Areas and Places

Troyeville Hotel invests in alternative energy efficient sources

Located in the Johannesburg inner-city suburb of the same name and just up the hill from the Ellis Park stadium, the Troyeville hotel remains something of a legend with a loyal following across Johannesburg.

Opened in 1939 as a male boarding house, the two-storey Troyeville Hotel (generally just called “the Troyeville”) has eight rooms which are occupied by long-term guests plus three recently renovated upmarket rooms, including a suite. The hotel also has a small fully-equipped conference room and a bar – a very popular hangout in Johannesburg. The restaurants and specifically its Portuguese food are a firm favourite with Johannesburgers.

Co-owner (and well-known restaurateur) Laurence Jones recalls that he convinced a group of friends to buy the hotel with him 11 years ago because – when he heard it was on the market – he was particularly concerned about missing out on his favourite Portuguese lunch. More than a decade later most of the kitchen staff are still at the Troyeville but nowadays they’re working harder than ever – preparing up to 150 meals a day.

Trimming the water heating bill

As is the case in any hard-working kitchen, hot water is essential to the Troyeville’s everyday operations. It’s used for the accommodation and for washing plates and equipment and preparing food. But, of course, hot water costs money which, with energy prices rising all the time, is only becoming more expensive. And so, a year ago, Jones decided to investigate alternative energy sources to supply the kitchen with hot water.

“Up to a year ago we had a gas boiler which was supplied by piped natural gas,” says Jones. “It was pretty old and kept breaking down. Plus I wanted to know if we could save money using alternative technology. I decided to make some enquiries and the upshot was that we installed a heat pump which has been working fantastically ever since.”

According to Jones the hotel’s gas bill used to average R26 000 a month, which was spent on the boiler, gas cookers and on heaters located throughout the hotel. (Had the boiler been heated using electricity its monthly cost would probably have been similar to that of natural gas although that cost would almost certainly have climbed faster than the gas price.)

“We spent R12 000 on a 7kW heat pump and installation cost us another R2 000,” explains Jones. “We simply used the existing 2 000 litre water tank and the switchover was so quick and easy that we didn’t have to warn anyone – guests or even staff – to expect any disruptions because there weren’t any.”

The Troyeville’s compact heat pump is located on the roof of the hotel next to the old boiler and hot water is piped directly downstairs to the main kitchen. According to Jones his in-house handyman is responsible for maintenance – little more than rinsing a single filter every two months or so and giving the unit the occasional bit of cleaning.

The heat pump heats water to 50°C – quite sufficient for the kitchen’s needs. Jones is well aware that a big reason why hotels turn to heat pumps is the added benefit that they produce cool air. “If we were a bigger establishment with, say 50 rooms or more, we probably would have installed a bigger unit which would have given us much more cold air, which we might have pumped for cooling, but the 7kW unit we have is perfect for our needs.”

So how much money has the Troyeville saved from installing its first heat pump and what has been the payback period? “Our gas bill used to be R26 000 a month and, as soon as we installed the heat pump, it came down by R6 000 a month. So, yes, it’s been a brilliant investment.”

So what exactly is a heat pump? In the broadest terms, a heat pump is similar to an air conditioner or refrigerator except that, instead of pumping heat out of a fridge or air conditioner into the surrounding air, it pumps the heat from the outside air into the water to be heated.

A heat pump can be up to three times more efficient than a traditional electric element geyser because it uses one unit of electricity and two units of low-temperature air to produce three units of hot water whereas a traditional geyser uses three units of electricity or gas.

Advisory service

Eskom’s national Advisory Service can help you to locate heat pump suppliers. The team can also advise hotels on:

– Reducing energy usage;

– Doing walk-through energy assessments to identify energy usage patterns, energy needs, areas of energy wastage and energy saving opportunities;

– Improving the energy efficiency of operations and electrical systems and processes;  

– Prioritizing maintenance as an important contributor to reducing energy usage; and

– Finding SANAS approved energy savings Measurement & Verification Authorities.

Advisors also help identify funding opportunities for energy efficiency projects.