Managing energy in leisure facilities

Inefficient heating, ventilation or air conditioning (HVAC) systems could be overheating your leisure business—and inflating your energy costs.

Andrew Fletcher
Site audit advisor

Six ways to make your leisure facility more energy efficient

When you’re operating a recreational or leisure business, the initial capital investment and operating costs can be huge. Large premises, lots of equipment, extended opening hours, staff numbers. It all adds up- significantly.

Recently I’ve audited a number of leisure facilities, some big, some smaller. In my experience there are several areas that offer scope for cutting energy consumption and therefore costs.

1. Heating open/close

You want your customers and staff to be comfortable but you may be able to cut the cost of heating your centre without anybody feeling the cold.

Our energy auditor says.

Check the temperature set points of your facility against these recommended temperatures and adjust as needed. Even small changes can result in big savings.

Type of space Recommended temperature
Multipurpose 12°Cto 18°C for sporting activities 18°C to 21°C for sedentary activities
Swimming pool hall 1°C above water temperature
Fitness centre 16°C to 18°C
Weight training room 12°C to 14°C
Squash courts 16°C to 18°C for courts 18°C for spectators
Ancillary halls 15°C for sports 21°C for non sports
Changing areas 20°C to 25°C
Reception and offices 16°C to 20°C
Crèche 21°C
Café and bar 18°C

More words of wisdom.

If you’ve got equipment that’s not in use, take action.

  • Turn off the heating in saunas and steam rooms
  • Cover spa pools and hot tubs
  • Use a time-clock to switch off the spa pool

Source: Sports and leisure - Introducing energy saving opportunities for business, Carbon Trust, June 2006

2. Ventilation and air conditioning open/close

Leisure facility air conditioning and ventilation equipment often has to work hard. Ventilation equipment is used to provide fresh air and to remove moisture laden air from within pool areas to prevent condensation. To maintain the required air temperature within pool areas, a combination of specialised ventilation and air conditioning systems are commonly used. Air conditioning is often needed to mitigate the heat generated by people and exercise equipment in gyms and exercise studios. Ventilation and air conditioning equipment uses lots of energy and can operate 24 hours a day.

Our energy auditor says.

Poorly-maintained ventilation and air conditioning equipment can use up to 60% more energy than they should and are more likely to break down. Make sure your ventilation and air conditioning equipment undergoes regular planned maintenance.

Source: Sports and leisure - Introducing energy saving opportunities for business, Carbon Trust, June 2006

3. Lighting open/close

If your leisure facility has a swimming pool, you could be spending up to 10% of your total energy bill on lighting. If you run a dry leisure facility that figure rises to 20%.

Our energy auditor says.

Small changes could make a big difference.

  • Make use of day lighting. If your facility has windows or glass roof panels, for much of the year during the day you may not need the lights to be on. You may find you don’t need as much as you think.
  • Switch off fluorescent lights. Contrary to popular opinion, fluorescent lights are cheap to start up. There’s no need to leave them on all the time.
  • Customise your light switches. Having switches that control rows or banks of lights, this means that lights can be switched off in areas when not in use.

Source: Sports and leisure - Introducing energy saving opportunities for business, Carbon Trust, June 2006

4. Swimming pools open/close

Heating and ventilating your pool could be accounting for up to 65% of the energy your business’s use. Installing a swimming pool cover can dramatically reduce the cost of heating the pool water and maintaining the air temperature within the pool area.

Our energy auditor says.

  • Heat water only to the minimum recommended temperatures. That’s 28°C to 30°C for conventional and diving pools, 25°C to 27°C for training and competition pools, and up to 40°C for spa pools.
  • Use a pool cover. You could cut your pool’s energy use by 10% to 30%. And you’ll also be able to reduce pool hall ventilation overnight and when not in use without risking a rise in humidity which causes problematic condensation.

More words of wisdom

Overheating your pool not only increases energy consumption and costs, it can also result in excessive condensation that could ultimately damage the building fabric.

Source: Sports and leisure - Introducing energy saving opportunities for business, Carbon Trust, June 2006

5. Electrical equipment open/close

Electronic gym equipment can use a lot of power and often generates lots of waste heat. To combat this, air conditioning is used to prevent the space becoming too hot. As a result you’re often doubling your energy usage through heating and cooling.

Our energy auditor says

  • Look after the equipment. Keep moving parts free of dust and be sure to service regularly. Well-maintained equipment uses less energy.
  • Use plug in time-clocks. Install timers so that your fitness equipment can be switched off at low-use times of day.
  • Use the power down mode. This will save energy and could increase the lifespan of your equipment. (Make sure that your customers know how to power up the equipment.)
  • Switch off at night. Unless you’re open 24/7, there’s no need to keep fitness equipment and air conditioning on at night. Put into place an end of day procedure to ensure that all unnecessary energy consuming equipment is switched off overnight.

More words of wisdom

Do your research - like all appliances, fitness equipment varies in energy efficiency. Most manufacturer’s provide details of energy consumption as part of the specification, if not ask for it. Shop around to find equipment that's going to be economical in the long run.

Source: Sports and leisure - Introducing energy saving opportunities for business, Carbon Trust, June 2006

6. Building fabric open/close

On average, about 65% of the heat your business pays for is lost through your building. The exact amount depends on the outside temperature, how well insulated your building is, and how much fresh air comes in either by controlled ventilation or because of poorly fitting doors and windows.

Our energy auditor says

  • Don’t wait to repair. Gaps or holes in walls, windows and doors should be fixed immediately.
  • Undertake regular maintenance. It’ll help you avoid potential (and potentially bigger) problems further down the line.
  • Check for damp. Damp can damage your building structure and make any insulation less effective. Be sure to check for damp before the winter months. Damp can also be a sign of inadequate ventilation within an area.
  • Insulate. Up to 25% of a building’s heat can escape through a non-insulated roof. Insulation should be at least 270mm deep in roof spaces and 75mm elsewhere. Don’t forget to insulate internal pipes to 25mm and external pipes to 75mm.

More words of wisdom.

Refurbishing? This is an excellent time to upgrade your doors, windows and insulation. You’ll find it less expensive if you’re already committed to other building work and it’ll be less disruptive to your customers.

Source: Sports and leisure - Introducing energy saving opportunities for business, Carbon Trust, June 2006
Insulation thickness source: Energy Saving Trust, 2014. Insulation thickness governed by U-value of insulation installed.

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