EPA Offers Tips To Help Businesses, Organizations Save Energy This Winter
With American businesses expected to experience higher than ever energy prices this winter, EPA issued advice on Nov. 14 businesses can take to help them save 10 percent or more on their energy bills.
The advice shares lessons learned by EPA's Energy Star partners who saved money and subsequently adopted longer-term energy management strategies that produced even greater savings. If every business in the United States saved 10 percent on its energy bills, Americans would save about $10 billion annually.
"By taking a few common-sense steps to heed President Bush's call to conserve this winter, American businesses can help our environment, save billions, and protect our nation's energy supply," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "An impressive return for a little bit of effort."
EPA encourages organizations to look at five commonly overlooked areas to save energy this winter:
1. Measure the energy use of your building and set a savings goal.
It is hard to manage what you don't measure. With EPA's energy use tracking tools, you can establish the current energy use of your building(s) and set a reasonable energy savings goal.
- Assess the current energy use of your building(s) using EPA's national energy performance rating system -- a free online tool that provides buildings with a score on a simple 1-to-100 scale with 1 being the least efficient and 100 being the most. For details, visit http://www.energystar.gov/benchmark.
- Set appropriate goals for your business. EPA encourages a 10-percent savings goal to start and recommends that you participate in the national Energy Star Building Challenge. For details, visit http://www.energystar.gov/challenge.
2. Inspect heating equipment now and perform monthly maintenance.
For commercial buildings nationwide, almost 35 percent of energy is used for space heating. As the winter season approaches, it is important to verify that your building's heating equipment is functioning properly. You can lower your heating costs by at least 5 percent; savings will be much greater if major problems are found, EPA says.
- Tune up all heating equipment and inspect all ducts, filters and dampers.
- Calibrate all thermostats and controls used by the heating equipment.
- Create a monthly maintenance plan to check equipment operation throughout the year.
3. Turn back or turn off heating and cooling equipment when not needed.
Many businesses operate heating and cooling systems 24 hours a day. While this is necessary in some cases, understanding the reasons and re-evaluating the rationale can make it possible to operate such equipment less often. If you can cut back just one hour of operation out of every 12, the energy savings will be roughly 8 percent.
- Evaluate the heating system schedule and determine if this capacity is necessary to meet the business requirements.
- Take advantage of nighttime setback features on thermostats and install Energy Star-qualified thermostats to save even more energy.
4. Get the occupants involved.
Employee and tenant behavior can have substantial impacts on a building's energy use as they influence the power required for lighting, computer operation, and heating. Promoting energy awareness among staff can quickly provide positive returns for a small upfront cost.
- Conduct staff meetings to review the basics of energy efficiency.
- Educate employees not to use personal electric space-heaters and provide them with an alternative to address employee comfort and work environment complaints. Often, discomfort is an indication of broader heating or cooling system failure. Addressing these larger problems is more efficient than having individual space heaters.
- Encourage building occupants and employees to purchase Energy Star-qualified products. For more information, visit http://www.energystar.gov/products.
5. Improve lighting systems.
Lighting uses roughly 13 percent of the energy in commercial buildings, the second largest use after heating and cooling equipment. Evaluate your lighting systems, consider upgrading equipment, perform regular maintenance, and make sure lights are turned off when not in use. Replacing older lighting systems can save you 30 percent or more on lighting expenses and up to a total of 5 percent or more of your overall energy expenses.
- Make sure that lighting systems provide the right level of intensity for building functions. There may be exterior lights on during daylight hours or high lighting intensity at night for security reasons. Review when and why lights are currently used to see if there are opportunities to turn them off.
- Motivate employees and tenants to turn off lights at the end of the day by showing the value of saving energy and how those savings can be reinvested in your organization.
For a complete list of steps for this winter, success stories and more information on how to improve your building's energy efficiency, visit http://www.energystar.gov/bizheating.
This article originally appeared in the 11/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.