If we’re standing at the bar (or on a virtual happy hour, you get the point) and you ask me, “So Chris, how do I save energy in my building?”, I’m going to fire back at you: “How big is your building and how much are you looking to spend?”
You probably have one of three reasons for wondering how to save energy
You’re spending too much money on your utility bill.
You don’t want to upgrade the service coming into the building (again, you want to stop spending so much money on energy).
Or you/your company is really committed to the sustainability of your building and understand the importance of energy efficiency for lowering carbon emissions and lessening your environmental impact.
Most of our clients have reasons that are a combination of all three.
As an Energy Service Company, that question is at the core of what we engineer: how can large commercial and industrial buildings save energy? Let’s get back to basics: here’s a list of common solutions for how businesses can save energy, improve the efficiency and longevity of their equipment, lower utility bills and develop corporate sustainability best practices.
How to save energy in a large commercial or industrial facility
Unplugging or updating your kitchen appliances, swapping out a few light bulbs for LED and springing for a smart thermostat are the easiest ways to save energy at home. But we’re asked all the time:
- How should large commercial and industrial facilities be saving energy?
- What projects are realistic to undertake?
- How much will I have to spend?
- How long will it take to start seeing savings?
- Where should you start?
As a good place to begin, here’s our list of seven ways to save energy:
1. | Audit your existing facility
The first step to saving energy is understanding how much energy you’re currently using. Most companies will need to engage a third-party for an energy audit. A comprehensive energy audit should provide the following:
- System analysis for savings and opportunities (lighting, HVAC, automation)
- Solutions proposal with tiered approaches
- Cost breakdown
- Estimated annual savings
2. | Upgrade lighting to LED
Upgrading to LED lighting has been the “low hanging fruit” for energy use for years – and remains one of the quickest retrofit solutions for businesses. The best LED lighting projects usually integrate some type of lighting controls for additional savings. If you haven’t already upgraded your facility to LED lighting, start here.
3. | Retrofit legacy systems
“Legacy systems” means anything 15-20+ years old, sometimes even younger. Boilers, chillers, air handling units (AHUs)/rooftop units (RTUs), lighting fixtures and control systems are all possible candidates. These facility components are likely to be the highest users of energy and make the biggest impact when upgraded.
4. | Leverage free cooling
Many parts of the country, including the East Coast and Midwest states, have a climate conducive to free cooling with outside air. Shoulder season and winter months are the best time for manufacturing facilities, data centers, hospitals and more to draw in more outside air and lower the energy required to condition it.
5. | Integrate a building automation system
Building automation systems (BAS) or building management systems (BMS) allow facility managers a lot of control over their buildings. Smart controls, good graphics, remote monitoring, clear reporting and strategic automation of existing systems can significantly lower energy use.
6. | Optimize control systems
Similar to integration, a control system is only as good as its operators. Optimizing an outdated system or re-engineering it for the current building team and environment is a great step towards uncovering additional energy savings. Similar to other complex systems, your controls need periodic upkeep. Checking on system connectivity quarterly can keep your older system in good working order, and if you have a newer system, will keep that system running at peak savings.
7. | Purchase energy efficient equipment
Energy efficient windows, boilers, AHUs/RTUs, pumps, cooling systems – there are lots of places to choose efficient models of equipment for commercial/industrial buildings. The best retrofits are engineered as comprehensive projects, but if you’re looking to make a one-off upgrade, selecting modern equipment designed to use less energy is the way to go.
Funding energy savings projects
Back to my initial question about building size and budget: these two factors impact pretty much any facility project you tackle. When it comes to saving energy, that usually means the bigger the project, the better the savings.
Budget comes into it as well, but with the right design and solutions, our average project delivers a project payback of just over two years. Many large commercial/industrial companies can work within the perimeters of a similar ROI.
Regardless of how you pay for it (annual budget, capital expenditure, third party financing, utility incentives) energy savings projects are a great investment for buildings and a smart choice for facility upgrades. There are lots of ways to save energy – the most important part is getting started.