Best Ways to Save Energy in Commercial Buildings
Did you know that buildings account for 39% of the energy use in the United States? Making energy efficiency a priority in your project plan is not only great for the environment. It can also save you money in the long run by reducing your energy bill. On average, companies that implement energy efficient techniques save 2-10% annually. Just like your to-do list, the list of ways to reduce energy consumption is long. Fortunately for you, we already did the hard part: the research. Whether you’re making some changes to an existing space or looking to build something new, here are some of the best methods we found to decrease energy costs.
Energy Efficient Design and PlanningStart from the ground up; there are several energy saving methods you can implement when initially designing your building that will have a large impact on its overall energy usage. For example, did you that the way your building is facing can significantly impact your utility bill?
Building OrientationConstructing your building in a direction that best captures the sun’s free energy can significantly reduce its heating and cooling costs. In general, southern and eastern facing buildings have higher levels of exposure to the sun. When building up north, you want more sun exposure, while when building down south it’s better to have less.
State-of-the-art Energy Efficient TechnologiesOther more technologically-advanced ways of reducing your energy bill include planning for LEDs, solar panels, and window films in your building design.
- LEDs utilize the movement of electrons to create light and use 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting.
- Solar panels utilize the sun’s energy in order to generate electricity, while window films control the amount of heat that enters and exits a building and are especially beneficial for buildings with large windows. Some window films can even double as solar panels.
Daylight Harvesting & EMSAccording to the U.S. Energy Information Administration in 2014, lighting in the commercial sector accounted for 19% of electricity consumption. Two effective ways of reducing this number are daylight harvesting and energy management systems (EMS).
- Daylighting harvesting systems utilize ambient daylight to measure the amount of light entering a building and automatically adjusts the building’s lights accordingly.
- Energy management systems control multiple systems from one data center, allowing users to remotely control energy-consuming equipment. These systems can also be programmed to adjust the lighting throughout the entire building based on the time of day or amount of natural light available.
Insulating MaterialsOne of the best ways to decrease your energy bill is to utilize materials that insulate and reduce thermal energy loss. While these materials may cost you more up-front than using their non-energy saving competitors would, energy-efficient materials will save you more money in the long run. Tip: When shopping for energy-efficient materials, pay attention to R- and U-values. Products with high R-values and low U-values are typically the most efficient.
- R-value measures thermal capacity
- U-value measures resistance to heat flow
Low-e GlassLow-e glass, for example—glass with a microscopic metallic oxide coating to reduce emissivity—has an R-value of 1 per inch. In other words, it’s designed to prevent heat energy from being lost. Low-e glass also reduces heat flow through glass by half, which in turn reduces heating costs by up to 20%.
Insulating Concrete FormsInsulating concrete forms are cast-in-place concrete walls inserted between two layers of insulation materials. They lock into the building’s structure permanently, resulting in a high level of strength and durability.
Everyday Energy EfficiencyLooking for ways to make the day-to-day operations of your company more energy efficient? A great place to start is by measuring the building’s current energy output so you can start developing a plan for cutting down on non-essential energy use.
- An easy, no-cost measure to lower utilities is to remove unnecessary lights such as lamps in overlit areas or vending machine bulbs (don’t forget to post a sign letting people know it works!)
- A good rule of thumb for heating and air is to set the thermostat to 68° or lower in the winter and 72° or higher in the summer. Respectively, every degree above or below this rule requires approximately 1.5% more energy.
- Educate your employees on minimizing the company’s overall energy output. Such changes might include turning off lights when they exit a room, taking the stairs or unplugging electronics when not in use.