Currently in New England the trees are showing off their brilliant fall colors and our hot summer temperatures have been replaced with cool breezes, which will soon be replaced with the crisp winter winds. Hopefully, we all have done some preparation over the summer months so that this winter we will trim some energy consumption in our daily lives.
Trimming energy consumption in commercial buildings is an objective in the campaign to curb fossil fuel use — foreign and domestic — and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. There are choices for reducing energy-use in almost all functional areas of a commercial facility, some simple and others attainable by upgrading systems with improved technologies. Building owners need to look beyond the initial costs to see the long-term gains associated with lower utility costs, less downtime and increased building equity.
In a report released by the U.S. Department of Energy, office buildings in the U.S. use an average of 17 kilowatt-hours of electricity and 32 cubic feet of natural gas per square foot annually. Lighting, heating and cooling represent about 65 percent of the total energy use, making those systems the best targets for energy savings.
For discussion on conservation measures, let's classify them by two categories (1) Quick Fixes (2) Long Term Solutions.
Most buildings can benefit from low cost/no cost energy savings solutions such as turning things off, turning things down and keeping up with cleaning and maintenance.
- Turning off lights when not in use is simple, and for every saved kilowatt you keep an average of 20 cents on the bottom line.
- Computers and office equipment – Today most computers and office equipment revert to a low-power “sleep mode” after a period of inactivity. Make sure your equipment has this feature and that it is activated; you could be loosing as much as $30.00 per year per item to the utility company, and needlessly using power as well.
- Thermostats – invest in programmable units that will adjust the building's heating and cooling needs based on the day of the week and the hour of each day.
- Cleaning and maintaining your HVAC system will prevent costly heating and cooling bills. Change the filters quarterly, clean condenser and heat coils for maximum efficiency, clean and lubricate system dampers. If you have wall-mounted cooling or heat elements be sure that they are not blocked by furniture.
Long Term Solutions:
More comprehensive solutions also need to be considered, but because of the costs associated with these they typically need to be budgeted and planned as capital improvements.
- Lighting - install high-efficiency fixtures and lamps. Adding specular reflectors, new lenses and occupancy sensors can double the savings. Install exterior smart lighting design in parking lots, using lower wattage lamps and fewer fixtures. Today the Illuminating Engineering Society of N.A. recommends less candle light in parking lots than in prior years. Payback can be one to three years.
- HVAC Units – when you are planning to replace your existing unit, consider buying "top of the line" with respect to efficiency. The best selection might include multiple levels of capacity with good part load efficiency. Consider a DCV (demand-controlled ventilation) system if your office has areas of large swings in occupancy (auditoriums, meeting rooms etc).
- Building Envelope (Windows-Doors-Roof) – again, when replacing always select the most energy efficient product available of the time Technology will soon change and you should maximize this opportunity to retain marketability of your building as well as to retain those energy dollars while reducing your carbon foot print on this planet.
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Have You Heard...?
Bridging the Gap... A bridge built in Lima, Peru around 1610 was made of mortar that was mixed not with water but with the whites of 10,000 eggs. The bridge, appropriately called the Bridge of Eggs, is still standing today.
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