Energy Star Tips for improving your business this winter..

Take the ENERGY STAR Challenge — Establish your building(s)’ energy use and set a savings goal.

Why?

It is hard to manage what we do not measure. With new, easy-to-use energy use tracking tools, you can establish the current energy use of your building(s) and determine a reasonable energy savings goal. This is the first step in many effective energy savings programs.

Set a goal: USAA

USAA Realty benchmarks its portfolio and sets goals to reduce energy consumption by 5 percent. USAA also uses the EPA’s national energy performance rating system to identify “worst performing” properties and target them for improvement. In 2005, this strategy resulted in a 61percent improvement in Rating for one targeted property.

How:

  • Assess the current energy use of your building(s) to establish a reference using EPA’s national energy performance rating system. The rating system is found in Portfolio Manager, a free online tool that provides many types of buildings with a score on a simple 1-to-100 scale, with 1 being the least efficient and 100 being the most efficient.
  • Set appropriate goals for your business. EPA encourages setting a 10 percent savings goal as part of the ENERGY STAR Challenge.


Inspect heating equipment now and perform monthly maintenance.

Inspect and maintain equipment: Marriott

In 2005, Marriott International conducted comprehensive, systematic evaluations of all operating systems at its hotels. Energy consumption dropped by 5 to 20 percent at participating properties.

Why?

For commercial buildings nationwide, almost 35 percent of energy used is for space heating (15 percent for space cooling). As winter approaches, it is important to verify that all heating equipment is functioning properly so the system will work through the winter to keep your building(s) heated efficiently. After this initial check up, monthly maintenance is necessary to ensure efficient operation throughout the heating season. Merely ensuring that heating equipment is functioning properly can reduce heating costs by 5 percent, and by much more if major problems are found and addressed.

Inspect and maintain equipment: Transwestern

Transwestern Commercial Services uses several in-house tools to help with energy benchmarking. These tools include metering and commissioning processes to verify proper operation of equipment, and a detailed spreadsheet tool to analyze energy consumption and quantify energy measures implemented. They estimate that their energy management practices have saved 15 to 30 percent per building.

Inspecting and maintaining equipment

In 2005, Marriott International launched a retro-commissioning program to conduct comprehensive, systematic evaluations of all operating systems at individual hotels. Participating properties have seen their energy consumption drop by 5 to 20 percent.

Why?

For commercial buildings nationwide, almost 35 percent of energy is used for space heating (15 percent for space cooling). As the winter season approaches, it is important to verify that all heating equipment is functioning properly so the system will work through the winter to keep your building(s) heated efficiently. After this initial check up, monthly maintenance is necessary to ensure efficient operation throughout the heating season. Simply ensuring that heating equipment is functioning properly can itself be expected to reduce heating costs 5 percent, and much more if major problems are found and addressed.

Inspecting and maintaining equipment

Transwestern Commercial Services uses several in-house tools to help with energy benchmarking. These tools include metering and commissioning processes to verify proper operation of equipment, and a detailed spreadsheet tool to analyze energy consumption and quantify energy measures implemented. They estimate that their energy management practices have saved 15 to 30 percent per building.

How:

  • A full system checkup will ensure that all parts (fan belts, air dampers, etc.) are in working condition and operating properly. This ensures more efficient operations and helps avoid equipment failure disrupting employees and tenants.
  • Inspect heating ducts and seal any leaks. Direct leaks in duct systems can result in large heat losses.
  • Check air filters throughout the building. Dirty or clogged air filters reduce air flow, thereby increasing the energy use required for heating.
  • Look for air leaks, especially around windows, doors, and places where plumbing or ductwork penetrates the building envelope. For an in-depth analysis of leaks, consider hiring a professional to conduct blower door tests or an energy audit.
  • Make sure all hot water tanks and piping are well insulated, even inside the heated space. This can be a major source of heat loss and an inexpensive fix.
  • Make sure outside air dampers are closed during unoccupied hours, including during morning warm-up periods. Also, make sure motorized dampers are operating properly.
  • Ensure that hot water or steam valves are in their proper positions to allow full flow with minimal pressure drop within the piping system.
  • The operation of your heating system is regulated by thermostats. Calibrate these thermostats to ensure that they are functioning properly. Otherwise the heating system will be receiving the wrong signals of when to start and stop.
  • Typical thermostat settings range from 68 degrees F to 74 degrees F. During the winter, EPA recommends setting your controls at the lower end of this range.
  • The above tips can save even more energy if it is found that less fan, pump, and boiler energy is required to supply the building with heating (the same is true for cooling). Allowing small items to go unchecked tends to result in greater demands on fans, pumps, and boilers than is otherwise necessary, which leads to excessive energy use.
  • Know the amount of outside air needed and the amount currently delivered, and ensure outside air dampers are working properly. Bringing in too much outside air can lead to high energy waste.
  • More information on inspecting and maintaining your equipment is available in EPA’s Building Upgrade Manual.


