With energy costs on the rise and no end in sight, many building owners are searching for new ways to control energy expenses and reduce usage. With time and dedication, any organization can implement best conservation practices that can measurably reduce energy consumption. Some simple tactics include:
• Dim or turn off the lights after hours. This is an obvious, yet often ignored approach.
• Tint windows. This stops up to 28 percent of the sun's heat in the summer, cutting your energy load by 8 to 10 percent.
• Ban space heaters. These energy hogs can increase costs by up to 70 percent. The smallest units draw a whopping 3,000 watts per hour, while larger units burn 11,000 watts. They're wasteful, and can't be remotely managed.
• Upgrade your T12 fluorescent bulbs to T8 fluorescent bulbs, which can save about $12.80 at 8 cents per kilowatt-hour per lamp over the bulb's life. T8s use about 56 watts, compared to the 72 watts T12 bulbs require.
• Check for worn window and door seals by turning lights off and seeing if the sun shines through (experts recommend replacing seals annually). Escaping air makes HVAC systems work harder, wasting energy and increasing wear.
But if you've already done everything you can on your own to reduce your energy use and want to take your energy management a step further to develop a more comprehensive approach, consult a professional energy management firm. A professional can help you create a customized plan that can deliver guaranteed cost savings.
A good energy management plan will address HVAC equipment maintenance and Energy Management System (EMS) monitoring. Doing so can have a big impact, no matter what the building's size, and can reap substantial dollar savings annually.
Step one is to have heating and air conditioning systems inspected to be sure they are running at their optimal performance. Then, regular inspections and maintenance are required thereafter to avoid costly breakdowns. The strategy behind regular maintenance is to solve small problems before they become big problems.
Energy managers can suggest a quality building automation system. Automation systems monitor the building's thermostats, HVAC, and lighting around the clock through sensors placed throughout a building's interior and exterior, and on HVAC equipment. Automation systems guarantee that management's preferred temperatures and power schedules are maintained, and ensures equipment is used only when it's needed, saving energy and money. For example, you could automatically lower thermostats just two degrees in winter and raise them just two degrees in summer, cutting energy usage 3 to 4 percent annually.
Energy management professionals can also check to see if you qualify for any energy rebates from your local utility. Many times, by installing an integrated energy management system or energy efficient lighting and HVAC systems, you can qualify for rebates that will, in some cases, actually pay for a significant portion of your energy efficient upgrades.
Beating back rising energy bills requires a sound strategy, best practices, and integrated systems that detect problems early and control units autonomously. There is literally no down side to this approach. These systems will pay for themselves in short order, boost profits, and can even improve the organization's public image when promoted properly.
Mike Wardle is executive director of HVAC service sales and marketing for Roth Bros., Inc. in Youngstown, Ohio, a consulting company specializing in energy management solutions. He can be reached by email or visit www.rothbros.com.