Advice for cutting building energy consumption

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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 Hmeudson is a researcher/blogger with experience writing for multiple industries including health, energy, finance, and more. He currently writes for

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  • When trying to make improvement it’s helpful to get constructive feedback. Knowing how we compare to like facilities regarding energy use helps navigate toward continuing improvement.

    Recently our Utility mailed a document showing how our home compared to 100 nearby neighbors using similar heating and of like size. In our case, because we’ve been working on energy efficiency as a hobby, we used 69% less energy than those 100 and 41% less than the best 20% from that group. Unfortunately, that’s where the Utility stops. I’d like to see them go a step further and inquire of the best performers just how they are accomplishing their superior results. It would be a voluntary survey as I’d view it. The resulting list of projects would give other home owners something tangible to think about. (The list would be a lot more interesting than the idea of turning your a/c unit control over to the Utility.) Of course, many in any group are too busy to care but for those who are interested, a feedback loop with some specific information could facilitate quicker progress.

    In our case, all of the projects have been “diy”. We found a way to do something about the unwanted summer time solar gain that makes the air conditioner have to work so hard. This was only one project but it had the greatest impact. The method is to get outside the window and block the infrared in sunlight before it passes the window glass. For more information, inquire of solar screens or solar grates. Other examples include insulation, sealing, cool roof, interior acrylic window inserts, and regular tracking of utility usage.

  • Guest Blogger

    10 years ago

    Great! Consuming 69% less energy is indeed an achievement and I agree, learning how you and other best performers managed to achieve such incredible results would help conserve a lot of energy. How about emailing me and we can discuss this further or work together on an article to educate people?


  • Wow! Very well said… At first I don’t believe that there’s a possible way to reduce energy consumption without sacrificing your comfort. But after reading your blog… I think you’re probably right. Thanks for sharing. More power.

    • Guest Blogger

      10 years ago

      Advancement in electrical engineering has made it possible for us to significantly cut down our energy expenditures without foregoing our comforts. With the passage of time, there would be even greater improvements as new discoveries and innovations are being made with each passing day. For the time being, you can follow the steps and practices mentioned in the blog post to reduce your energy bills.

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