Eight Low-Cost Ways to Use Less Energy and Stop Wasting Money in Your Buildings

July 14, 2022

Blog post adapted by Lulu August, Montgomery County Climate Intern Summer 2022 (she/her)

Looking to improve your building’s operations and maintenance, save energy, and save money this summer? The Environmental Protection Agency recommends 8 low-cost ways:

  1. Afterhours Audit: Conduct an afterhours energy audit to identify any appliances or systems that are on after business hours but shouldn’t be. By identifying and addressing these energy drains, you can save energy and money.
  2. EMS Programming: Take full advantage of energy management systems (EMS) to optimize start-up time, power-down time, and equipment sequencing. Although many facilities have sophisticated, computerized EMS in place, most only use these systems to turn equipment on and off. These systems can be programmed to accomplish control strategies such as optimal start/stop, air- and water-side economizing, chilled and heating water resets, night setback and setup, night purge, morning warm-up, hot and cold deck optimization, and lighting sweeps.
  3. Janitorial Scheduling: Lighting can require a significant amount of energy. Consider revising janitorial practices to reduce the hours that lights are turned on each day. For example, switching to day-cleaning, which takes place while occupants are in the building, not only saves energy but has been shown to also reduce tenant complaints.
  4. Preventive Maintenance: To create sustainable, long-lasting energy systems and appliances, implement a preventive maintenance program. Even if a piece of equipment or a system is meticulously maintained, using inadequate control strategies or improper scheduling can waste vast amounts of energy and lead to premature equipment failure. Rather than focusing on component-by-component care, address both operation and maintenance equally in preventive maintenance programs. This can include periodic reviews, seasonally adjusting control strategies, and tracking performance over time.
  5. Routine Inspection: Visually inspect insulation on all piping, ducting and equipment for damage (tears, compression, stains, etc.). By implementing any needed repairs, you can reduce energy leaks in your building.
  6. Commissioning: Retro or re-commission the building systems, including heating, cooling, air distribution, and more to make sure they are running as intended. (See EPA’s tips here.)
  7. Energy Savings Treasure Hunt: Embark on a Treasure Hunt to identify easy opportunities to improve energy and water efficiency. (Start EPA’s Treasure Hunts here.)
  8. Leak Repair: Find and repair leaking faucets and equipment. A dripping hot water faucet can waste hundreds of gallons of water per year, plus the energy to heat it. (Find more water-saving tips here.)

At first glance, this list may appear to increase the workload of Operations & Management staff. However, performing these tasks on a regular, proactive basis should save staff time in the long run, because preventive maintenance helps to reduce equipment malfunction, the frequency of troubleshooting, unplanned breakdowns, and building occupant complaints.

This article was adopted from the Environmental Protection Agency.

6 comments on "Eight Low-Cost Ways to Use Less Energy and Stop Wasting Money in Your Buildings"

  1. Hi Lulu August,

    I love this article! You give a great breakdown of the operations and maintenance tasks that should be included in a preventive maintenance program.

    I appreciate that you provide specific tips for how to go about implementing these tactics, such as routine inspection, commissioning, energy savings treasure hunt, and leak repair.

    What stands out to me is your emphasis on proactivity – while it may appear to increase workload in the short term, performing proactive tasks like these can save staff time in the long run.

    This makes perfect sense; if we take preventative measures now, we can avoid more significant issues.

    Furthermore, I think what’s also important here is that operations and maintenance staff recognize and take advantage of the opportunities they have to save energy.

    Whether through upgrading equipment, installing timers on lighting, or replacing inefficient products with new Energy Star-rated ones, there are many ways in which we can practice energy conservation throughout our facilities.

    Overall, I enjoyed reading your article and appreciate you taking the time to shed some light on effective preventive maintenance strategies.

    Thanks for such an informative post!

  2. When it comes to HVAC system maintenance, always remember such a thing as regular filter replacement. The filters in your air conditioner typically need to be changed every couple of months. Unfortunately, most people don’t change their filters often enough, causing the AC’s performance to suffer significantly.

    1. Yes, it’s important to change air filters regularly for better air conditioner performance and efficiency. However, dirty air filters can also cause poor indoor air quality in your home, leading to allergies and even heart diseases.

  3. Polestar says:

    One often overlooked way to save energy and money in your building is by installing low-flow showerheads and faucets. These fixtures use less water than traditional ones, which not only helps to conserve water but also reduces the amount of energy needed to heat it.

  4. Happy Hiller says:

    Yeah, proper home insulation works wonders. By the way, if you get your hot water from a hot water storage tank, you also need to insulate it for winter. Insulation with an R-value of at least 24 is preferable. This could reduce heat loss by up to 45% and save you around 10% in water heating costs.

  5. New Era says:

    Also, consider smart thermostat installation. While smart thermostats cost more than mechanical thermostats, the benefits they provide are well worth it. Smart thermostats save you money. According to real-world data gathered by the Environmental Protection Agency, smart thermostats that meet Energy Star criteria save users an average of 8 percent on their utility bills.

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