March 17, 2008 | Back to: Columns

Reduce energy at work and improve your bottom line

Saving money on your energy bills may not be as exciting as winning a new contract, setting a new sales record or designing a new product. But for many businesses, it can add to profitability in a way that is just as dramatic.

We want to offer some fairly easy solutions that are designed to help businesses that are experiencing increasing concern about energy costs; businesses that are coping with energy systems that are not designed specifically for their activities or space requirements; and organizations that want to bring the same efficiency to their heating, cooling and lighting systems as they do to other business activities.

There is a multitude of business benefits with energy saving measures including an exceptional return on investment of 20% - 50% per year, reduced maintenance and replacement costs, increased cooling capacity of air conditioning and refrigeration systems, more efficient equipment performance and project payback periods of just two to five years.

Some areas where energy savings can be identified for any business are through assessing air flow of the building, the efficiency of your heating ventilation and air conditioning system, hot water efficiency and lighting.

Air Flow

Air passes through the doors, windows, walls, foundation, roof and floor of the facility your business occupies. A certain amount of air movement is necessary for health purposes, but in many buildings excess ventilation accounts for a large percentage of total energy losses. This means finding and sealing leaks and insulation gaps that occur around windows and doors, but also around less obvious places from the boiler room to the tops of elevator shafts. Air-sealing duct systems is particularly important, as is insulating duct systems in buffer zones or whenever they are outside of the conditioned envelope.

Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC)

Up to 40 percent of the energy produced by commercial HVAC systems can be lost through the sides of the equipment or up the chimney or flue or through leaking ducts. Some general opportunities for energy conservation with HVAC systems are to reduce HVAC system operation when building or space is unoccupied; close outdoor air dampers; install system controls to reduce cooling/heating of unoccupied space; adjust thermostat settings for change in seasons; adjust air duct registers; and use operable windows for ventilation during mild weather. For more involved HVAC energy conserving measures we recommended that you consult with an HVAC expert about additional options.

Hot Water Efficiency

The amount of energy you can save on hot water depends on the type of business you're in. In an office or retail store, the amount may be negligible. But in operations like laundries, motels or restaurants, the savings can be dramatic.

Several ways to reduce the money you spend on hot water are to lower the temperature of the water itself at the source, cut back on the amount of water you use by installing water efficient fixtures such as aerators, slow heat loss from your water heater and pipes, and use reclaimed heat from another source such as a heat pump or refrigeration unit.

Lighting

When thinking about your particular needs, consider that lighting energy can be wasted through inefficient light sources such as incandescent bulbs in lamps and fixtures, transmission loss by light diffused over distance and reduced by dirt, dust or other obstructions. Overlighting with more illumination than you need can waste energy, especially in situations where you could get the same effect using sunlight, reflectors or a lighter interior color scheme.

Through a partnership with PG&E, PowerUp-NC can offer local businesses the opportunity to exchange their energy inefficient lights for new efficient CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lights). These bulbs reduce lighting costs by more than 75%. If you know of a business that might need some free energy efficient lights, or if you are a business owner contact us to set up an assessment.

Call PowerUp-NC or check out our website to set up an energy audit for your business or home, learn about free PG&E energy efficiency seminars or to schedule a lighting assessment. (530) 470-8642 and www.powerup-nc.org

Reinette Senum and Kelly Casterson


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The Union Updated Mar 18, 2008 03:03AM Published Mar 17, 2008 03:00AM Copyright 2008 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.