Energy consumption has been growing exponentially over the years. Today more than 4.7 million commercial buildings consume more energy than the transportation or industry sectors, accounting for nearly 40 percent of total U.S. energy use. The total energy used by U.S. buildings topped $369 billion in 2005.
This increase in energy use is caused by:
- Growing commercial office space, which drives other buildings like schools and hospitals.
- Economic growth (GDP), which drives demand for office space.
- Various energy consuming devices
Commercial buildings consist of various sectors like public utility buildings, hospitals, schools, malls, retail, restaurants and office space. Among these, office and retail occupy the major percentage.
Commercial energy intensity has grown and understanding the primary energy-use will help with energy cost saving measures.
It is not surprising that heating and cooling are the predominant consumers of energy in a commercial building followed by lighting.
Here we take a look at some of the energy cost saving measures you can implement in order for you to meet the annual energy goals of your building:
1. Smart building:
“Smart” building is the term used for buildings that have complete automated controls and systems in place. These controls comprise of sensors and actuators that are integrated together to form an intelligent data collection application. According to a IDC report, smart buildings have an annual growth rate of 22.6% and has the potential to reach $20 billion by 2020.
For optimal operation of utilities in buildings and avoid energy wastage as well as save energy costs, it is essential to collect extensive data and use it for operating various systems. For example, you can use the data to see how your HVAC is performing and control the temperature set points based on outside weather. You can also use a centralized command center to transmit any commands to change settings, adjust values and thus save energy.
Smart building systems save energy costs because they provide visibility into the entire building even if the facilities are spread across a large area like a university. The data that these systems collect can be used for analyzing, tracking and communicating.
2. Low-cost techniques:
Employing quick low-cost techniques can save substantial energy bills. For example, turning off office equipment like printers, monitors, computers and copiers into “sleep mode” when not in use will cut energy costs by approximately 40%. Performing regular maintenance of your HVAC system is another low-cost way to ensure that the largest consumer of energy in your building is efficient. Regular cleaning of coils and vents such as condenser and evaporator coils can produce energy savings of $0.10 per kWh.
3. Monitoring and control:
It is not enough if you implement smart building or advanced analytics in your building. Taking time to train and integrating these systems to the mobile devices of facility managers, operators and building engineers will ensure that continuous monitoring is effective.
You can either have centralized monitoring where the entire view of the various facilities is monitored and a field engineer is dispatched as and when problem arises. Another option is to enable alerts and notifications on the operators’ mobile devices that would give either an early warning or an emergency signal depending on the situation. This can be further extended to automated controls that can be stopped or slowed down whenever an issue arises.
Remote monitoring and control can also be used to reduce the number of manual hours and shifts and decrease your energy expenditure.
4. IoT systems:
The Internet of Thing or IoT is the latest technological innovation that is being increasingly used to manage energy efficiency. IoT uses the Internet to connect information gathered from various devices like sensors and actuators that are embedded within systems. IoT is typically used to collect information such as motion, air pressure, light, and temperature or water flow. When integrated with a building management system (BMS), it enables autonomous monitoring, control and provides advanced analytics where the data can be used for predictive modeling.
This allows for higher cost savings, increased productivity as well as revenue benefits, especially with the data.
5. Improved insulation:
Adding layers of insulation around your HVAC, heating and cooling pipes, and electrical outlets will help with maintaining efficient energy levels and reduce wastage of energy. Insulation provides resistance to heat flow and lowers the heating and cooling costs and increases the comfort of the occupants. Another way to improve the energy efficiency of buildings is to reduce heat loss through the building envelope by internal or external wall insulation. By external wall insulation, the building will also benefit from
aesthetic improvement besides improving the thermal comfort. Other advantages of installing the insulation on the outside include the reduced disturbance of the occupants, the disappearance of mold and reduced maintenance.
6. Advanced Analytics:
One of the benefits of implementing advanced technologies in your building is the collection of data from various systems. This data is huge and must be managed in a structured manner to produce actionable insights.
The application that helps achieve that is called “Big data” analytics.
Big data is more advanced than the traditional analytics since it provides techniques like statistical modeling, data mining and data visualization. For example, if you have historical records of your energy usage, it can predict with accuracy what your energy bills would be for the next few months. You can use that data to correct your higher usage systems and adjust systems that are inefficient.
7. Real-time data:
Buildings implementing the innovative smart building solutions are able to use real-time data to automatically adjust and control various systems.
For example, by monitoring the employee badge access information for a building, HVAC systems could be automatically adjusted to account for increased or decreased occupancy requirements.
In addition to scenarios like these, the location information from mobile phones can also be used and temperature adjusted according to the preference of the tenant based on where they are in the building. Another example is statistical analysis; simulation and predictive modeling that can be applied to determine how many chillers need to be turned on, based on forecast occupancy levels and outside weather conditions.
8. Building design:
Using general cooling measures and “green” designs help in reducing energy costs. Some of them are:
- Natural lighting and opening interiors to daylight.
- Use of landscaping and trees to provide shaded areas and reduce local temperature.
- Solar power panels can be installed on rooftops and can be used to power lights in parking spaces or even for water heating.
- Designing a water collection system for irrigating landscaping in and around the building.
9. Voluntary programs – ENERGY STAR:
ENERGY STAR is a voluntary U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program that delivers environmental benefits and financial value through superior energy efficiency. ENERGY STAR provides certification of energy efficiency , which in turn helps us make energy-efficient choices.
According to the EPA, commercial buildings that have earned the Energy Star label use on average 35 percent less energy than typical similar buildings. Buying Energy Star certified equipment will also add to this potential savings.
Establishing a business policy of only buying ENERGY STAR certified equipment such as HVAC units, computers, chillers and printers will ensure that you maximize your savings on utility bills.
10. Energy-Efficient Lighting:
Lighting makes up a significant portion of energy consumption after heating and cooling. Hence, focusing on efforts to use energy-efficient lighting can help to cut down energy costs. Some of the ways you can do that is using occupancy sensors to operate the lights only when occupied.
The other very successful way is to use a low energy consuming lights such as fluorescent, incandescent, halogen, LED or HID. The type of lighting you choose will depend on the specific lighting needs.
Fluorescent lighting is the most commonly used type of lighting: 93% of commercial buildings use standard fluorescent lights, and standard fluorescents illuminate 78% of lit floorspace. Compact fluorescent (CFL) has become the second most common lighting type, providing light to 13% of all lit space in commercial buildings. The remaining lighting types—incandescent, high-intensity discharge, halogen, and light-emitting diode (LED)—each light less than 10% of floorspace across all commercial buildings.
In conclusion, energy cost savings is on top of mind of every commercial building owner, operator or facility manager. There are many solutions available that can help you with energy cost savings. These range from implementing sophisticated technologies like IoT to low cost energy efficiency strategies like using natural light and finally using Energy Star rated equipment for long-term energy savings.
Whatever is the solution, ensuring that you implement at least one or two frequently would ensure that your energy costs are considerably reduced and your energy savings are increased.