How to Reduce Your Commercial Building Energy Costs
This post is also available in: Spanish
As energy costs rise, the value of reducing energy consumption increases with it. Gone are the days
when reducing energy or “going green” were strictly social responsibilities. Now, it is all about the dollar.
Every year, businesses lose billions of dollars in wasted energy. These are dollars that directly affect the bottom line of your company.
To save money in your commercial buildings, there are 3 steps you need to take.
- First, you need to assess your current energy usage and get a baseline.
- Then, you need to make improvements.
- After that, it is time to re-evaluate and create new baseline measurements so you can repeat the process.
Agencies like the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and Energy Star have created guidelines for reducing energy use in commercial buildings. And they have created a list of priorities you need to look at in order to begin reducing your building energy costs.
Energy savings you want to identify come in 2 parts. Operations and Maintenance.
1. First a High Level Look at All Building Systems
Any energy audit begins with a look at your overall operations and maintenance schedule; from a high level. All of your buildings systems need to be considered as a whole. Think about how the building is utilized, tenants’ occupancy, and any seasonal requirements.
You need to find out what you, or your tenants, primary operating procedures are. Walk through and look at all of the systems that are in use.
If something is turned on, does it need to be? If not, turn it off. If it does, can it be operated in a more efficient manner, or can its load be reduced?
Consider hours of operation. Are you using energy that isn’t needed during evenings, weekends or holidays?
Next, think about maintenance schedules. Equipment that has preventative maintenance done regularly, like filter cleaning and lubrication, will operate more efficiently – Therefore lowering costs. In addition the equipment will last longer and break down less; further reducing your expenses.
In commercial buildings, lighting accounts for one of, if not your largest energy cost. It is also the most commonly wasted. And it’s the easiest place to save.
Obviously, making sure that lights are turned off at the end of the day will save your company money. But, have you thought about things like cleaning staff? Cost of lighting for janitorial help can account for an astonishing 7% of your total bill.
One idea is to adjust the hours of your cleaning staff to work during daylight hours.
Also lighting retrofitted with fluorescents or LED (Light Emitting Diodes) can pay for themselves quite quickly.
3. Electrical (Plug) Loads
Anything that gets plugged into the wall, like computers, printers, refrigerators, etc, are considered plug loads. And these account for a huge amount of your total energy use. Up to 30%.
Obviously, most of your equipment is necessary; but it doesn’t need to be on all the time.
Energy Star estimates that in the US over 1 billion dollars is wasted every year; due to computer monitors being left on when they are not in use. I know of one company that estimates over 2 million dollars a year is lost due to monitors – Only including ones that are left running during evenings and weekends when they are not being used.
Choice of appliances is also important. Appliances that meet Energy Star certification requirements can use 25 – 50% less energy.
4. Building Envelope
How many of your energy dollars are slipping out of your building every day?
Auditing your building includes verifying that weather stripping and caulking are functioning correctly. And that the building is adequately insulated.
Thermal scans are a great tool for detecting leaks, but unfortunately they work best on very cold days. So are of limited use here in Panama.
Auditing the building exterior includes looking at operations, as well as the maintenance. Are doors set to automatically close so that air-conditioning is not wasted? If your building has blinds, are they being used? Especially on the south west sides during the hot afternoon sun.
5. HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning)
Here in Panama, heating, other than for hot water, is not used. However, air-conditioning is a huge cost for most commercial building owners.
On the operation side, you need to consider if your current settings are appropriate. Many commercial buildings in Panama keep their air-conditioning set far too “cold”. If your tenants need a sweater, or have to use a blanket (ever been to a movie theater here?), chances are you could reduce your costs by adjusting your settings.
Many people walk into a hot room, and mistakenly think that setting a colder temperature on the thermostat will cool a room off faster. This is untrue; it just wastes energy once the temperature has moved beyond a comfortable level.
For maintenance, making sure filters and coils are clean, and that vents are clear, are key starting points. A blocked vent requires 25% more energy to operate.
Energy costs are a very significant portion of your businesses overall expenses. And cutting them down will have a direct impact on your bottom line.
But in order to start saving money on your energy use, you have to perform an energy audit. This can be a formal procedure; or, something as simple as walking through and noting energy inefficiencies.
Future articles are going to dig deeper into each of the 5 priorities named above. And further discuss operational and maintenance improvement recommendations.
So make sure to signup for our free newsletter. That way, you will be kept up to date on the latest money saving ideas for your commercial buildings. In Panama and world wide.
Reducing your energy consumption is a great way to improve and protect your environment. But the money you save on your energy costs will be what protects your business.