The ultimate business energy efficiency guide for leisure centres and recreational businesses

18 January 2017

Sports and leisure centres, as well as other recreational businesses, use more energy than most other operations — with gas and electricity often accounting for over 30% of total operational costs. This guide introduces practical guidance on how sports and leisure centres can save energy and reduce their carbon footprint.

Given the energy intensive equipment and infrastructure required to run a recreational centre, it’s easy to see why energy costs are so significant within the sports and leisure sector. Swimming pools, electrical fitness equipment and large sports halls all consume a massive amount of energy, often making it difficult for managerial staff to strike a balance between functionality and efficiency.

At Gazprom Energy, we help businesses, large and small, to better manage their day-to-day energy use — providing practical solutions tailored to the requirements of the business. We’ve taken our experience in helping UK businesses manage their energy needs to create a comprehensive guide looking at some of the ways businesses in the sports and leisure industry can improve their energy consumption habits.

Energy saving opportunities

Did you know that by improving energy use by as little as 10%, sports and leisure facilities in the UK could collectively save up to £70 million a year? Here, we offer practical tips on how recreational businesses can boost their energy efficiency.

Ventilation and air conditioning

Wet and dry leisure centres rely on efficient air conditioning (A/C) and ventilation to regulate air temperature, which is often higher than usual due to the heat gains from staff, customers, electrical equipment and lighting. This is particularly true of wet centres, where an air conditioning system is vital in ensuring the optimum temperature of the pool hall and changing facilities.

air conditioning and ventilation

According to a recent Carbon Trust report, A/C and ventilation accounts for 39% of energy costs for a typical leisure centre with a pool, so it’s important to take advantage of any opportunities to save on A/C costs. Here are a few ideas on how to reduce the amount of energy used by A/C and ventilation systems.

  • Use natural ventilation where possible — By using natural ventilation from doors and windows, the need for mechanical air circulation is reduced — ultimately saving money. Natural ventilation works best when air is able to flow between two entry points, helping cool the air throughout the space. Of course, you should always consider the health and safety implications before opening windows and doors. 
  • Close windows and doors when using A/C — If warm, wet air is allowed into a cooled space, most A/C units will automatically switch on to re-cool the air, leading to wasted energy. To maintain a constant temperature and prevent the A/C from switching on unnecessarily, keep doors and windows closed where possible, and promote this rule among members of staff. 
  • Implement a temperature ‘dead band’ on the thermostat — Heating and air conditioning should never be used simultaneously, and this is something which is simple to avoid by implementing a temperature ‘dead band’. This is essentially a predetermined gap between when the heater and the A/C unit are able to switch on. For instance, a heater will switch off when 20°C is reached, while the A/C won’t switch on until the temperature hits 24-25°C.
  • Maintain the equipment — For A/C and ventilation systems to work at their optimum, they need to be properly maintained. If maintenance isn’t carried out on a regular basis, an A/C unit is liable to use up to 60% more energy than a well-maintained machine.
  • Try night cooling — Ventilation fans are a great way to cool a leisure centre with natural air, without relying on an A/C unit. Often, these can be left on overnight, resulting in ‘night cooling’. Night cooling delays the A/C from switching on the following day, helping to save a lot of energy.

Heating 

Statistics from the Carbon Trust reveal that heating accounts for around 17% of energy consumed by leisure centres — a significant annual cost. Many leisure and recreation centres believe that to keep both customers and staff happy, heating must be switched on at all times, but this isn’t always the case, and often the heating system can be completely shut down without any complaints from centre patrons. 

The trick to saving on heating bills is to understand the temperatures which are appropriate for different zones within the leisure centre. For instance, a sports hall, where lots of physical activity takes place, should be considerably cooler than the reception area or seating areas. Below, we provide a guide to some of the recommended heating temperatures for different zones in sports and leisure facilities. 

Heating zone

Temperature (°C)

Multi-purpose sports hall

12-18 (depending on the activity)

Pool hall

25-30 (depending on pool temperature)

Gym and fitness area

16-18

Weight training suite

12-14

Squash courts

16-18

Secondary sports halls

12-21 (19-21 for non-sport activities)

Changing areas

20-25

Reception and offices

16-20

Crèche

21

Refreshment areas

18-20

*Source — The Carbon Trust

Lighting

Adequate lighting is essential to the comfort and safety of a fit-for-purpose leisure centre, helping create a bright and welcoming environment. However, given that lighting accounts for around 20% of total energy spend in sport and leisure facilities, it’s important to find ways to reduce the energy consumption and cost of lighting without forgoing customer satisfaction and comfort.

Here are a few essential tips for reducing the cost of lighting. 

Consider what sort of lighting is needed

Sport, swimming and recreation halls, as well as reception and customer areas, may require bright lighting, but other areas, like corridors and storerooms, simply don’t. Assessing which areas of the building need bright lighting and which don’t could lead to significant energy savings, with expensive energy-intensive bulbs replaced with more efficient alternatives in some areas of the centre.

illumination

When it comes to deciding on the most efficient lighting setup for sport and leisure centres, it pays to be thorough when assigning the appropriate bulb to different environments. In changing rooms for instance, a good balance of light is required, with bright lighting around mirrors, and dimmer options in showers, toilets and cubicles. The same goes for sports halls and their adjoining spectator areas, with pitches and activity areas requiring a good amount of light, and seating areas only a low-energy option.