Turn back or turn off heating and cooling equipment when not needed.

Why?

Turn back/turn off equipment: Sacred Heart Medical Center

Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, WA, established night setback protocols for areas unoccupied in the evening, saving $25,000. By turning off a large fan in the radiology area at night, they were able to save another $15,000 in energy costs.

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 for this practice often reveals opportunities to operate such equipment for shorter periods and offer energy savings. If you can cut back just one hour of operation out of every 12, the energy savings will be roughly 8 percent.

How:

  • Evaluate the reasons why your building may have 24-hour continuous operation of heating equipment. There may be more opportunity than you think, as shown for some of the commonly cited reasons below.

Turn back/turn off equipment: Gresham-Barlow School district

Gresham-Barlow School District 10 in Gresham, OR, standardized temperature settings for classrooms. Staff and students now take responsibility to dress appropriately for the season. Custodians ensure that classroom temperatures are set correctly, avoiding considerable time and effort spent responding to numerous requests for temperature settings that were often many degrees apart. When the School Board and Administration developed a policy and set a classroom temperature standard, teachers and students were supportive.

    • Employee’s and/or tenant’s potted plants will die: Indoor potted plants will only be harmed at temperatures below freezing. The need to avoid frozen water pipes is reason enough never to allow nighttime or weekend temperatures to fall below freezing. Indoor plants will be happy enough if nighttime and weekend temperatures are set back to 50 degrees F.
    • It will be too cold (or hot) in the morning: Putting aside issues of humidity (a more complicated issue), modern building controls make it possible for heating and cooling equipment to turn on in time to pre-condition space before employees arriving in the morning. Small buildings with residential-style wall thermostats can be controlled using battery operated ENERGY STAR qualified thermostats sold at home centers. Such controls raise and lower the thermostat setting according to your organization’s schedule.
    • The heating and cooling system is too complicated, and can’t be readily turned on and off: This is a real issue for many smaller businesses and schools who have complicated heating and cooling systems, but do not have dedicated maintenance engineers. In such cases a professional contractor can be hired to install the right controls that allow for automatically turning back or turning off equipment.
  • Buildings with wall mounted thermostats usually have a nighttime setback feature, and in many cases may be replaced with an ENERGY STAR thermostat.
  • Many institutional buildings have a global, nighttime setback control for boilers. Older controls can be replaced with digital controls that allow for nighttime, weekend, and even holiday settings.
  • More information about equipment scheduling is available in EPA’s operations and maintenance guidelines.


Get the occupants involved.

Involve the occupants: Giant Eagle

Western Pennsylvania-based Giant Eagle food stores use Energy Awareness month (October) to raise employee awareness of the importance of energy conservation. Giant Eagle communicates with employees through in-store posters and pages on its intranet featuring energy conservation tips and highlighting Giant Eagle’s ENERGY STAR recognition.

Why?

Employee or tenant behavior can have substantial impacts on building energy use, as their demands influence the power required for lighting, computer operation, and heating, among other energy uses. Promoting energy awareness among staff can provide positive returns quickly for a small upfront cost.

How:

  • A staff meeting at the beginning of the season can provide a forum to review some basic energy saving behaviors everyone can follow.
  • 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 employees to open shades and blinds on sunny winter days to warm buildings naturally, and close them at night to prevent heat loss.

