Learn the tips and tricks facility managers can employ to reduce energy bills.
Small businesses encounter a plethora of costs when they start up. From rental space expenses to salaries and benefits, all of these add up and have a significant impact on a business’ budget. The cost of energy also plays a big part in running a business and ensuring operational efficiency.
Water, gas and electricity can be pricey, especially if your employees work extra hours. This guide contains important recommendations for those who want to make an office more energy efficient. These pointers will not only ease the pressure on your budget but will also contribute to protecting the environment and using fewer resources than needed.
1. Install a Programmable Thermostat
The easiest way to cut costs and make your office more energy efficient is to install a programmable thermostat. Heating and cooling are two of the biggest energy users in any work space. A programmable thermostat enables you to heat or cool certain spaces only during working hours by setting comfortable temperatures. Thermostats are easy to use by anyone in the office and the settings can be adjusted manually for special circumstances such as working overtime and staying late.
You will notice a significant change in your energy bill when you start using this type of thermostat. Other advantages of installing the device are being able to maintain a consistent temperature, spending less time constantly adjusting the settings, utilizing resources more effectively, putting less wear and tear on your heating and cooling systems and keeping the office’s HVAC system optimized to the latest standards.
2. Replace Desktop Computers with Laptops
If your employees don’t need desktop computers, you shouldn’t hesitate to upgrade the old PCs to newer, more cost efficient laptops. A desktop computer uses between 60 – 250 watts even when it is running a screen saver. And if your employees use additional monitors, the energy usage is even higher. A 17 inch or 19 inch LCD monitor uses anywhere between 19 – 40 watts while a 20 inch or 24 inch LCD monitor uses between 17 – 72 watts. By comparison, a laptop only uses 15 – 45 watts, considerably less than a desktop and a monitor.
Desktop computers are not only inefficient from an energy point of view, they are also bulkier and more restraining than a laptop. Desktops emit a lot of heat and during summer months this might make employees turn the AC on lower temperature settings, thus using even more electricity. Additionally, employees are more satisfied with a laptop than a computer. It allows them to work in different places around the office and even to work remotely when they need to.
3. Upgrade the Lighting
Traditional incandescent bulbs consume between 20 – 80% more energy than energy efficient bulbs. Light emitting diodes (LEDs), compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and halogen incandescents all fall under the energy efficient light bulbs umbrella. Depending on the size of your office, energy efficient fixtures can save you a few hundred dollars in energy costs yearly and don’t need to be changed as often as traditional incandescent bulbs.
New energy efficient bulbs come in a plethora of light levels and colors so you’ll be able to take your pick and find what you need for your office environment. These types of bulbs are more expensive than the obsolete incandescents, however, the cost is justified in the long run.
4. Switch Off Unused Equipment or Use the Hibernation Feature
The vast majority of office electronics feature a hibernate or sleep setting. Monitors, laptops, desktops, and printers automatically switch themselves to a low power mode but you should check and make sure this setting is enabled. Each employee can also manually put their laptop or computer into hibernation mode, which enables them to save the existing work and continue wherever they left off the next day. Activating the sleep setting can save roughly $50 per computer yearly.
Along the same vein, equipment that is not in use should be switched off completely. This includes scanners, microwaves, coffee makers, toasters, lights, vending machines and air conditioners. Switching these electronics off helps decrease the energy bill and conserves energy. This should be a standard procedure over the weekend and, more importantly, during holidays.
5. Invest in Energy Efficient Devices
Energy efficient devices are pricier than traditional ones but they also come with a rapid payback. Energy Star certified equipment uses less energy and is more efficient. For instance, a smaller, new refrigerator consumes less and will significantly reduce the energy bills. Keep in mind that a small office doesn’t need a big refrigerator and can definitely do without a freezer. A small fridge will not only occupy less space in the office kitchen but will also be more energy efficient.
If your office is located in an old building and it came with outdated equipment, it’s high time you changed it. Old systems such as air conditioners and heaters are most likely drawing unnecessary power and failing to work at maximum efficiency. In other words, outdated equipment is making you bleed money. Replacing these with Energy Star, newer versions will reduce the electricity bill and the maintenance costs.
6. Allow Your Employees to Work from Home
Thanks to new technologies, most businesses can give employees the option to work remotely at least once a week. Using a VPN, employees can still safely access the work network, keep in touch with their colleagues and stay up to speed with the latest developments. Virtual meetings are not an issue either with tools such as Skype and WebEx helping employees to connect with each other or with clients regardless of their current location.
Allowing employees to work remotely one day per week helps businesses reduce the electricity costs since less lighting, cooling, heating and power is required. This method is not only energy efficient and environmentally friendly but it has also been proven to improve employee morale and help individuals stay motivated.
