Did you know that as much as 50% of your building’s energy consumption is used by your HVAC system? Any day now, the temperatures will start to soar into the 80’s and 90’s, and your electricity bills will rise along with the temperatures. You need to keep your building cool, so how can you save money? The good news is, there are smart ways to help your air conditioning system use less energy.
1. Upgrade to a newer high efficiency air conditioning and heating systems.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), every dollar invested in energy efficiency can produce a double or triple return on investment. If your equipment is over 10 years old, upgrading to high efficiency equipment can pay for itself in a surprisingly short period of time. Check the SEER rating (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio), which measures the efficiency of cooling equipment. Today’s most efficient systems have ratings between 14 and 18. Your older model may only be rated 5 to 10. A newer cooling system with a SEER rating of 16 costs half as much to operate as a unit with a rating of 8.
2. Choose ENERGY STAR labeled equipment.
These units must meet strict energy efficiency guidelines from the EPA. Optimal performance makes them up to 15% more efficient than conventional systems. According to the US Department of Energy, these systems can save you $3 to $4 per square foot in energy costs over the life of the equipment. In addition, you also may be eligible for rebates from your utility company.
3. Evaluate your system when building usage changes.
As building occupation evolves over time, its air conditioning system may no longer be appropriately designed for the current layout and usage. Remodeling, adding more heat-producing equipment (like computers), changing interior walls and modifying cubicle layouts can impact the efficiency of your air conditioner. Have an HVAC expert inspect the design of the system. Sometimes, small changes can make your system operate more efficiently and save energy costs.
4. Perform an energy audit to determine your usage needs.
Figure out when various areas of the building are occupied, then install programmable thermostats to decrease usage when it’s not needed. For larger buildings, you can set up zoning and even install computerized building automation systems to have more precise control over energy usage.
5. Install economizers.
Economizers measure outside air to determine when it’s cool and dry enough to provide comfortable conditions inside. If conditions are right, outside air is used instead of running the air conditioner, reducing energy usage.
6. Turn up the thermostat (just a bit).
Even a small increase can lower your energy bill, make your building’s occupants more comfortable, and even increase worker productivity. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommends temperature ranges of 68°F to 78°F as comfortable for sedentary work. A study by Cornell University found that office work output increased by 150% when the temperature was raised to 77°F.
7. Clean up.
Keep leaves and debris from collecting around your outdoor air conditioning unit. This simple action prevents dirt from clogging up your system, and keeps airflow paths clear. And don’t neglect your rooftop unit! You could have birds or insects nesting there and causing damage to your system.
8. Don’t block air flow.
When arranging furniture layouts and carpeting installations, make sure air grills and ductwork are not blocked. If building occupants are intentionally blocking vents because the temperature is too cold, you need to consult an HVAC professional to evaluate your system design. Chances are, the problem can be rectified with a simple change that doesn’t waste energy.
9. Keep out the heat.
Use blinds and shades on west and south facing windows to keep out heat in the summer. It’s counterproductive to have the sun heating up the areas your air conditioner is trying to cool!
10. Don’t neglect regular maintenance.
The easiest and most effective way to save money on your air conditioner’s energy consumption is to have your system regularly cleaned and tuned up. Clogged air filters, dirty vents, condensers with accumulated grime and worn parts force your system to work harder to produce the same cooling results and use more energy in the process. Have your system inspected, cleaned and serviced at least once per year. You’ll not only save on energy costs, but prevent equipment breakdowns that can cost even more. To get the best rates on maintenance, and so you won’t forget to do it, set up a preventative maintenance contract with a reputable HVAC service company like Arista.
Want to learn more about saving money with preventative maintenance? Download out white paper: Calculating the Hidden Costs of Poor HVAC Maintenance.