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How To Save Energy in Commercial Buildings

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how to save energy in buildings

As a business owner or someone who manages a building or office, you know all too well how energy consumption costs effect your bottom line. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that there is roughly a 33-percent waste of energy usage in the average building. Let’s begin to look at how to save energy in buildings and how to reduce energy consumption in buildings.

How to reduce energy consumption in buildings: 11 tips

  1. Energy audits
  2. HVAC maintenance
  3. Upgrade insulation
  4. Power down electronics
  5. VRF HVAC systems
  6. Smart building controls
  7. Retrofit older HVAC systems
  8. Window replacements
  9. LED lighting
  10. Upgrade appliances
  11. Correctly-sized HVAC equipment

Did you know that your HVAC system accounts for 50 to 60-percent of building energy costs? That’s why, when looking at how to reduce energy consumption in buildings, many of the most effective strategies involve making your HVAC more efficient. So, let’s take a more in depth look at the different components of how to save energy in buildings.

1. Reenergize through an energy audit

Perhaps the first step in finding out how to reduce energy consumption in buildings is to complete an energy audit. This is an advisable activity for both your business and your home. You can complete the audit yourself or hire a consultant to audit your energy usage.

A good place to start when trying to get a handle on your energy usage is to review your bills. Also look at your service, repair and maintenance records. You should conduct a full inspection of your HVAC and lighting fixtures to determine overall condition and efficiency. You might find that you can reduce energy consumption by taking care of problems that cost nothing or next to nothing to solve such as moving furnishings that block vents.

Learn more: 5 Smart Strategies: Energy Saving Tips for Commercial Buildings

2. HVAC maintenance: a key component of how to save energy in buildings

Why is regular HVAC maintenance so important when considering how to reduce energy consumption in buildings? Regular visits from an HVAC professional ensures the efficient operation of your system and helps prevent costly repairs. Clogged filters, dirty ducts and coils, debris and dust laden vents and fatigued parts will make your system work harder and longer to achieve set temperatures. If you have a preventative maintenance contract, an HVAC technician will thoroughly inspect and clean different parts of your system to ensure system efficiency.

To learn more about maintenance options, check out our free guide: HVAC Preventive Maintenance Contracts: How to Find The Right One For Your HVAC Infrastructure.

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3. Insulate your savings

Insulation upgrades are another easy and relatively inexpensive improvement that can have a sizeable impact. According to the EPA, 10-percent of your energy bill can be saved through the installation of proper insulation and ensuring your building is sealed. When looking at insulation, don’t just look at the obvious places: windows and walls. It is important not to overlook pipe insulation, HVAC ducts and electrical outlets.

4. Educate personnel to power down electronics

Well, we might sound like our parents, but that’s okay. The places where we work, along with schools and places we spend our spare time other than home, make up 50-percent of our country’s energy usage. So, it’s sensible to stress to employees, the importance of shutting off lights and equipment. Training sessions can be the key to show employees how to save energy in buildings.

5. Consider VRF HVAC systems when looking at how to save energy in buildings

A VRF system is capable of supplying heat and cooling and can do both simultaneously to different locations in the same building. The system is comprised of small air handlers that can be individually controlled. The individual controls afford you the opportunity to save money because heat and air conditioning can be turned down or off in rooms that are unoccupied while rooms in use can still be provided with heat and air.

Learn More: 7 Reasons to Choose VRF Technology for Your New Air Conditioning

6. How to reduce energy consumption in buildings? Choose smart building technology

The latest controls and programmable thermostats should be part of your “How to reduce energy consumption in buildings” strategy. Doesn’t it make sense to reduce or turn off lighting, heat and air conditioning when your building is not in use? Smart building controls eliminate the human forgetfulness factor of failing to turn off or down lighting and HVAC settings.

7. Retrofit your old HVAC equipment

While a retrofit might not be a good fit in all instances, a large well–maintained, but energy –guzzling system might be a good candidate for a retrofit.

A retrofit can be a stop-gap before you have to replace your system entirely. Retrofits, which can include replacing the system’s compressor, adding condenser fan controls, adding demand-controlled ventilation and adding air side economizers, can boost your comfort and reduce your energy bill. The Department of Energy has estimated that a retrofit can equate to an energy savings of up to 35 percent. That makes a retrofit an attractive option when you’re thinking about how to save energy in buildings.

Learn more: Commercial HVAC Retrofits Save Energy & More

8. Don’t throw money out the window

Your building might contain its original windows that welcome drafts. Though new windows are a sizable investment, new windows can produce tremendous energy savings. While you are looking at your windows when assessing how to save energy in buildings, don’t forget to look at the condition of your roof, which can also waste energy by leaking air conditioned and heated air.

9. LED lights can result in simple savings

Often businesses use up a lot of energy through lighting. According to the EPA, Energy Star-rated bulbs use 75-percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and last as much as 10 times longer.

10. Consider an investment in energy efficient appliances

Your cafeteria refrigerator, water cooler and vending machines chew up energy. It might make sense to look into the replacement of older energy-sappers with newer energy-efficient models while you are investigating how to reduce energy consumption in buildings.

11. Get the right size HVAC system when figuring out how to reduce energy consumption in buildings

When you are looking into choosing the right HVAC system or replacing older building air conditioning; don’t be tempted to get an overly robust system because bigger is not always better. The first thing you want to do is ensure that the load calculation is accurately determined, so a properly-sized system is designed for your building. An oversized system can result in increased upfront, maintenance and energy costs.

BONUS TIP: When choosing an HVAC system be sure to look at energy ratings. The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) calculates the energy efficiency of cooling equipment based on a seasonal temperature average. Today’s more efficient systems have ratings as high as 21, while older models may be rated between a 5 and 10. What does this mean to your wallet? A system with a 16 SEER rating costs roughly half to operate as a system with a SEER rating of 8.