When summer’s back in swing, it’s the perfect time to make sure your building is operating efficiently. These straightforward measures have the potential to save significant amounts of energy, leaving you with more money for your business while maintaining or improving occupant comfort.
HVAC temperature setbacks. Because HVAC systems account for a large amount of the energy consumed—nearly 30 percent of all electricity used, in the case of office buildings—adjusting temperature settings can be a source of substantial savings. In particular, it’s a great idea to turn temperature settings up during unoccupied hours and on weekends during the summer. You can automate these settings with programmable thermostats or through a building automation system. You can also try implementing small temperature setbacks during working hours—a simple 1° to 2° Fahrenheit change in temperature will frequently go unnoticed by occupants.
Daylighting controls. Daylighting control systems use sensors to adjust electric lighting levels in response to available daylight. These controls can reduce your lighting energy consumption by 20 to 80 percent, as well as lowering cooling costs. If you have areas where natural daylight is prevalent, consider installing such controls. Or if you have previously installed these controls, check them to make sure they are properly calibrated and working as expected.
Night precooling. If your building has a building automation system, consider cooling the building at night with outside air. This strategy lowers the temperature of the overall building mass, resulting in a smaller cooling load during the day. Studies have shown that this strategy can save between 5 and 20 percent of overall cooling energy, depending on the climate. It can also result in improved occupant comfort by improving air quality.
Clean the condenser coils. When the condenser coils in your air-conditioning equipment become dirty, their ability to effectively transfer heat diminishes. Check your condenser coils for any natural or artificial debris that has accumulated to make sure they’re working as efficiently as possible, and thoroughly wash the coils twice annually for sound preventive maintenance.
Change the filters. Particularly during summer months, filters should be changed on a regular basis to make sure the air-conditioner fan isn’t using more energy than necessary trying to push air through clogged filters. If your building is located next to a highway, construction site, or other location where the air is dirtier than usual, consider changing filters as often as several times each month.
Check the economizer. Many air-conditioning systems use a dampered vent called an economizer that draws in cool outside air when it is available to reduce the need for mechanically cooled air. However, if not regularly checked, the linkage that opens and shuts the damper can seize up or break, potentially resulting in large energy waste—an economizer that is stuck in the fully open position can increase a building’s annual energy bill by as much as 50 percent.
Because the weather is nice and cooling season is here, it’s a great idea to have a licensed technician check, clean, calibrate, lubricate, and, if necessary, repair your air-conditioning equipment. It’s also likely to be easier for technicians to access your equipment at this time of year as well.