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10 Low-cost ways to make your office more energy efficient

Posted by Wes Hopkin on October 16, 2014 at 2:42 PM


Often the term energy efficiency is associated with lighting or equipment upgrades and building automation systems that require a business to invest significant capital expenditures. And while those are all accurate correlations, it isn't always the case. Whether you own or lease your business' office space, there are plenty of ways you can implement low-cost changes to reduce the energy it consumes. Read on to discover 10 ways you can start saving now.


Before we delve into the ways you can start saving, it's important to understand why energy efficiency will benefit your business. Here are some quick facts which reveal the value derived from slowing the spin on your utility meters.

  • Even if you're a tenant you control 70% of the energy use in your office building. Realize that you still have control over the lighting, HVAC, and equipment use in your space. Combined these items account for over 85% of your utility costs.

  • Energy Efficiency can dramatically impact your company's bottom line. Take a moment to check your company's profit margin. For every dollar your business spends on utilities, how many dollars of revenue must your company produce? Assuming your company has a 10% profit margin, it takes $10 of revenue to cover that energy cost. Every $1,000 in energy costs requires your business to generate $10,000 to cover it. Think about how much unnecessary energy use is costing your business already. As energy costs rise and you delay reducing energy use that will become an even larger drag on your profits.
Now that we've highlighted important reasons for investing in energy efficiency, let's explore the ways to effect a change.


#1 Turn Unnecessary Lighting Off

Lighting accounts for 40% of the energy use in an office building. In areas with natural lighting, turn off half or more of the lights when the sunlight is abundant. Also make sure that the last person out of an area turns off all the lights as they leave. If you're feeling ambitious, you can spend a few dollars to have motion sensors installed in rooms with infrequent use such as bathrooms, kitchen areas, and copier/fax rooms.


#2 Use Laptops Instead of Desktop Computers

As you replace older computers consider buying laptops instead of desktops. Laptop computers use 90% less energy than their bulkier counterparts. Your staff will also gain the benefit of the portability laptops offer, helping to make them more productive.


#3 Set Thermostats to More Efficient Levels Throughout the Year

Heating and cooling accounts for 40% or more of your building's energy consumption. For each degree you raise your thermostat settings in the summer the energy costs are reduced up to 5%. The difference between a setting of 68 degrees and 74 degrees can be as much as 30%. The same holds true for lowering your thermostat in the winter months.


#4 Don't use Space Heaters

Not only are space heaters a fire hazard, they are also a major source of energy use. The average space heater costs $240.00 in energy consumption per year.


#5 Turn off Equipment at Night

This is one of the easiest and likely most overlooked energy saving steps you can take. Recent studies indicate that 30% of office workers leave their computers on overnight. Ensuring those employees shut off their computers and monitors at night can save $75.00 per year per computer.

Don't forget about other office equipment too. Devices including printers, fax machines and scanners are big power users. In fact many printers draw 1500 watts or more of electric for a period of 15-30 seconds every 1-2 minutes. They do this to keep ready to print on demand. Even in the “sleep mode” these devices burn 30 to 40 watts of electricity. Instead of relying on the last one to leave the office turning it off, consider installing a low-cost plug-in 7-day timer that can be easily overridden to automatically shut off printers at night and on weekends. Doing so, even if they have an Energy Saving mode will make a big difference in your electric bills.

On last tip here, providing reminders in newsletters and emails, and placing posters around the office is one way to increase employee participation.


#6 Enable Energy Saving and Power Management Features on Computers and Office Equipment

Even when you're office is full of workers, there are going to be times when the printer, copiers, and fax machines are not in use. Today, most of these devices have energy saver modes which place them in a lower power state after so many minutes of remaining unused. Refer to the user's manual or ask the service technician about how to enable them. Check for settings including the period of delay or automatic shutoff and power management.

For years now computers and monitors have included power management features enabling them to enter a low-power standby mode after a preset period of inactivity. On computers navigate to the control panel and find Power Management. Here you can adjust the time period of when both devices enter the standby state, and later periods of non-use when the monitor will be shutoff and the computer will enter a hibernation mode. A good rule of thumb is to set the standby between 10-20 minutes and the later modes to after 30 minutes.

If your business is large enough to have it's own IT department, have someone in that department implement these changes to ensure they are properly set on all devices


#7 Replace Incandescent and Florescent Lighting with LEDs

Remember lighting accounts for 40% of your office's energy usage. Today, LED bulbs are available in every shape, size, and style. They are 80% - 90% more efficient than incandescent bulbs and 50% - 70% more efficient than florescents. The quality of light they produce is superior to any other type of bulb and they don't have the headache inducing flicker present in florescent bulbs. LEDs also product less hear than incandescent and florescent bulbs, saving you money on the costs for air conditioning the office. By upgrading your lighting to LEDs you'll save big on your electric bill and your employees with thank you for their increased comfort.


        New - Programmable Thermostat                           Old, Non-Programmable Mercury Thermostat

#8 Install Programmable Thermostats

Always check with the property manager or building engineer to ask how the air conditioning and heating are controlled for your building. As long as there is not a constant flow or centralized system controlling HVAC for the entire building, have 7-day programmable thermostats installed. Take a few minutes to set the schedule for each day, and mode to coincide with your operating hours. Leave some slack, 30-60 minutes, on either side to allow for early arrivers and late leavers. Be sure to set the thermostat back several degrees during hours the office is unoccupied.

Taking these steps will save large amounts energy by reducing the number of hours your system is operating, saving you money and lengthening the life of the system. This is especially true if you're using old, non-digital thermostats (see above image on right).


#9 Replace old Monitors with LED Monitors

If you have old CRT or LCD monitors, replace them with LED monitors as they go bad or you have the funds to make an upgrade. They use 90% less energy than CRT's and 20% - 30% less energy than LCD monitors. The cost on LED's has dropped to the point where any difference in price will more than be made up for with energy savings.


#10 Use Ink Jet Printers Instead of Laser Printers

Ink jets use 90% less energy than laser printers. Plus, ink cartridges cost significantly less to replace than toner cartridges. If your business can utilize ink jet printers instead of laser printers, make the switch.


The old practices of leaving all the lights and equipment running in an office historically existed beacuse the cost of energy was so cheap. But we've been living in a world where that hasn't been a reality for over a decade now. Energy costs are continuing to rise at a rate faster than inflation, making it more than just a cost of doing business.

Most businesses don't realize how much wasted energy they're using and how easily they could mitigate it. But, fiscally wise businesses are embracing energy efficiency and lowering their energy costs as a way of boosting their bottom lines. And as you can see, making your office more energy efficient doesn't have to cost a fortune.


Topics: HVAC, LED lighting, LED blubs, lighting, energy efficiency, programmable thermostats

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