Take a walk down your nearest city street and pick a building. Any building. Chances are that the building you’re looking at has a problem with its energy consumption. If the building is more than 10 years old, the problem is almost guaranteed. Why be concerned? Because if it’s your building, the cost of doing business within the confines of that building just went up.
First things first. Why is the building’s energy consumption too high? Buildings are like living, breathing entities. They have growth spurts and health problems. People move in and out all the time. The original design of the building quickly becomes obsolete as meeting rooms are converted into offices and offices are converted into wiring closets. That means that important systems such as heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) quickly become misaligned. As a result, part of your building is too hot while another part is too cold.
Fortunately a few simple steps can be taken which will move your building’s energy consumption in the right direction (which is down). If properly executed, these steps can save you money without foregoing any level of comfort.
Step 1: Energy audits = identifying the waste producers
An energy audit of your building is like an annual physical with your doctor. You go in for peace of mind, and if your doctor does discover something that is unusual, you are ahead of the curve and minimize any serious risk to your health. Building energy audits should be performed on a regular basis. This will help identify which processes and pieces of equipment are guilty of being energy hogs. Once the “violators” are identified, energy conservation initiatives can then be prioritized.
Step 2: Install controls to make the building “smart”
Meters, sensors and controls can help buildings to react much more quickly to their own internal environments. A properly implemented system of building controls (consisting of both hardware and software that enable more precise environmental readings) can provide heat, cooling and light in only those areas which are occupied. Building controls are programmable so that they can meet the needs of the individual building.
Step 3: Migration off of inefficient equipment
Many building stakeholders are mislead by the myth that keeping old equipment in place for a long time is a good thing. In fact old equipment oftentimes hides a significant amount of hidden cost. Older equipment is less reliable (meaning more downtime for the business), costs more to maintain and, in almost all situations, wastes more energy than newer equipment. Inefficient and outdated equipment must be either eliminated or replaced if the building is to migrate to a higher efficiency environment.
Once the decision is made regarding which equipment to keep and which to replace, make sure that all of the installed equipment is properly maintained and serviced. Servicing isn’t just for making sure that the equipment doesn’t break down. It’s also for tuning the equipment so that it runs with the greatest efficiency possible.
Just as boiler and chillers need to be maintained, lighting needs to be upgraded so that lighting efficiency can be maximized. Modern high efficiency fixtures and bulbs don’t just lower electrical consumption, they also generate less heat which will help reduce your air conditioning costs.
Additional energy best practices
Water consumption is another important cost that needs to be properly controlled. As with energy, an audit is a good way to start in order to identify savings potential. Today, low-flow equipment and intelligent, sensor and software-driven leak control can be major contributors to reducing water waste. Insulating outlets, pipes, exterior walls, and radiators is also a good practice for reducing cooling and heating losses.
Keep in mind that energy consumption is not only about physical infrastructure within the building. Educating the people who work inside the building is a critical success factor which will determine whether energy cost reduction initiatives will be successful. Proper education is the best way to assure a wider engagement of the building’s population. Innovative promotion is a low cost, high return strategy for developing new, more efficient energy consumption habits.
Steward Hudson is a researcher/blogger with experience writing for multiple industries including health, energy, finance, and more. He currently writes for Currentsolutionspc.com.