Energy costs are estimated to account for anywhere from 20 to 30 percent of an office’s total expenditure, making this one of the biggest overhead costs that businesses have to account for year in and year out. And with energy prices increasing and expected to continue to climb in the near future, now is arguably as important of a time as ever to take measures to enact energy savings strategies and conserve costs.
In this post, we’ll discuss five practical energy savings tips that you can begin implementing today. Here’s a closer look:
1. Conduct an Energy Audit
Simply put, an energy audit is a process of identifying and analyzing a building’s current energy usage and looking for ways to improve it. There are typically three steps involved in a commercial energy audit:
- Evaluation, which consists of a professional assessment of a commercial property. This step consists of assessing and analyzing everything from appliances to insulation to determine current efficiency and to help identify where improvements can be made.
- Testing: This step involves running comparisons of various facility features and equipment versus any improvements that could be realized. Testing helps energy auditors make well-informed recommendations as to where improvements can be realized.
- Recommendations: The final step is providing a property manager or business owner with a detailed list of energy efficiency recommendations and upgrades based on data from the evaluation and testing steps.
An energy audit may also consist of a thorough analysis of utility bills to ensure that a facility is being billed properly. Auditors often work with utility companies to negotiate lower rates or make adjustments so a facility can become eligible for lower utility rates.
2. Upgrade to Energy-Efficient Equipment
It’s likely that one of the key recommendations to come out of an energy audit will be a suggestion to upgrade any office equipment to more energy-efficient models. When it comes to office equipment and electronics, Energy Star-rated appliances are considered to be the best of the best when it comes to long-term efficiency. On average, it’s estimated that Energy Star appliances can save anywhere from 10 to 50 percent on energy compared to conventional appliances.
While upgrading to energy-efficient equipment may be one of the more expensive line items on an energy audit recommendation list, the savings in utility costs often end up paying for themselves over time. Here’s a look at some of the equipment that firms may look to upgrade following an energy audit:
- HVAC equipment and boilers
- Copiers, printers, scanners
- Lighting and light bulbs
- Clothes washers and driers
- Cooking equipment
- TVs and displays
3. Implement Energy-Saving Practices
When it comes to saving energy around the office, it’s often not one big thing that makes the difference, but many little things that all add up in the end. Hence, energy-saving practices – no matter how seemingly small – can all make a difference. Some energy-saving best practices to get into the habit of implementing include:
- Using natural lighting to illuminate workspaces
- Installing smart thermostats to conserve heating and cooling
- Installing motion sensors for lights
- Asking employees to unplug computers or flip off surge protectors before leaving for the day to prevent “phantom” energy loss
- Running fans in warehouses and showrooms to keep air flowing and reduce heating and cooling costs
- Opening windows or screen doors to create a cross breeze in a facility and reduce cooling costs during the summer months
- Swapping out incandescent bulbs with LED ones to conserve energy
When it comes to energy savings practices, the most difficult part is often getting workers to buy into them. Experiment with incentives or small kickbacks in the form of bonuses that will be awarded based on any energy savings realized as a means to encourage participation in many of these acts.
4. Invest in Renewable Energy
Whether it’s wind energy, hydroelectric power, or solar power, renewable energy continues to gain momentum throughout the United States thanks to generous tax incentives and a drive to meet organizational sustainability goals. Per data from the Energy Information Administration, about 12.5 percent of the total U.S. primary energy consumption is from renewable sources, and renewable sources account for about 20 percent of utility-scale electricity generation.
Investing in the likes of rooftop solar panels, for instance, can help power a property without relying on the grid, thereby reducing costs over the long term.
5. Participate in Demand Response Programs
Demand response programs are increasingly being used by energy providers to help balance supply and demand. In some cases, they can lead to lower energy rates in various communities or financial incentives when utilized. Demand response programs often involve time-based rates where energy prices tend to cost more during peak usage hours than they do during non-peak hours. Demand programs may also consist of load control programs that allow utility companies to cycle HVAC equipment on and off during periods of peak heating and cooling times.
By participating in demand response programs, a company can better target its energy usage during non-peak hours to achieve better rates and also help contribute to the greater good of electric grid stability. Demand response programs are believed to play a significant role in grid modernization and the future of energy consumption, so if your firm doesn’t know about these opportunities now, it’s likely that it will at some point in the near future.