At Ruby’s Inn, guests like it hot

BRYCE CANYON CITY, UT—Hot water issues at Ruby’s Inn here were estimated to be costing more than $60,000 a year, until a recent solution came to the rescue.

With 19 buildings and 700 hotel rooms between three hotels—Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn, Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel and Bryce View Lodge—three restaurants, an RV park, a campground, three swimming pools and a laundry facility that does 19 tons of laundry per day, the hot water system was under quite a lot of strain.

“It was just a problem that we have had for years, being able to supply enough hot water for our groups—mostly our tour groups—when they hit,” said Ron Harris, health and safety manager, Ruby’s Inn. “We could have 10-15 tour buses in our hotel in one night. They show up and all 50-60 people on that bus want to shower. They are on a time schedule, so they are all showering at the same time. They are getting ready to go to dinner at the same time, and we would run out of hot water.”

The complex used a number of open-flame boilers with insulated storage tanks for its hot water. “We would circulate that water 24 hours a day, keeping it at 130-140 degrees Fahrenheit all the time, whether the water was being used or not,” he said. “We’d get hit with these influxes of usage that would just deplete it.”

To try and solve the problems, the team would add more systems, to no avail. “The other problem is some of those that we were still using were from the 1960s and 1970s,” said Harris. “When one of those went down, we’d have one per building. For example, the Best Western Ruby’s Inn side has separate buildings. The hotels were built as money [was available], so instead of just building one big hotel building, different buildings had these different water systems in them. If a boiler went down for whatever reason, the pilot went out, the thermocouple burned up, and it would literally take half an hour to an hour to get hot water. That directly translated into cost. Our resort manager and assistant manager came up with some figures, running data from our hotel system, and saw we were losing about $60,000 per year in discounts and comped rooms strictly because of hot water issues.”

That $60,000 cost did not include rooms that were never booked because of poor online reviews, customer service numbers and loss of return business.

It was Steve Rutherford at Blue Star Gas, supplier of the complex’s propane, who suggested they contact Rinnai for a custom tankless water heating solution. “When Rinnai came in for that first visit, they were pretty flabbergasted,” said Harris. “They brought in one of their engineers, several different times, along with their experts; I have a binder that is probably two inches thick with engineered specs for every single building.”

“Nothing can ruin a hotel guest’s stay faster than a cold shower,” said Dale Schmitz, marketing manager, commercial, Rinnai America Corporation. “So, in order to keep their guests happy and comfortable, hotels want to ensure that they have a reliable source of hot water. Rinnai tankless water heaters offer that reliability through redundancy (multiple units), which keeps them in hot water and also saves them in energy costs, by tracking the load to put up only the amount of BTU required by the demand rather than tanks and boilers that constantly heat and reheat stored water, regardless of demand.”

With the help of Blue Star Gas, 175 new tankless water heaters, 35 tankless rack systems and four Demand Duo Hybrid Commercial Water Heating Systems were installed. This unique hybrid system combined the best of both tank and tankless technologies, all of which were fueled by propane. The tankless systems heat the water, instantly avoiding the storage and constant reheating of the water when it is not in use.

Harris and the team at the complex did the installation of the plumbing and electrical aspects of the systems, with Blue Star Gas handling the venting system and the gas lines. He could not be more pleased with the results. “It was more of a dream for me to be able to go in and do this project all at one time,” he said. “I never thought it would happen.”

Rinnai also trained some members of Ruby’s engineering staff to handle any of the maintenance issues that might arise.

Schmitz noted that should issues arise, replacement is easy. “With easily replaceable parts, a tankless unit can last longer than a tank that cannot be easily repaired and ends up being replaced and disposed of in a landfill,” he said.

The days of compensating guests for lack of hot water are over. “We have not given one discount or comped room because of a hot water issue,” Harris said. “The maintenance, the dependability, the engineering that was done by Rinnai, and the installation was pretty much flawless.”

With the new system in place, Ruby’s Inn is expected to actually save $6,000 per month on propane alone due to the system’s energy efficiency. HB