Written on: September 25, 2023
Last week, we shared Part One of the article regarding PERC’s “Energy for Everyone Hero” Award going to Ruby’s Inn at Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park and that article can be found here.
This week, we’ll continue discussing the Syrett family’s history of providing lodging for visitors to Bryce Canyon National Park and we’ll delve further into the challenges of providing hot water that were resolved with propane and a modern energy system with tankless water heaters and other appliances provided by Rinnai.
In 1919, as word continued to spread throughout Utah, many visitors began to trek to southern Utah from Salt Lake City and other areas to see Bryce Canyon for themselves. The Syretts learned of a large crowd coming from Salt Lake City to see the Canyon. According to Minnie Syrett, “They wanted us to take a lunch up there and feed them. So we set up a tent and served them.” The group was so taken with what they saw, they asked if it would be possible to stay there that night. Ruby went back to the ranch, loaded five or six beds and food for dinner. They slept under the pines and were treated to a large breakfast the next morning. As people kept coming, the Syretts kept providing tent houses for their guests and preparing them meals from spring until fall. This allowed almost no time to take care of the ranch.
Word of the canyon continued to spread and roads were getting better. Friends encouraged the Syretts to build more permanent accommodations. They build a rustic lodge for tourists on the rim of the canyon with local timber and stone and were well on their way to becoming pioneers in Utah’s tourism industry. Activities for the guests were developed and tours of the canyon were offered. As the canyon became an official National Park in the 1920’s, the Syretts believed offering some of their land for what would be a perfect entrance to the park would help position them as the perfect lodging site for visitors. The inn was expanded and a sign above Ruby’s Inn read, “Everybody Welcome.”
The facilities continued to grow and evolve and roads to Bryce Canyon continued to be improved and more and more people traveled by automobile. By the 1970’s the third generation of Syretts was running Ruby’s Inn. While they enjoyed much success, a fire on the night of May 31, 1984 destroyed the original old lodge, 19 guest rooms, and the new restaurant. The monetary loss was over $4 million and the emotional loss was overwhelming. With hard work through the summer and winter, Ruby’s Inn reopened a year later on June 1, 1985.
The third generation made many investments to further expand Ruby’s Inn to many buildings that could accommodate up to 4,000 guests in one night. Today the campus includes 19 buildings, 700 hotel rooms, three restaurants, an RV park, a campground, three swimming pools, and a laundry facility handling 19 tons of laundry per day.
FOCUS ON THE ENVIRONMENT AT RUBY’S INN
Having been at Bryce Canyon since before it became a national park, the Syrett family prides itself for taking care of the canyon since before the Park Service has. “Being next to a National Park, we always think about our carbon footprint,” said Lance Syrett, Ruby’s Inn General Manager. Conservation of water, electricity and other energy resources are critical to success.
Water was always needed at the inn and a new well was drilled during the 1980’s, storage tanks were installed to provide a dependable supply of culinary water. A sewer system was also constructed. With Bryce Canyon located at the top of the Pansagaunt Plateau and because water runs downhill, Ruby’s Inn has to be as careful with water usage as possible. In addition, the climate at Bryce Canyon is classified as an “Alpine Desert”, meaning most of the annual precipitation comes in the winter and through sparse storms during the short summer monsoon season.
Some initiatives include a linen/towel reuse program which allows guests to choose whether they want towels and linens replaced; a natural landscaping plan which includes many grasses, trees and bushes that don’t use too much water; a waste water reuse plan which uses natural processes to treat wastewater to be safe for farming uses; and state of the art systems with all daily processes such as dishwashing, laundry or other water intensive processes, utilizing the latest and most advanced technology to minimize water usage.
An electric usage plan includes Ruby Inn being the largest provider of Electric Vehicle Charging stations for visitors to the Bryce Canyon area. In addition, Ruby’s Inn continues to upgrade and embrace the latest and most efficient systems to reduce electrical consumption.
PROPANE IS AN ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY AND COST EFFECTIVE ENERGY FOR RUBY’S INN
“It is important to Ruby’s Inn to use an energy source that is cost-effective, reliable and efficient,” said Syrett. “Propane fulfills those needs and it helps keep the beautiful environment clean. It just makes sense.” Propane use at Ruby’s Inn has helped to eliminate 5,200 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent. This is equal to greenhouse gas emissions from:
* 1,410 gasoline-powered passenger vehicles driven for one year.
* 771,822,585 smartphones charged.
* 795 homes energy use for one year.
The “Energy for Everyone Hero” Award was given to Ruby’s Inn by PERC to recognize their environmental stewardship as well as to celebrate the success of improvements to customer satisfaction and efficiency. “The hospitality industry knows how important reliable water heating units are for a successful operation,” said Jim Bunsey, director of commercial business development at PERC. “Water heating represents seven percent of all energy use in commercial buildings. Six building types – lodging, healthcare, retail, education, food service and office represent 85 percent of all commercial building water heating energy consumption.”
As the resort grew to the size it is now, the resort’s hot water was under a tremendous amount of strain. A few years back, customer dissatisfaction with cold showers led to financial loss for the resort to the tune of approximately $60,000 a year in guest discounts and refunds. Ruby’s Inn fixed its hot water demand issues by removing older model open-flame boilers and replacing them with several high-efficient 199,000 Btu storage tank water heaters, and 183 propane-powered tankless water heaters from Rinnai – giving the Inn a completely revitalized system. The propane tankless water heaters also support the Inn’s environmental focus. Based on an energy and environmental analysis of different energy sources, propane tankless systems reduce carbon emissions by up to 50 percent compared with electric storage tank systems.
Next week in Part Three, we’ll discuss in further detail the processes between Ruby’s Inn, Rinnai and other industry leaders to redesign the new propane energy plan that helped the environment, cut refund requests to nothing, cut spending and saved valuable energy resources.