A rack of Rinnai tankless units provide capacity and redundancy. Photo: PERC
Perc Rubys Inn1

Propane Tankless System Brings Hot Water and Huge Savings to Utah Resort

Jan. 28, 2020
Ruby’s Inn benefits from propane’s efficiency, cost savings.

By Bryan Cordill, special to CONTRACTOR

Ruby’s Inn, one of the top-rated lodging and attraction destinations near Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, has been dedicated to providing outstanding customer service to its visitors for more than 100 years. It’s also now home to the largest commercial water heating retrofit project by leading manufacturer, Rinnai.

What started with tent houses and a place to serve meals by Reuben (Ruby) Syrett in 1916 paved the way for the modern facilities that today serve the tourists of Bryce Canyon in southern Utah. Over time, Bryce Canyon became a National Monument and was later named a National Park as more visitors descended with each passing season. As a result, the resort’s business operation was positively impacted.

Over the years, the resort has expanded further to encompass three hotels, an RV park and campground, and several restaurants. Ruby’s Inn is also a destination in and of itself. The resort offers a wide variety of opportunities including horseback riding, mountain biking, guided ATV rides, helicopter tours, rodeos, and more.

Amid all the changes, though, one thing that’s held true is the resort’s western hospitality. The same hospitality and friendly service that Ruby established early on is now carried on by his grandchildren and great grandchildren, who welcome visitors to Ruby’s Inn today.

Resort faces high hot water demand, aging equipment

Between the resort’s 700 rooms, three restaurants, and large laundry facility — which shuffles through roughly 19 tons of laundry per day — the facility’s aging equipment simply couldn’t keep up with the hot water demand.

On any given night during the summertime season, Ruby’s Inn can have as many as 4,000 visitors lodging at its facilities — according to Lance Syrett, Ruby’s Inn general manager.

“We have some unique challenges in that a lot of our business is tour buses,” Syrett says. “When they show up late at night, the first thing they all want to do is shower. And historically, that’s been a problem because we couldn’t keep up with 40-plus showers at a time.”

This problem led to cold showers for visitors — and financial loss for Ruby’s Inn. The resort had to dish out countless customer discounts and complete refunds on rooms, or sometimes even an entire building block due to complaints about lack of hot water.

“We used to look at about $60,000 a year in discounts and refunds,” says Ron Harris, Ruby’s Inn manager. “Our goal was a reduction in the discounts and refunds that we had to give.”

Another unique challenge for the resort is its location. “We are still on the frontier out here,” Syrett says. “We don’t have a gas line within 25 or 30 miles.”

Propane tankless systems provide efficient, on-demand water heating solution

Ruby’s Inn is the largest commercial retrofit that water heater manufacturer Rinnai, has ever been involved with. Five high-efficient 199,000 Btu storage tank water heaters were removed, and 175 tankless water heaters were installed throughout the entire resort.

Propane tankless water heaters offer an innovative, high-performance water heating solution for many commercial applications — Ruby’s Inn included.

“There’s no commercial business that can keep their doors open without hot water, so the reliability and the redundancy of a tankless water heating system is really key to any business owner,” says Brian Watts, Rinnai senior commercial business manager.

For commercial applications, propane can heat water quickly, and with incredible efficiency. Tankless water heaters deliver endless, on-demand hot water, and are available in rack systems that offer redundancy and higher flow rates. Plus, by choosing propane, business is never limited by proximity to the grid. Propane appliances also lower a building’s carbon footprint and help projects meet green building standards. Not to mention, the fuel enhances a building’s resiliency. Because propane is stored on-site, buildings are better equipped to withstand natural disasters from day one.

“Whether it’s restaurants, an apartment complex, hospitals, schools, or a large resort like ours, I’d recommend it,” Harris says.

Ruby’s Inn sees huge savings after retrofit

Upgrading to a propane tankless water heating system helped Ruby’s Inn lower operational costs, enhance guest comfort, and save up to 7,000 gallons of propane per month — which calculated to about $6,000 in monthly savings.

“Propane is one of the cleanest forms of energy available to homes and businesses,” says Jeff Stewart, Blue Star Gas president. “Ruby’s Inn has been an excellent steward of the environment at Bryce Canyon, and utilizing propane to continue that stewardship is an excellent choice.”

Ruby’s Inn has a 30,000-gallon propane cylinder and an 18,000-gallon propane cylinder that supply each building with propane. In total, the resort uses approximately 45,000 gallons of propane each year.

“I believe that the entire Ruby’s Inn property exists because of the propane option,” Watts says. “It was great working with propane, along with our product, to get them the most efficient hot water heating system on the market.”

To learn more about the benefits of commercial propane tankless water heating systems, visit Propane.com/Water-Heating.

Bryan Cordill is the director of residential and commercial business development for the Propane Education & Research Council. He can be reached at [email protected].

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