Energy shortages are affecting the global fitness industry, with Europe being the hardest hit. Here’s how health club operators can reduce their energy consumption and costs.
Energy costs in Europe are about 50-60% higher than just a few months ago, depending on when contract renewals are being negotiated. Many hospitality businesses (60-70%) are reportedly economically unviable with current levels of trade and projected energy costs.
Our industry was just starting to recover after years of multiple lockdowns. Now, with customers used to working from home and not going to the gym, higher costs are making many businesses impractical in the short term. Owners will be self-funding or borrowing until they can get back on track.
The simplest way to reduce energy use is to closely manage it. For example:
Switch off lights and unnecessary equipment. Be careful with appliances, such as refrigerators, heating units, and air conditioners, as some need to be powered up even when the building is closed.
Keep doors and windows closed, but enable sufficient ventilation, due to COVID concerns.
Report faults—such as leaking faucets—and fix them.
These are good places to start, but there’s much more you can do. More simple steps you can take include ensuring:
Door closers work well;
Draught proofing is in good condition and intact;
Thermostats, time switches, and room temperatures are set correctly;
Lighting units are clean and fully working; and
Lighting is off when there is sufficient daylight.
Full Checklist to Combat Health Club Energy Costs
There are numerous ways to institute significant changes to your health club’s energy costs. The following checklist will cover several areas in your club and suggestions on how you can take full advantage of lowering energy costs.
Adjust heat temperatures down a few degrees.
Ensure time switches are correctly set.
Properly maintain heating and ventilation equipment. Ventilation is expensive and condensation can quickly damage a building.
Pool hall humidity needs to be measured. When it drops below condensation level, the heating and ventilation system can be reduced.
When pool covers are put on, the humidity will drop, enabling the heating to be turned down.
Dehumidification and ventilation rates must be kept at optimal settings
Technical Upgrades & Capital Investment
Upgrade to LED lighting. Start with the most frequently lit areas. LEDs tend to be brighter than standard fluorescent or sodium lights so a slightly lower wattage may be required, and it doesn’t need replacing for 8-12 years.
Check insulation. Depending on location, the levels of insulation can be important. Glazing could be double or even triple glazed to prevent excessive heat loss or noise. Wall insulation and roof insulation should also be considered. Ensure that any insulation doesn’t disproportionately increase the fire load of the building.
Replace boilers, if necessary. High-efficiency condensing boilers or combined heat-and-power units are the most desirable options. The efficiency of boilers is critically important if gas is used as a primary heat source. Ensure they are maintained to the highest levels. If a gas-condensing boiler is nearing the end of its normal working life, then its replacement could be a hydrogen ready unit. Much of the gas supply in Europe will most probably be enhanced by the addition of around 20% hydrogen in the near future. Some regions may be migrating entirely to hydrogen and it’s sensible to be prepared.
Consider hydrogen fuel. Combined heat and power units will soon become available with a hydrogen fuel supply. The hydrogen fuel supply may be available on a similar basis to mains/natural gas now, but is more likely to be local electrolysers and storage. An electrolyser is a device that can convert distilled water into hydrogen for storage and use and vents oxygen to the atmosphere. This technology is expensive, but it may change in the future.
Heat pumps are an option. If your facility has decided that reliance on imported gas isn’t good for long-term planning, then modern heat pumps running directly from electricity may be viable. Heat pumps are long-established technology but are becoming more feasible as the economics of gas changes. They don’t entirely remove the need for gas heating, but they do restrict gas use in colder months. To some degree, heat pumps and air conditioning with an ability to heat as well as cool down a building are part of the same technologies. Many gyms already rely predominantly on air conditioning units. The equipment must be scrupulously clean, maintained, and any coolant gasses kept topped up.
Electric hot water boilers may be an option. For smaller facilities, a simple electric hot water boiler is a relatively simple solution that provides enough hot water for a few showers stored in an immersion heater and a mix of under floor electric heating and radiators. Day to day hot water can be found in instant heating systems rather than storage tanks.
Today’s reliance on gas can be engineered out of most health clubs with sufficient thought and investment. However, it’s likely that we will become reliant on externally provided electricity.
Depending on location and access to space, it would be appropriate to consider photovoltaic panels (PVs) to make electricity and/or solar thermal tubes or panels for hot water. PVs can be linked up with Battery Electric Storage Systems (BESS) to stretch the use of sunlight for power into the evening. Although nominally maintenance free, a lot of effort needs to be put into the design of the electrical system and enhancing fire protection, especially with BESS.
Paul Hackett, MSc, CMIOSH, PIEMA, FCIMSPA, MISPE, MIIRSM, MIFSM, is a registered fire risk assessor and chartered safety & health practitioner and OSHCR registered consultant with extensive international experience. He is the Director of Top Lodge Environmental and a former sports, fitness, and aquatics facilities operator.
The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) is a global community of health and fitness professionals committed to building their businesses and improving their communities’ health and well-being. The mission of IHRSA is to grow, protect, and promote the health and fitness industry, and to provide its members with the benefits that will help them be more successful. IHRSA and its members (health clubs and fitness facilities, gyms, spas, sports clubs, and industry suppliers) are dedicated to make the world healthier through regular exercise. For more information visit www.ihrsa.org.