7. Think About Installing Solar Panels
Solar power is considered the future for a good reason. Solar panels create pure, clean energy from the sun. Using these to fuel the equipment and electronics in your office will drastically bring down your electricity costs. There’s no denying that solar energy does not come cheap. This renewable source of energy is pricey, however, statistics show that the expenses can be recovered within just a few years as long as the solar panels are used almost exclusively.
Installing solar panels will initially put a strain on your budget but you will only reap the benefits in the long run. What is more, you will be bringing your personal contribution to decreasing the world’s dependence on fossil fuel and combating greenhouse gas emissions.
John Stuart works on behalf of sovpsl.com in outreach and content creation. He creates engaging content that help businesses connect with their audience and stand out from the crowd.
How do I make my HVAC more efficient? It’s something that our team at F.E. Moran Mechanical Services gets asked often. It’s no wonder that this is a hot topic for commercial buildings. It costs $.98 per 100 cubic feet to heat and cool a commercial facility on average.
Get Your HVAC System in Top Working Order
Having an energy efficient HVAC system is not difficult if your system is in good working order to begin with. That is why you want to start with 1) energy efficient, Energy Star HVAC equipment or 2) Commissioning, re-commissioning, or retro-commissioning your current HVAC system. Commissioning is when you hire an HVAC servicer who works to get the system as efficient as possible. Retro-commissioning is what it is called the first time a system has been commissioned that has already been installed and used. Re-commissioning is what it is called when systems are commissioned after the retro-commissioning has taken place.
Keep Your System Working Efficiently
To keep a commercial facility’s HVAC system working efficiently, you should complete the following tasks monthly: 1) Change the filters. 2) Clean the air conditioning coils.
In addition to these tasks, add a building automation system (BAS). A BAS can be programmed to reduce the air conditioning when the building is unoccupied and turn it up when the workday starts, saving energy usage. It also has extra benefits like keeping record of your usage, so you can make smart decisions and a single portal control. If your commercial business uses multiple buildings, you can control all of the HVAC from one portal, saving money in payroll.
Learn more about energy efficient HVAC here.
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Do you want to not change a light bulb again in your life (well, 50,000 hours)? Lumastream is a revolutionary building product that Brian Moran, our CEO, loved so much he had them installed in his home. While Brian had them installed in his home, the impact that Lumastream could have on a business is huge.
Lumastream is a light fixture that only uses 18/2 or 16/2 wire with no conduit necessary. The technology has no electronics in the fixtures, just an LED chip, so there is less opportunity for early burn out or breaking. Because of this streamlined design, less heat is produced. They estimate that consumers save 1 watt of energy for every 3 watts of lighting energy used. Consumers will get triple their energy efficiency with the LED light bulbs, less energy needed to run the fixtures, and savings in AC costs.
The aesthetics are a major pull for commercial facilities. Dunkin Donuts has Lumastream in a number of their stores. They can quickly customize the color of their lights to reflect their brand colors or celebrate the holidays. Dunkin Donuts chose to have the outer rim lights of the building in a sunset hue – like their logo. The coloring of the bulb is closer to natural light. Any photographer reading this knows that natural light is the most photogenic and true. Tesla chose to use Lumastream in all of their dealerships, so the color of the cars seen in dealerships were as accurate as possible to what would be seen on the road.
The Moran Group in partnership with Liaison Automation (LiaisonHomes.com or 888-279-1235) can help you navigate this new technology from concept to design to install and service. We have a trained team of engineers, programmers and installers who can handle any size project.
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Contributor: John Hewitt, Project Executive of F.E. Moran
Writer: Sarah Block, Marketing Director of The Moran Group
Loyola University set out to build a green living environment for students. They succeeded with Wright Hall, San Francisco Hall, and the Winter Garden Tower. The Winter Garden features an atrium with a Tilapia pond and gardens where they grow their food. The resident halls are Gold LEED Certified, and feature a greenhouse, clean energy laboratory, and green café. Students will research appropriate heirloom seeds, establish gardening management principles, and determine companion plants for the greenhouse. In the energy laboratory, students use their refuse to create biofuel to partially fuel their HVAC system.
To make this site green, F.E. Moran furnished the entire HVAC system within San Francisco Hall and retrofitted the system in Wright Hall with energy efficient systems. They used a geothermal heat pump system that takes the heating from the ground to heat the building in the winter. The geothermal portion of the system consisted of over 200 geothermal wells with 150 feet depths, which Loyola University highlighted by encasing it in glass. Eventually, the ground becomes too cold and heat needs to be added. For this, they added a dual fuel boiler, using natural gas and biofuel. The biofuel was supplied by the students within the clean energy laboratory. Eventually, Loyola University envisions all of their heat to be self-sustained through biofuel.
