Energy Efficiency, Solar - August 16, 2019 - By John Watkins, FSC Lighting
Best energy practices to edge out your competition
Are you using everything in your power (pun intended) to stay competitive in your market? Improving your company’s energy efficiency doesn’t just reduce overall energy costs—it can also help you edge out the competition, keeping you ahead of rapidly evolving technologies and saving money that you can allocate to various growth initiatives.
In a world where efficiency is king, it’s important to stay up-to-date on energy-saving opportunities. But where do you start? This article will break down all of the steps you can take to update your building for today and the future.
1. Conduct an energy audit
In order to know where you can implement energy-saving practices, you must first assess your current energy needs: Where is the majority of your power going? When are you using the most power? What operations require the most energy? The least?
For commercial properties, it’s best to get a professional energy audit. A professional will be able to assess your overall energy situation, work with you to identify where you can save, and suggest new tools and technologies you can implement to lower your energy output over time. Prices vary based on the size and scale of your property, but will generally range from $1,000 for a smaller building to $15,000 for a large-scale campus. For the best outcome, be sure to ask your auditor what information and documents he or she will need to be prepared in advance of your session. This will save you time and money when they arrive.
2. Establish guidelines for energy-saving practices
The average commercial building uses 20-30% more energy than it needs. That means that over the course of 5 years, a building will have wasted enough energy to run all of its functions for one full year or more. As energy costs continue to increase, this is not only a wasteful practice but a very expensive one as well. That’s why the first step your business should take in overhauling its energy practices is to cut down on any unnecessary power usage.
What are the most common culprits? Most notably, HVAC systems account for a huge amount of energy drain. Leaving your system on overnight or in areas of the building that aren’t being used, letting individuals override regular settings, and faulty/malfunctioning equipment can lead to a lot of wasted power. Another common culprit: lighting. Many buildings leave their lights on overnight, a practice that’s easily remedied and can save a solid amount of energy. Finally, turning all of your power systems—lighting, HVAC, computers, etc.—on at once at the beginning of the day can create what is known as “peak load”. You can save a lot by staggering this process throughout the day.
3. Invest in devices and technology with automated and energy-saving features
If your property does not use a Building Automation System (BAS) to regulate energy usage, it might be a good time to get one installed. And if your building already runs on a BAS and you’re still not as efficient as you could be, it may be time for an update. While older systems automatically adjust lights, airflow, and power supply based on time of day, room temperature, and motion detection, their impact is somewhat limited. Newer BASs are much more sensitive and can be programmed to include even more controls as new technologies are introduced. In a nutshell, they’re future-proof. Here are some of the many features of new BASs:
- Zone Scheduling: turns systems off and on based on location usage
- Automated Seasonal Temperatures: raises and lowers default temperatures based on time of year, so you’re not excessively heating or cooling the space when no one is in the building.
- Daylight Harvesting: automatically lowers lights during peak daylight hours to save lighting energy.
- Linking lighting to card entry access: Lights power on when someone enters the building with their key card.
- Central Monitoring: maintenance staff can monitor all power controls from one device.
4. Implement energy-efficient LED lighting
If you’re still using fluorescent bulbs to light your building, you should strongly consider the switch to LED. LED lights require a third of the power of fluorescent bulbs and last much longer—up to 50,000 hours if properly installed—so you’ll spend less money, time, and labor replacing them. They’re easily programmable and work well with the new automation technologies detailed above. Retrofitting existing lighting systems to work with LED fixtures is a simple and cost-effective process.
5. Consider solar panels
Once you have made all of the changes possible to reduce your energy usage, you might want to consider converting your systems to run on an alternative power source. Solar power is the most common of these alternatives and can be a great option for facilities looking to reduce their power costs and reliance on grid electricity, especially if the property is located in an area that receives ample sunlight. While the initial investment of installation might not seem small, going solar will cut your monthly energy bill by 75% on average. Most properties can expect an ROI in 3 to 7 years.
Furthermore, going solar spares you from dealing with the volatility of municipal power markets. When you’re harnessing your own energy source, you won’t be affected by price fluctuations or inflation of natural gas, coal, or nuclear energy.
6. Seek out rebates and tax breaks
For businesses and corporations, investing in energy efficiency can translate to substantial savings come tax season. The U.S. government offers tax deductions of up to $1.80/sq. ft. for commercial properties that reduce their heating and cooling to align with ASHRAE standards (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers). They also offer additional savings for more specific reductions on lighting, heating, and cooling, as well as investments in wind power, solar power, and alternative fuel cells. Individual states also offer rebates for various efficiency initiatives. You can search available incentives by state here.
With a few small adjustments, you can transform your commercial property into a streamlined, energy-efficient building of the future. Whether you go all-in with solar energy, LED upgrades, and a smart BAS or you start small with better conservation techniques, implementing power-saving practices can have a significant impact on your bottom line and increase your standing against competitors. Did we mention it’s also better for the environment? It’s a win-win situation all around.
John Watkins has been in the energy-efficient lighting industry for over 25 years. His background in lighting controls, power management, and IoT, as well as LED solutions, has helped FSC Lighting profitably survive the company’s conversion from a fluorescent OEM to a powerhouse LED fixture manufacturer and technology integrator. John oversees FSC’s product development, sales and marketing efforts directly.