With energy prices on the rise, building owners and facilities professional may be bracing themselves for skyrocketing utility bills this summer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is encouraging businesses to take the ENERGY STAR® Challenge, an initiative that calls on building owners across the country to implement measures to reduce energy use by 10 percent or more.
In a release issued in early May, the EPA highlighted the following opportunities for savings:
- Not being aware of the efficiency of your facility(s) and the opportunity for cost-saving improvements.
- Cooling, heating, and lighting systems that operate at full load when not needed.
- Problems with cooling systems that lead employees to use their own personal fans.
- Inadequate maintenance of cooling systems.
According to the EPA, the following five steps can help building owners reduce their energy use and realize as much as a 30-percent cost savings:
- Measure the energy use of your building(s) and set an energy-savings goal. Use the EPA’s free online tool, the national energy performance rating system (www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=evaluate_performance.bus_portfoliomanager), to assess and benchmark your facilities’ energy use.
- Inspect cooling system equipment now and perform monthly maintenance. Recommended actions include unclogging outdoor condensing units, inspecting ducts and sealing leaks, ensuring that air filters are not dirty or clogged, calibrating thermostats, conducting a full-system check up, investing in variable speed technology, and more. For guidance, download the EPA’s Building Upgrade Manual (www.energystar.gov/ia/business/BUM.pdf).
- Turn back, or turn off, cooling equipment when not needed.
- Get building occupants involved. Educate tenants and building occupants about energy-saving behaviors and encourage them to help you meet your energy-saving goals. According to the EPA, “Promoting energy awareness among staff can provide positive returns quickly for a small upfront cost.”
- Improve lighting systems. Make sure that lights are turned off when not in use, consider installing occupancy sensors where appropriate, perform routine maintenance, shut off outdoor lighting during daytime hours, and replace inefficient equipment.
For a checklist to help you implement these five steps, visit (http://www.energystar.gov/ia/business/Summer_Checklist.pdf).
ENERGY STAR is a government-backed program helping businesses and individuals protect the environment through superior energy efficiency. With the help of ENERGY STAR, Americans saved enough energy in 2005 to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 23 million cars - all while saving $12 billion on their utility bills. To find out more, visit (www.energystar.gov).