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Savvy health club owners and managers are looking beyond the big-ticket expense items to discover ways to trim expenses.
Savings Add Up
Goudreau also suggests clubs look at variable frequency drive (VFD) motors wherever possible—namely on pumps for heating and circulating pool water. Many clubs may have pumps with older engineering that are running too frequently and at much lower efficiency than today's VFD motors and pumps.
Pear makes sure staff puts covers over his club's pools at night to hold in heat and humidity to help lower energy costs.
Destratification turbines and fans that recirculate heated air (higher up) into lower areas of the club also can save on heating or cooling costs, Goudreau says.
The first step, Goudreau adds, is for a club to engage an energy consultant or auditor to look at where the club currently is using energy and identify areas for savings.
Those savings can add up. Bruce Buckbee is vice president of energy efficiency for World Energy of Worcester, MA, a company that works with many fitness clubs on energy savings. Buckbee also happens to be a former fitness club owner. At one 25,000-square-foot club, energy savings came to $50,000 per year, he says. A new energy contract with a Boston-area club saved it $400,000 in energy costs over three years, Buckbee adds, and World Energy took over all energy purchasing for a large East Coast chain of clubs and did a three-year contract worth $2.1 million in energy savings. Electricity-deregulated states such as Texas and those in the Northeast and Midwest offer significant opportunities for energy savings, he says.
"The utilities are driven to help fund the cost savings," he says. "We essentially go in with the utility's checkbook in our back pocket."
Buckbee continues: "The thing about fitness clubs is that there are such long hours of operation and such energy intensive use—HVAC, pools, heaters, saunas, cooling and heating over large facilities—that whether it is around procurement or energy efficiency, we love working with them. We can get great returns on energy investments. Not only do I come out of this business, and thus understand what they do, but the savings we provide put a smile on their faces."