Written on: October 4, 2023
In the previous two weeks, we have shared Part One and Part Two of our three-week feature on the recent “Energy for Everyone Hero” award presented by the Propane Education & Research Council to Ruby’s Inn at Bryce Canyon National Park. In our Part Three and final segment of the series, we’ll summarize details of Ruby’s Inn upgrading its energy system with 183 propane tankless water as well as other appliances from Rinnai to provide an environmentally-friendly, efficient and economical process for keeping water hot, rooms warm, pools warm, food cooking and many more benefits to Ruby’s Inn and its thousands of daily guests.
HOT WATER CHALLENGES AT RUBY’S INN
“As hotel general manager, there are always things that stress you out,” said Lance Syrett, General Manager of Ruby’s Inn. “This partnership means my hairline is not receding quite as fast as it was a few years ago.” Syrett was referring to consistent problems that plagued the facilities for many years as an increasingly outdated energy system simply could not keep up with the demand for hot water for showers. Syrett acknowledged there continue to be challenges everyday, but he is glad to say that the days of hot water challenges and having to issue $60,000 a year in refunds to travel groups and individuals are over.
Ron Harris, Health and Safety Manager at Ruby’s Inn is also sleeping better at night. Having also served as a Fire Chief for the area, he is glad that concerns about the safety of the old system as well as the customer service problems are resolved. “The old open flame boiler system that was supposed to keep water hot for the facility just simply put, ran out of hot water.” Harris said that continuing with the old system just didn’t make sense. “Multiple buses would roll in at the same time and new guests would all want to shower at the same time,” he said. “If we ran out of water, it might be two hours before we could restore it and even then, too many people taking showers could run the system out of hot water again.”
Harris noted that in addition to unhappy customers, there had been some small fires along the way with the open flame boilers. Harris and his team which included Chief Engineer Karl Mumford had already had discussions with Steve Rutherford of Blue Flame Gas and representatives of Rinnai about developing a plan to resolve the problems at Ruby’s Inn. Before taking action, one of the large boilers “self dynamited” according to Harris. “I made the executive decision to immediately obtain a six-rack system of C-199’s from Rinnai,” he said, referring to 199,000-Btu storage tank water heaters. “I have always believed in asking for forgiveness rather than permission in situations like this,” he said, recognizing the urgency of the current matter.
CRAFTING AND IMPLEMENTING A LONG-TERM SOLUTION AT RUBY’S INN
Harris and Mumford connected with Rinnai through Steve Rutherford of Blue Star Gas to move ahead with a larger plan to replace the whole energy infrastructure at Ruby’s Inn. “I can’t say enough about the relationship with Blue Star Gas, Rinnai, PERC and Kiva Energy,” Harris said. As Jim Bunsey, PERC’s Director of Commercial Business Development, continued to introduce partners in the Ruby’s Inn project, he turned over the microphone to Michael Prayoovech, a Rinnai Professional Engineer and Experienced Technical Sales Manager. “I was probably just a couple of years into my time with Rinnai when I became involved with Ruby’s Inn,” he said. “This became the largest project I’ve worked on. We did a site visit and walked through every building to gather all the information we needed. There were going to be a lot of retrofits needed and we wanted to show ROI.”
A plan was developed that would cost $750,000 and it was estimated the return on investment would be $6,000 per month going forward. “We wanted to replace every boiler system,” Mumford said. “Ultimately, 183 on-demand tankless water heaters were installed and systems to meet the heating needs of the 24-hour laundry facility, a car wash, and its restaurants.” Mumford noted that the Rinnai team developed all engineering plans which meant Ruby’s Inn did not have to spend additional money on engineering and that a high level of education had been provide by Rinnai representatives for his team. “Training on-site has been a big help to us,” Mumford said. “Every time they come, we learn something. Just last week, we had a full day of training. We are now in a position that if some parts of the Rinnai system have a problem, it doesn’t take down the whole system. We have back-up and plenty of time to fix what is broken.” He noted that while the old boiler system required 3 to 4 hours a day to constantly check boilers, the new energy system can be monitored within 20 minutes a day. “We can monitor it remotely via computer,” he said. He acknowledged that Ruby’s Inn would not be what it is today without propane.
“Ruby’s Inn represents a quintessential example of propane delivering value,” said Jeff Stewart, President and CEO of Blue Star Gas and also current Chairman of the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA). “We can help a facility reduce emissions with both conventional and renewable propane.” He stressed the importance of technology and the resiliency of propane to bring solutions to facilities like Ruby’s Inn. “Propane is a source of backup power, it keeps wells running and lights on. With several experts coming together, the propane industry provided a turnkey solution in the middle of nowhere,” Stewart said in front of the mountainous backdrop near Ruby’s Inn.
For more details on the Ruby’s Inn project, visit RubysInn.com/sustainability-initiative.