. Some developers will opt to use several smaller tanks to meet system storage requirements, rather than a single large tank.

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Costs of RHC Technologies

The total cost of developing renewable heating and cooling systems can vary based on a number of factors, including the state policy environment, physical geography, available incentives, labor rates, and more. The following cost information is sourced from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)4 and should not be interpreted as statistically accurate or sector-specific, but instead should be taken only as rule-of-thumb information and used only for a first-pass screen of economic viability. Visit NREL's website for more detailed information about other costs and typical project lifetimes.

Solar Technologies
Technology type Mean installed cost
($ per square foot)
Installed cost range
(+/- $ per square foot)
Operation and
maintenance cost
Solar water heating:
flat-plate and evacuated
tube collectors
$141 $82 0.5 to 1.0%
of initial installed cost
Solar water heating:
plastic polymer collector
$59 $15 0.5 to 1.0%
Geothermal Technologies
Technology type Mean installed
cost ($ per ton)
Installed cost
(+/- $ per ton)
Operation and
maintenance cost
Ground source heat pump $7,518 $4,164 $109 +/- $94
Biomass Technologies
Technology type Mean installed
($ per kilowatt)
Installed cost
range (+/- $
per kilowatt)
Fixed operation and
maintenance cost
($ per kilowatt)
Biomass wood heat* $600 $361 $91 +/- $33

*Biomass wood heat converted from thermal energy capacity (Btu per hour)

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U.S. Energy Information Administration. 2008. 2003 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey. Table B1. Summary Table: Total and Means of Floorspace, Number of Workers, and Hours of Operation for Non-Mall Buildings, 2003.
U.S. Energy Information Administration. 2008. 2003 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey. Table E1. Major Fuel Consumption (Btu) by End Use for Non-Mall Buildings, 2003.
U.S. Energy Information Administration. 2008. 2003 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey. Table C4. Expenditures for Sum of Major Fuels for Non-Mall Buildings, 2003.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory. 2013. Distributed Generation Renewable Energy Estimate of Costs. Updated August 2013.