Involve the occupants: NY Presbyterian Hospital

At New York Presbyterian Hospital’s Allen Pavilion in New York City, employees who submit excellent conservation ideas are acknowledged in newsletter features and are eligible to receive “Service Star” awards. NYPH also has initiated Energy Awareness and Earth Day events in public areas where the public is invited to speak with energy experts and offer their own ideas on energy conservation.

  • Encourage building occupants and employees to purchase ENERGY STAR products from among the wide variety of products in the following areas:
    • Office equipment including printers, computers, fax machines, and copiers.
    • Electronic equipment such as TVs and DVD players.
    • Commercial food service equipment including solid door refrigerators, steam cookers, commercial fryers.
    • Refrigerators and other appliances in employee break rooms.
    • Vending machines and water coolers.
    • For more information, visit ENERGY STAR Products.
  • Encourage employees to power down electronics when not in use. This includes unplugging power strips at the end of the day, as they consume energy even when equipment is shut off.
  • Use Monitor Power Management techniques to make sure computer monitors and computers are placed into sleep modes or turned off after periods of inactivity. EPA provides full technical guidance on computer power management for businesses and estimates that power management can save approximately $100 per computer per year.
  • Remind workers of the importance of keeping warehouse doors or refrigerator doors closed to avoid loss of heated or cooled air.


Improve lighting systems.

Why?

Lighting uses roughly 13 percent of the energy consumed in commercial buildings, the second largest use after heating and cooling equipment. Looking carefully at your lighting systems, considering upgrading equipment, performing regular maintenance, and making sure lights are turned off when not in use can offer significant savings. It is often cost effective with today’s technology to replace older lighting systems, resulting in a savings of 30 percent or more on lighting expenses, or 5 percent or more on overall energy expenses.

Improve Lighting: Kosciusko Community Hospital

Kosciusko Community Hospital in Warsaw, IN, replaced magnetic ballast T-12 fluorescent lights with more efficient electronic ballast T-8 lamps. In addition, they installed occupancy sensors in areas that are not constantly in use, such as bathrooms and offices. Other sensors were installed on a trial basis in order to minimize energy use without disrupting the hospital environment.

How:

  • Make sure that lights are turned off when not in use. As with heating system controls, this includes a review of when and why lights are currently left on to see if there are opportunities to turn them off. Commonly cited reasons include:
    • Leaving the lights on reduces crime and vandalism: As a practical matter you may be able to leave one out of every ten overhead lights on at night for security purposes The upper end of outdoor light levels required for security is 3 foot-candles, beyond that is deemed to be energy waste (“Light Pollution: Efforts to Bring Back the Night Sky,” BuildingGreen.com Exit ENERGY STAR, Volume 7, Number 8). Another option is to consider occupancy sensors, which will turn lights on if movement is detected, thereby alerting security personnel to a potential problem.
    • We tried, but employees and/or tenants won’t turn lights off: This illustrates the importance of involving occupants and communicating your energy management strategy. Effective communication could include translating an hour of lighting at full capacity into a cost for the company and quantifying the savings. Equate the savings to something meaningful to your organization (for example, the quantity of textbooks you could purchase with the savings) so that employees can better understand the impacts of their actions. It can also be helpful to take a picture of your building at night to show employees and tenants the extent to which lights are left on.
  • Examine the opportunity to use occupancy sensors. Wall mounted occupancy sensors that replace conventional light switches are available at affordable prices. These sensors have been greatly simplified in recent years and come in modern, sleek designs with single on/off buttons. Many office workers spend only 6 out of every 8 hours in their offices, offering potential savings of about 10 percent on lighting energy for such spaces. Occupant sensors are also an effective way to provide necessary light for evening cleaning crews and eliminate the problem of crews leaving lights on all night.
  • Make sure that outdoor lighting is not being used during daylight hours.
  • Replace incandescent bulbs used for task lighting with ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent bulbs.
  • Additional information on lighting systems is detailed in EPA’s Building Upgrade Manual PDF (2.94MB).

Winter Steps Checklist

Use this checklist to help you follow these five steps this winter.


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