Hotels have increasingly turned away from bathtubs to showers.
That means that hotels have people working on making sure that every guest gets a hot shower within seconds. They’ve mapped it all out.
The Hyatt Regency Chicago anticipates its guests to take eight-minute showers at 2.5 gallons a minute.
Hilton knows that 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. will be a busy time at properties such as the New York Hilton Midtown when many business travelers are getting ready for work.
“The shower experience has to be seamless, and guests should not wait more than 30 seconds to reach optimal water temperature,” says Randy Gaines, senior vice president of operations and new openings at Hilton.
So what do hotels do to make sure their guests are not left out in the cold?
Mark Kukulski, president of Wyndham managed hotels, says technology has worked in the favor of hotel operators.
It used to be that hotels had a few boilers and hoped for the best.
Now there are heat exchangers to facilitate movement of water. They work like car radiators, transferring heat.
Hotels have a few, and many are redundant to make sure that no one runs out of hot water. Some large hotels can have up to 10.
“If you looked at a pretty sophisticated mechanical room today they’re very different. It looks more like a computer-generated room,” he says. “There’s not so much need for someone sitting in one of the chiller and mechanical rooms.”
“It’s just like a car,” he says. “We’re constantly doing service on our car.”
Michell says he can provide hot showers to his 1,996 rooms, even if showers go on at the same time.
He has three boilers the size of a tractor-trailer and about a dozen heat exchangers. They take in city water and push it through a system. Water goes through one end and gets filtered into steam.
Niles Harris, general manager of the InterContinental Hotel Los Angeles Downtown, says that each of the guest room floors are broken down into different zones that circulate hot water from the hotel boilers through a loop system. The hotel has 889 guestrooms.
“This allows us to have more control over the system, so if there ever was a problem, we would not lose hot water to all guest rooms at once,” Harris says. “It’s also important to note that we maintain several redundant boilers for backup, given the magnitude of the building.”
Traian Ciobanu, director of engineering at the InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile, says 9 a.m. is the hotel’s peak period for showering. The 700-plus-room hotel pumps more than 55.000 gallons of water to all rooms.
“We always plan for a contingency and have backup systems in place and can reallocate water flow based on the needs and locations of our guests,” he says.
Michael Dean, Hilton’s senior director of engineering for the Americas, says older boilers have been replaced with those that use less gas yet still produce the same amount of heat. In order to meet peak demand, some hotels were designed with more than 20,000 gallons of hot water storage.
Yet he says on an average day, only a fraction of the hot water storage is needed to meet demand. That is usually only during one or two hours a day.
Instantaneous water heaters provide enough hot water on demand to meet peak demand, he says.
And, “It dramatically reduces energy, saves money and reduces our carbon footprint,” he says.
Hilton has hot water equipment, storage and distribution systems in place. It is designed to deliver hot water to hotels even if they are fully booked, Dean says. It sometimes requires large boilers and thousands of gallons of hot water, he says.
In large hotels, rooms are assigned risers, or pipes that provide them with hot water. Up to two gallons a minute travels through the riser.
“By keeping the water continually moving through each riser, we never let the water cool and get cold,” he says.
Baths or showers are only a few feet away from hot water.
Raed Shuwayhat, director of engineering at Fairmont Austin in Texas, says hot water is considered to be 120 degrees Fahrenheit. That is maintained through pressure- and temperature-regulated variable-speed pumps for both hot and cold water systems. The hotel has 1,048 guestrooms on almost 30 floors.
“When hot water demand increases, the system is designed for the main water pumps in the mechanical room in the basement to rev up speed and push additional hot water from the hot water holding tanks, and the pumps would rev down when the hot water demand and usage decreases,” he says.
But the equipment has improved with technology, Kukulski says.
“That whole part of the hotel room construction compared to what it used to be has evolved,” he says.
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