Hood River Hotel goes full steam ahead with fully-funded efficiency upgrade

Hood River Hotel goes full steam ahead with fully-funded efficiency upgrade

Hotel lobby

Hood River Hotel’s boiler issues made it difficult to provide consistent heat for guests and employees throughout the 6,000-square-foot historic property. The hotel has 41 guest rooms as well as a large ballroom that hosts events year-round. As the boiler heats every inch of the hotel, improving energy efficiency is key to keeping operational costs in check.

When it became apparent the hotel’s original boiler was on the verge of failing, James Pearrow, Hood River Hotel’s general manager, set out to install a new, more efficient model. But after installing it, maintenance staff discovered additional problems with the heat distribution system. The hotel’s original pipes “were just not able to hold up” against the new boiler’s improved performance, said Pearrow. “As we started replacing pipes, we then discovered the steam traps on all the radiators were completely nonfunctioning.”

Due to their condition, Pearrow decided to replace all 70 steam traps, which had likely never been replaced since the property was built in 1911. As the scope of the boiler project grew, hotel management became concerned about the cost. Buying new steam traps was an unexpected and expensive, yet necessary, purchase they were going to have to make.

Through one of the hotel owner’s existing relationships with an Energy Trust of Oregon staff member, Pearrow learned they could replace the stream traps more affordably. To his surprise, Hood River Hotel qualified for cash incentives that completely covered the cost of the steam trap upgrades, which was nearly $14,000. “Getting these incentives took some of that burden off and made this update happen without it really affecting the business,” Pearrow said.

New steam traps help ensure reliable boiler performance

As a result of the steam trap replacements, the hotel’s updated boiler and heat distribution system now perform as expected. There are no more burst pipes or malfunctioning in-room radiators. The boiler’s performance also kept up great when a fierce snow and ice storm hit the Gorge in early January 2024, leading to frozen water pipes and power outages at many residents’ homes.

“Because we had plenty of heat, we opened our doors to the local community, inviting them to come to the hotel to stay warm,” said Pearrow. He implemented a “frozen pipe deal” to help these residents save money on their stays and even offered free rooms to the hotel’s employees if they had no power, water or “just didn’t want to drive during that really scary time,” said Pearrow. “Hood River is a small community; we all show up for each other.”

Energy-efficient equipment helps businesses balance operating costs

Had the boiler not kept up with the demand for heat, it would’ve been a severe blow to Hood River Hotel’s bottom line during one of its busiest times. Because Hood River is a tourist destination, the hotel makes most of its income in the summer and fall. Balancing labor, overhead and utility costs can be challenging when business slows down. “May through October is great, but we still have bills to pay in the offseason,” said Pearrow. “Cash flow is always top of mind during the winter.”

The new steam traps alone will save Hood River Hotel nearly $104,800 on annual utility bills, but the hotel will continue to experience savings for years to come. The hotel’s guests now enjoy a more pleasant stay since the new steam traps fixed heating inconsistencies. Pearrow said they no longer need to give out partial refunds or reduced rates because guest rooms are too cold or hot. “We’ve had zero complaints about heating so far,” said Pearrow.

Outside of hotel

The future is looking greener for Hood River Hotel

Through this project, Hood River Hotel maintenance staff learned a lot about keeping the new boiler and steam traps in working condition. New routines are in place to ensure the steam traps continue to work properly. “We’re going to be doing a lot more preventive maintenance because we are an old building and don’t want to wait for problems to occur,” said Pearrow.

With this steam trap project behind them, maintenance staff are now keeping an eye out for other energy efficiency improvements they can pursue with Energy Trust’s help. “The knowledge that you gain from working with Energy Trust is lasting. You’re going to see the effects for years to come on your bottom line and overall guest satisfaction,” said Pearrow. “I would suggest to anyone that they go all in.”

Energy Trust incentives help make steam trap upgrades and other energy-efficient equipment more affordable. Learn what incentive opportunities hotels and lodging businesses qualify for. Email existingbuildings@energytrust.org to get started.