So when the Southern California casino’s three water heaters began to show signs of age, Halsted saw an opportunity to improve the reliability and performance of the hot water system while also reducing energy costs. Instead of three large tanks, Halsted turned to a an array of 19 propane-fueled tankless water heaters to ensure the hot water system never experiences downtime.
“Our job is to provide a comfortable environment for our guests,” Halsted says. “We’re open 24/7. We have a lot of restaurants; we need hot water to clean dishes with. Whether it’s the heating, the hot water, or air conditioning, we always have some kind of built-in redundancy so our guests are not affected.”
With three tanks, at least two of the systems needed to be running full-time, so an outage in any of the units could put performance in jeopardy. The Rinnai tankless array typically uses only about half of the units, providing the uptime and reliability the facility manager requires.
Readily Available and Affordable
Upgrading to a tankless array wouldn’t have been possible, however, without propane, which provides energy for dozens of applications throughout the resort. Pala was opened in 2001 by the Pala Band of Mission Indians. The casino is located on rural tribal lands in the Palomar Mountain area, about 60 miles north of San Diego.
Running natural gas from the main several miles away would be too costly. And electricity can’t meet the hot water and heating demands of a resort with a Las Vegas–style casino, 507 hotel rooms, a 10,000-square-foot spa, and 40,000-square-feet of meeting and convention space. Instead, the resort relies on readily available propane for the water heating and other needs.
“Propane is less expensive versus electric,” Halsted says. “We’ve got a lot of water we’re heating. I couldn’t imagine the size of an electric water heater that we would be using.”
Plus, the resort has several peak demand periods each year when the price of electricity is high.
“We get affected by that just with what we’ve got,” he says. “I couldn’t imagine if we used electricity to do heating and hot water also, what we would be facing on those days.”
For Halsted, minimizing energy expenditures is a point of pride.
“Ultimately, I pay the bills,” he says. “I run it like I would my own business, which means keep profits up, costs down. So it reflects upon my evaluation of how well I do my job if I keep costs under control.”
Amenities Without Sacrifices
The propane tankless water heaters serve all of the potable hot water needs at the casino, from the dishwashers to the restrooms. Propane boilers provide heating hot water to fan coil units, allowing the offices at the casino to control temperature individually. The casino floor uses propane rooftop package units for heating. And in the hotel, four separate propane boilers provide domestic hot water to the guest rooms. The laundry room includes two large propane commercial clothes dryers.
Guaranteeing guests’ comfort may be table stakes in the casino and hospitality industry, but the Pala’s other amenities help it stand out from the competition. The 11 restaurants at the resort are anchored by Choices, a buffet with 630 seats, and the Oak Room, a dining room focusing on steaks and chops. What is the secret weapon at the Oak Room? A 1,600-degree propane grill.
“Our high-temperature grill sears the meat and seals in the flavors,” says Robert Camerota, Pala’s executive chef. “A regular grill would only cook the meat at around 500 degrees. The 1,600-degree grill sets the flavor at a new level.”
All of the resort’s pools and spas are also heated by propane, including a pool and two hot tubs at Pala’s RV resort. The resort opened in May 2016 and has been sold out every week after winning Best RV Resort Casino and Best Campground Resort awards. The resort also uses propane in portable patio heaters throughout the property, refilling the 20-gallon canisters from larger propane storage tanks.
Its popularity has spurred plans for expansion. In July, Pala announced it will add more hotel rooms, expand pool and entertainment areas, and update other spaces. Like the upgrade of tankless water heaters, the project will ensure the resort not only meets the expectations of its guests, but also attracts new visitors for years to come.
Learn more about using propane tankless water heaters in remodeling or building projects at buildwithpropane.com.