By creating different lighting zones in the leisure centre according to a room’s specific usage, you may be able to shave a decent sum off your annual lighting bill.

Label light switches 

Leisure centres often have complex lighting systems, with some rooms featuring a myriad of different light switches. To avoid any confusion as to which switch does what, it’s a good idea to label them, eliminating the risk of wasted energy through the wrong lights being switched on. With lots of different members of staff using the centre at any given time, some of whom may not be familiar with using the facilities, labelling light switches is a great way to prevent wasted energy. 

Install occupancy sensors

It’s unlikely that every room in the leisure centre will be in use at any one time, so why waste money lighting empty spaces? Install occupancy sensors in non-essential rooms like corridors, toilets, store cupboards and secondary sports halls, and lights will only switch on when there’s someone in the room — so you can stay in better control of your lighting costs.

Install low-energy lighting

Low-energy doesn’t necessarily mean dim. Invest in the appropriate low-energy bulbs, and you can still adequately illuminate different areas of the leisure centre whilst making great savings on the cost of lighting. We’d recommend replacing old tungsten bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), which last eight times longer and use only 25% of the energy. It’s also a good idea to replace old tube lights with tri-phosphor alternatives, which are incredibly bright and use a fraction of the power.

If replacing your current lighting sounds like a big expense on a tight budget, why not see if your business qualifies for an interest-free loan from the Carbon Trust? The Carbon Trust provides energy efficiency loans to qualifying SMEs in England and Wales, up to the value of £100,000. These loans are there to help businesses invest in energy saving projects, like replacing existing heating and lighting systems.

Swimming pools 

One of the most significant energy expenses for wet leisure centres is maintaining and heating swimming pools, with filtering, pumping and a loss of water heat through evaporation among the main culprits when it comes to wasted energy at the poolside. 

A simple way to ensure efficient swimming pool energy management is to educate members of staff on the importance of keeping the pool and the hall at the optimum temperature. Train them to use the pool controls effectively, so the water remains at a constant temperature which limits evaporation. The temperature of the hall should also be closely monitored, and should remain precisely 1°C warmer than the temperature of the water to inhibit evaporation from the surface.

Swimming pool water temperatures should range from 25°C for training and competition pools to 40°C for specialist spa and hydrotherapy pools. Should the water be above or below the recommended temperature for the type of pool, energy is not being used efficiently.

swimming pool gym

Electrical equipment and fitness appliances

Sports, leisure and recreational facilities rely on lots of electrical equipment, particularly in gym and fitness suites. Operating energy-intensive exercise equipment on a daily basis can be a huge drain on energy, with electricity spend accounting for around 30% of a leisure centre’s average annual energy cost.

Here, we provide a few simple tips on how to reduce the energy impact of electrical fitness machines and models.

  • Switch off during off-peak hours — Even in standby mode, fitness machines consume a lot of power, so it’s always best to switch them off when not in use. This is especially important during off-peak hours, when machines are left unattended, simply wasting energy.

One of the simplest ways to do this is to invest in programmable seven-day timers, which will switch the machines off and on at predetermined intervals. 

  • Carry out regular maintenance — Make sure that moving parts are kept free from grime, dust and blockages, as these could lead to friction and, in turn, wasted energy. The servicing schedule for each piece of machinery should be listed in the manufacturer’s manual.
  • Invest in the most energy efficient equipment available — Choosing fitness equipment with a cheap initial purchase cost might not be cost effective after you factor in its energy rating. Affordable equipment could cost you more in the long-term than a more energy efficient model, so it’s worth factoring energy cost into your purchasing decision. Look out for equipment featuring the Energy Star symbol, which is considered a European benchmark for energy efficiency.

Promoting energy management

For sport and leisure businesses not looking to spend a lot when it comes to improving energy efficiency, savings are still achievable by promoting good energy management across the business. Here are a few tips on how to better manage day-to-day energy requirements.

  • Monitor energy use — By taking steps to actively monitor where energy is being used within the leisure centre, it’s easy to identify energy saving opportunities, and draw up a plan on how to reduce consumption. Using an automated meter reading (AMR) service is a great way to accurately record and monitor energy use, with the option to access historic consumption data to set key energy saving benchmarks and targets.
  • Set energy saving targets — Once you’ve started to closely monitor energy consumption, it’s easy to set energy saving targets. We’d recommend starting off by aiming to reduce your energy consumption by 5% to 10% in the first year, before increasing this savings goal as you go.
  • Involve staff in the energy saving process — Given that staff don’t pay the energy bill, they aren’t likely to hit the ground running when it comes to improving energy management. That’s why it’s important to include them in the energy saving process, providing additional training on ways to improve workplace efficiencies. There’s even the option to incentivise energy saving among members of staff, providing giveaways when certain energy targets are met. 

Gazprom Energy is one of the UK’s leading providers of business energy solutions, helping thousands of small and large businesses to better manage their energy requirements. For more information on our services, visit the homepage or call 0845 230 0011.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this article are those of our third party content providers alone and do not represent those of Gazprom Energy. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. Gazprom Energy accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.


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