Energy Efficiency for Businesses

Created:
Fri, 2012-11-02 08:27

As worldwide energy demand increases, one of the most significant ways to reduce energy consumption is through efficiency efforts. By many accounts, global power is anticipated to reach 37,000 terawatt hours in 2030, up from 22,100 terawatt hours in 2011. For the foreseeable future, energy demand will continue to utilize conventional resources such as oil, gas, coal and nuclear power, despite continued efforts to promote alternative energy solutions. As a result, energy conservation efforts are vitally important to counteract increased energy consumption and natural resource depletion. Given the fact that buildings account for roughly 40 percent of energy usage, the majority of which are commercial, efficiency efforts are paramount to not only reducing operational costs, but also to decreasing energy consumption. While efforts to reduce building energy use through retrofitting are costly, there are several ways for commercial spaces to easily decrease their energy consumption. Below are just a few examples of what businesses can do to become energy efficient.

Office Equipment:

Look for ENERGY STAR Certified Office Equipment

Given the amount of energy consumed by office equipment such as computers, printers, scanners, and fax machines, this is one area where businesses can reduce their energy costs. Switching to ENERGY STAR qualified products can reduce computer energy use by 60 percent and can make fax machines, printers, and scanners about 15 percent more energy efficient.

Use Power Strips

Today, mostly everything in the office requires electricity in order to operate. Plugging your devices into power strips makes it easier for businesses to prevent energy usage when devices are idle. Vampire electronics, which are electronics that still consume energy while in standby, can become a significant cost to businesses that have hundreds or even thousands of computers and televisions. Using power strips ensures that power is not utilized during standby, leading to reduced energy costs.

Want to Save Even More Energy?

Consider doing the following:

  • Use multi-function devices, including all-in-one printers, scanners, and fax machines as they use less energy than individual devices.
  • Delegate laptop computers to employees instead of desktop computers, as they consume 90 percent less energy.
  • If you must print on paper, use recycled printing paper.
  • Use ink-jet printers instead of laser printers – they also consume 90 percent less energy.

Lighting:

Install New Lights or Replace Old Ones

As one of the most significant energy costs for businesses, lighting is an area where energy efficiency initiatives are most important. Installing occupancy sensors or dimmers in frequently unoccupied areas can decrease the amount of wasted light. In frequently occupied areas, installing task lighting can also reduce energy usage, as lights can be adjusted depending on the needs of individuals. In addition, replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent light bulbs (CFLs) can lead to both energy and cost savings.

Turning Off the Lights

One of the easiest ways to reduce energy is also one of the most neglected: turning off the lights when not in use. Remembering to turn off light fixtures when they are not being used either during the work day or after can lead to significant energy savings. There is a myth that it takes more energy to turn the lights on and off than to leave them on – this is entirely untrue. To prevent unnecessary lighting and wasted energy, it is advantageous to businesses and the environment to turn off light fixtures when they are not being utilized.

Want to Save Even More Energy?

Consider doing the following:

  • Paint dark walls and ceilings with lighter colors to maximize the effect of existing lights. Rooms with darker walls require more power to produce the same amount of light found in lighter rooms.
  • Maximize the amount of natural light through increased windows or skylights.
  • Install time clocks or photoelectric cells to control advertising sign lighting, exterior lighting, and in some cases, interior lighting.

Operating Systems:

Promote Efficient HVAC Systems

Businesses that utilize old HVAC systems will greatly benefit from new, energy-efficient systems that optimize energy usage while promoting occupant thermal comfort. Of course, replacing HVAC systems is not always the most ideal option for many businesses. Instead, one of the ways to promote efficiency is through time clocks or setback-programmable thermostats, which turn off systems when the building is unoccupied to maximize efficiency. Additionally, performing scheduled maintenance on units, replacing air filters regularly, checking air ducts and pipe insulation for damage, and tightening and replacing belts will assist in ensuring HVAC efficiency and provide reduced energy usage.

Monitor Temperatures

To ensure optimal energy savings, set thermostats at 68 degrees F for heating in the winter and at 78 degrees F for cooling in the summer. Using programmable thermostats will alleviate the need for businesses to continually remember to change the temperature upon seasonal change. While the specified temperatures are ideal, they may not be realistic in areas of extreme heat or cold. As such, those numbers may need to be adjusted, but be careful of raising or lowering the thermostat too much, or else you might see a spike in energy usage and increased costs.

Want to Save Even More Energy?

Consider doing the following:

  • Install blinds, solar screens, or shades to cool down the office.
  • Install reflective window awning or film on all south- and west-facing windows.
  • Keep vents closed in unoccupied areas to prevent cooling and heating of storage closets and areas.

Overall:

Whether you are a small, medium, or large business, energy savings are important. The aforementioned areas of concentration - office equipment, lighting, and operating systems - are all areas in which reduction in energy usage can alleviate high operating costs while systematically decreasing the use of energy resources such as oil, coal, and gas. As the world continues to move forward, demands on resources will only continue to increase, driving up both operating costs and environmental damage. Therefore, contributions toward energy-efficient practices can help businesses drive down energy usage and costs while engaging in sustainability.

By Peter J. Bock

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