Hidden energy wasters hurt efficiency in commercial buildings

Controlling energy consumption in large commercial buildings can yield big rewards for both the owners and their power providers. Taking the long view, efficient buildings also contribute to the health of the occupants and the economy, too. So why are buildings still wasting as much as 50 percent of the energy that flows into them?

According to the Panoramic Power blog You are leaving WAPA.gov., one of the culprits is secret energy wasters—building systems that are not maintained or used properly. The article cites studies that have shown how continuously monitoring and adjusting operations and implementing just a few energy-efficiency strategies can reduce a building’s energy use by as much as 30 percent.

Common—and often undetected—energy wasters include:

1. Lighting rooms where daylighting is sufficient: This can also cause the HVAC system to work harder, wasting more energy.

2. Systems that continue operate after business hours: It’s 7 p.m. Do you know if your lights and HVAC systems are still on?   

3. Performing unnecessary maintenance: Working on a system that doesn’t need maintenance can actually be an energy drain. Build your maintenance schedules around performance data to promote energy efficiency, reduce downtime and improve overall performance.

4. Running equipment that is not in use: If the device has a built-in power management feature that automatically induces sleep cycles when it is not being used, make sure the feature is activated. Check into “smart” monitors and power strips to control older devices that do not have built-in power management.

5. Heating against cooling: An over-cooled office may cause employees to run space heaters under their desks, causing a vicious circle of energy waste.

6. Overlighting: More is not always better when it comes to lighting. Use resources from the Illuminating Engineering Society You are leaving WAPA.gov. to determine the appropriate lighting levels for your needs.

7. Insulation is not forever: Schedule periodic inspections of all piping, ducting and equipment to look for damaged or degraded insulation and possible energy leaks.

8. Filthy filters: Clean and replace filters on HVAC equipment frequently during high-use periods. Dirty filters are an expensive mistake, and lead to poor indoor air quality, too.

9. Blocked vents: A chair or file cabinet blocking a vent can cause your ventilation system to use as much as 25 percent more energy to distribute air.

10. Overriding Building Management System settings: Everything works better if you use it as intended. When occupants override the building’s automated controls—for a weekend meeting, for example—energy waste is quick to follow.

Some of these energy wasters can be stopped with simple, low-tech solutions like opening blinds during the day and regularly replacing filters. Other systems will require more advanced monitoring, data analysis or even recommissioning to correct. Even if you have a building energy manager, a consultation with a certified technician may be worth the investment.

Key account managers should keep a checklist of best practices for stamping out energy waste close at hand to share with commercial customers. Ultimately, it is crucial to remind building owners that monitoring all the energy-consuming equipment and systems in the building is the best way to catch and stop energy waste before it shows up in a large utility bill.

Source: Panoramic Power blog, 1/17/15