Energy costs are often the biggest monthly expense faced by a commercial establishment. However, with a few small changes to your energy usage practices, you can trim your ongoing energy costs by a significant amount. Implement some or all of the following small changes and see quick results.
- Establish your current status with an energy audit: An energy audit is a sophisticated evaluation process designed to find those areas where energy consumption or loss is highest. With this information, you can better plan the small changes that you need to implement to reduce energy usage and waste to save money. An energy audit can include a careful assessment of your energy bills to help find usage patterns along with an on-site inspection of your building to find obvious deficiencies and areas where further evaluation is needed. The auditor may conduct an infiltrometer or blower door test, which can reveal the location of otherwise-invisible air leaks. Thermographic scans can show areas of heat loss, while surface thermometers can pinpoint areas that are hotter or colder than expected.
- Construct an energy savings and conservation plan for your building: Put together a written plan for reducing energy usage throughout your commercial facility. This is one of the small changes that can be done for free and can result in noticeable energy savings and cost reductions. The plan, for example, could describe how hot water temperatures in bathrooms will be reduced by a few degrees or that thermostats will be adjusted up or down, according to the season, after business hours. Make sure the other occupants of the buildings are aware of the plan and understand why it is being put into place.
- Install programmable thermostats: The use of programmable thermostats is also among the least costly but most effective of small changes made to reduce energy use. These devices can be programmed to automatically reduce heating and cooling system operation at certain times of day, such as at night when the building is closed. They will then automatically increase heating or cooling the next morning in time for the building to be comfortably warm or cool when employees or customers begin to arrive.
- Change HVAC system filters regularly: This may seem minor, but regularly changing air filters in your heating and cooling systems can reduce energy waste by as much as ten percent. Fresh, clean filters also reduce wear and tear on your HVAC equipment, reducing its useful life. In general, filters should be changed once a month, or more often if they tend to get dirty sooner.
- Have preventive HVAC maintenance performed: Preventive maintenance consists of regular checks, inspections, and adjustments designed to keep your heating and cooling equipment working at its best and most efficient level. Neglected equipment can waste substantial amounts of energy and money as its performance and efficiency drops. Your HVAC professional can make adjustments, minor repairs, and improvements that will sustain performance. Heating equipment should receive maintenance in the fall and cooling equipment should be services in the spring. Consider purchasing a service agreement that will allow for regular maintenance visits. With such an agreement, your HVAC company will schedule the maintenance appointment, relieving you of the need to remember to do it.
- Seal air leaks: Air leaks can account for substantial air and energy loss, so make it a priority so seal them. Make sure areas around doors and windows are sealed, usually with silicone caulk. HVAC system ductwork should be sealed at all connections with mastic, a specialized sealant. All duct sections should fit tightly together. Install weatherstripping, rubber sweeps, or other draft-blocking material around doors and windows.