10 tips to make a building energy efficient this winter

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Winter is here.

Based on the most recent forecast of heating degree-days from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), temperatures this winter (2017) are expected to be colder than last winter across the country.

U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts that average expenditures for all major heating fuels will rise this winter because of expected colder weather and higher energy costs.

Keeping a building warm and energy efficient is a challenge most building operators, facility managers and building owners face during this winter.

Below are tips from SenseWare, gathered from energy management experts, to help minimize energy consumption, reduce energy bills and ensure tenants’ comfort.

1: Control lighting: Since lighting is one of the largest consumers of energy in a commercial building, start with strategies to make lighting more efficient. This would involve:

  • Sensors: Sensors can be used to automatically turn off or dim the lights based on a room’s occupancy.
  • Building automation systems (BASs): BASs are used to control the lighting control based on an occupancy schedule. These systems were reported to have saved 19 percent of a building’s lighting costs.
  • High-end trimming or light-level tuning: High-end trimming sets the maximum level of lighting to less than 100 percent. Light-level tuning sets the level even lower if a room or space needs less light


2: Optimize space heating:
 Space heating is the second largest consumer of energy in commercial buildings. Maintaining the HVAC is an important factor to achieve energy efficiency. Winter tune-up is a good idea for HVACs. The federal government’s ENERGY STAR website can help with finding a qualified contractor. Making sure that the furnace filters and heating coils are regularly cleaned or replaced will ensure there is no loss of heating in the building.

3: Reduce outside airflow rates:According to Ventilation Standards for Acceptable Air Quality (ASHRAE 62.1-2010), most buildings are bringing in more outside air than they are required to. Outside airflow rates should be reduced to the minimum allowed by ASHRAE for each space. Consider installing CO2 sensors in return air ductwork and maintaining interior CO2 levels.

4: Check boiler system: Use effective boiler management techniques. Operating on high fire settings or installing small boilers can save more than 7 percent of a typical facility’s total energy use. Doing comprehensive tune-ups and correcting excessive air losses, high stack temperatures and excessive smoking can result in fuel savings of up to 20 percent. Installing insulation on all hot water and steam pipes over 120 degrees will ensure excessive heat is not lost in transmission.

5: Adjust plug loads: All electronic systems like computers, laptops, printers should be adjusted for proper power management settings. Low energy computers and monitors should be used. If the building is a hospital or hotel that needs appliances like washing machines, refrigerators and dishwashers, ensure that all appliances are ENERGY STAR appliances for maximum energy efficiency.

6: Maintain ventilation: A humidistat helps to monitor and maintain the relative humidity in the air. A pneumatic thermostat is used to provide proportional control of pneumatic valves and damper actuators in heating and air conditioning systems. All the humidistats and pneumatic thermostats should be electronic so that they can be tied to a digital control system. The digital control system should also control the air volume damper actuator, as well as air-handling unit (AHU). Outside air-handing units can be installed to provide outside air for the facility and all of the air can be dehumidified. This allows for higher discharge air temperature set points on the remaining air handling units and can save significant cooling energy use.

7: Operations and maintenance program: Operations and maintenance programs at regular intervals like monthly, quarterly and annually can help with saving on energy bills by as much as 20 percent. Some of the maintenance tasks would be regular tune-ups, calibrating sensors, inspecting and replacing air filters and heating coils, cleaning some of the vents and valves, retro-commissioning outdated equipment, detecting and sealing leaks, monitoring and maintaining oil levels and verifying various systems for the optimal operating levels.

8: Metering systems: Ensure each facility has its own meters for electric, gas, fuel oil and steam. It is important that most of these meters – especially the electric meter – measures the demand at regular intervals of time. This data helps to measure, verify and optimize the energy consumption in the building. Smart electric and water heating meters (solid state or digital meters) should be installed to measure and provide accurate and detailed reporting of the consumption of energy. Connecting the smart meters to a data storage technology will allow for real-time data processing of the building’s operating conditions, as well as energy consumption patterns.

9: Hot water systems: Hot water storage tanks typically use a lot of energy for stand-by water usage. Replacing these with tankless natural gas and electric water heaters will result in energy savings to the order of 25 percent. Reducing the hot water set point can also help with energy conservation. Using heat pump water heaters reduces energy use by 40 percent to 60 percent, compared to a standard electric resistance heater, with payback periods typically less than three years.

10: New technologies: Use of LED and plasma lighting has many advantages. LED lights are robust, use little energy and have a long life. They are dimmable, turn on instantly and have no ultraviolet or infrared components.

Plasma lighting has advantages that make them a good fit for a variety of lighting applications. Plasma light bulbs use all benign materials in their construction and offer high-efficacy, long life (20,000 – 60,000 hours), constant light output over the life of the bulb and excellent color rendering.

Source: ProudGreenBuilding.com