To keep the Winter Garden at the appropriate temperature to grow food and raise Tilapia, F.E. Moran installed under-floor heating.
Heat and air conditioning is provided by a heat pump using chilled beams and an energy recovery system. Chilled beams work much like a radiator, passing hot or cool water through the beam. An energy recovery system adds a coil into the exhaust. It takes the heat out of the air and returns it to the building.
With the joint efforts of F.E. Moran and Loyola University, students at this Rogers Park campus now have the opportunity for hands-on learning of energy efficient practices while living a self-sustaining lifestyle.
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Writer: Sarah Block, Marketing Director of The Moran Group
HVAC systems consume 13% of all primary energy generated around the world with commercial buildings being the worst offenders using 30% of all energy produced. Not only is this bad for the environment, but it also adds up to large utility bills that in turn are passed on to consumers. With some key changes to mechanical systems: right-sizing HVAC systems, adding building automation systems, upgrading to more efficient equipment, or even making small changes like adding insulation or having the boiler tuned-up, can make a difference in monthly utility costs.
Green Building and Energy Efficient Options
Building commissioning, re-commissioning, and retro-commissioning will provide a more efficient,environmentally friendly, and cost effective building. Commissioning an HVAC system ensures that it is working as designed and as efficiently as possible. Re-commissioning is commissioning a building that already has an existing system that has been commissioned previously. Retro-commissioning is commissioning a building that had never been commissioned. By testing, analyzing, and adjusting facility HVAC systems, property owners and managers can ensure that they work optimally. The cost of commissioning an HVAC system is quickly recouped through utility bill savings. By commissioning, the average operating cost will be 8-20% below a non-commissioned building.
Another option to make your HVAC system more efficient is Testing, Adjusting, and Balancing - TAB testing. This process should be performed by a National Environmental Balancing Bureau (NEBB) certified company. This test will ensure the air and water systems are pure and determine that the HVAC system has the proper pressure and no leaks. TAB testing not only assures that there are no contaminants in the air that could cause illness to employees, but it also guarantees that the system is working optimally.
Green HVAC Productivity and Health Benefits
Indoor air contamination levels can be 25 times higher than outdoor air levels. In fact, indoor air quality is ranked within the top 5 environmental risks to public health according to the United States EPA. By eliminating or reducing inadequate ventilation; biological contaminants, bacteria, molds, pollen, and viruses; and inadequate temperature, humidity, and lighting, building owners can save money due to lost production and health care expenses.
Buildings can succumb to Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), where employees experience decreased health and comfort linked to the time they spend in the building, or Building Related Illness (BRI), in which employees have symptoms of a diagnosable illness directly related to building contaminants. 1.34 million United States' buildings experience SBS, affecting 20 million workers and costing businesses $6 billion in California alone.
A study showed that employees working in a healthy building saw $400-$500,000 gains in productivity annually. By regularly maintaining and cleaning ventilation ducts, providing day lighting, and having natural ventilation available, studies have shown that employees will be more productive and have less health issues.
Monetary Benefits of Efficient HVAC Systems
Property owners can make buildings more energy efficient through many changes, both small and large. From adding extra insulation or changing to a more efficient light bulb to installing efficient mechanical equipment or new windows - property owners will see savings.
The first monetary benefit of efficient mechanical systems comes during the design phase. Efficient HVAC systems are smaller, and, therefore, use less material.
Once the efficient mechanical system is installed, the next cost savings will come in the form of utility rebates. Nicor gas provides rebates for high-efficiency equipment, products, and services. For space heating equipment, they provide a $200-$7,500 rebate; efficient water heating equipment results in $150-$200 rebates; and steam traps, boiler tune-ups, and PPE insulation reaps $50-$2,000+ in rebates. ComEd provides rebates and incentives for upgrades on existing systems: variable speed drives installed on existing chillers, HVAC fans, packaged units, pumps, and air compressor units. For new systems, they provide incentives to off-set the cost of the initial installation of energy efficient water and air-cooled chillers.
The monetary benefits will continue when utility bills begin to arrive. Property owners will notice a significant decrease in their monthly utility costs with high-efficient systems.
Regular HVAC system maintenance will provide a plethora of benefits from healthier employees, resulting in less cost in healthcare and lost productivity, to utility rebates and an environmentally conscious workplace. The costs of HVAC system maintenance, repair, and upgrades will be recouped easily through the plentiful benefits available through energy efficient programs and improved health.
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When Loyola University set out to create a green living environment for their students, they came to F.E. Moran to design and install a geothermal heat pump HVAC system for the San Francisco Hall, Wright Hall, and Winter Garden tower buildings. Loyola University isn’t the only urban college clamoring for green HVAC.