May 312018

make your office more energy efficientAre you tired of paying an outrageous amount for your business’s monthly electric bills? Electricity is one of the biggest overhead expenses for businesses that operate in an office. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. businesses spend an average of $654.98 per month for electricity, with businesses in Washington D.C. spending the most at a staggering $3,152.26 per month.

Electricity isn’t just a luxury for modern businesses; it’s a necessity. And while there’s no practical way to eliminate your business’s monthly electric bills, you can lower it by making your office more energy efficient. Upgrading your office with energy-efficient technology and adopting energy-saving habits will reduce your business’s environmental footprint while saving you money on electricity costs in the process.

Tune Up HVAC System Annually

A heating, ventilation and cooling system (HVAC) is essential for creating a cool, comfortable and productive working environment in your office, but it’s also the biggest source of consumed energy. Statistics show that about one-quarter of a commercial building’s monthly energy usage goes towards its HVAC system. Having your office’s HVAC system tuned up at least once a year can improve its performance and efficiency.

During a typical tune up, an HVAC technician will clean the condenser coils, check refrigerant levels, replace the air filter, inspect fan blades, inspect electrical connections, test and calibrate the thermostat, inspect return vents and more. The purpose of an HVAC tune is to catch problems early, before they progress into bigger, more costly problems that leave you with an expensive electric bill.

Set the Thermostat

Adjusting the thermostat in your office can also save money on heating and cooling. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends an indoor climate of 68 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit and a humidity level of 20% to 60%. Therefore, you should set your thermostat for somewhere within this temperature range for your business’s hours of operations. You can save energy, however, by adjusting the thermostat – setting it higher in the summer or lower in the winter – at night when your office is unoccupied. If no one is in your office past 7:00 p.m., blasting the air conditioner or heater will only waste energy without offering any real benefits.

Turn Off Computers at the End of the Day

Turn Off Computers at the End of the Day

Many office workers neglect to turn off their computer at the end of the day. Rather, they allow it to enter sleep or hibernation mode. Both sleep and hibernation mode still consume power, however, so you should encourage workers to turn off their computer and monitor before leaving the office. You can even plug workers’ computers into a power strip, allowing you to easily turn off all connected computers by flipping a switch on the strip.

So, how much money will you save by turning off computers in your office? It varies depending on the number of computers, what they are used for, how long they are used and other factors. But a study published by US News Report – You should shut down your computer every night found that businesses with 10,000 desktop computers in their office waste $260,000 in energy from idling (computer is turned on, but no one is using them). While you probably won’t save one-quarter of a million dollars, it can still make a noticeable difference in your business’s monthly electric bills.

Move IT Infrastructure to the Cloud

Move your IT infrastructure to the cloud.

If your office currently houses data servers or other information technology (IT) equipment, consider moving it to the cloud. According to a study conducted by McKinsey Co. and Gartner, up to 90% of the energy consumed by data servers is wasted. When data servers are stored locally in your office, you must power them. And being that they are power-hungry devices, the costs can quickly add up. Furthermore, locally stored data centers require onsite maintenance. If something goes awry with a server, you must send an IT technician to fix, also adding to the total cost.

You can lower the cost of your business’s IT infrastructure by moving it to the cloud. Whether you choose Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM, Google Cloud Platform or Oracle, cloud services eliminate the need for local IT equipment. You simply purchase the type and amount of IT resources that your business needs from a cloud service provider (CSP) over the internet. The resources are accessed online, thus eliminating the need for local, on-premise IT equipment.

Replace Incandescent Bulbs With LEDs or CFLs

Replace Incandescent Bulbs With LEDsOne of the easiest ways to make your office more energy efficient is to replace incandescent light bulbs with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) or compact fluorescent lighting (CFLs). Because they are the cheapest, many business owners choose incandescent bulbs to illuminate their office. But incandescent bulbs cost more over time because of their short lifespan and high energy consumption properties.

An incandescent light bulb will last for about 1,200 hours while consuming 60 watts of electricity. In comparison, a CFL bulb will last for 8,000 hours while consuming just 15 watts of electricity. LEDs are the most efficient, as they consume just 7 watts of electricity and last for up to 50,000 hours. Replacing incandescent bulbs with either LEDs or CFLs is a great way to save energy in your office.

If you’re going to use CFLs in your office, though, you should instruct workers not to throw blown CFLs in the trash. Unlike incandescent bulbs and LEDs, CFLs contain toxic mercury. If disposed in the trash, this mercury vapor could be released into the environment. Contact a local hazardous waste disposal center for instructions on how to dispose of blown CFLs.

Use Smart Lighting

In addition to replacing incandescent bulbs with LEDs or CFLs, you can also save energy in your office by using smart lighting. These systems automatically control lighting by turning on fixtures when workers are present and turning them off when workers are not present. Known as occupancy detection, it’s intended to create a more energy-efficient environment, either in a workplace or home.

Many workers neglect to turn off lights before leaving their room, cubicle or space. Over time, the cost of this wasted energy will add up, resulting in higher monthly electric bills. With a smart lighting solution, however, this isn’t a problem. The lights in your office will turn off automatically when no one is around to save energy and, subsequently, money.

Upgrade to ENERGY STAR Appliances and Equipment

Upgrade to ENERGY STAR Appliances and EquipmentAppliances and equipment featuring the ENERGY STAR logo are designed with stringent specifications to reduce energy consumption. Product manufacturers must adhere to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) and Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) requirements to receive this accolade. If a product fails to meet the necessary criteria, the manufacturer can’t display the ENEGY STAR logo on it. By choosing ENERGY STAR appliances and equipment for your office, you can significantly reduce your business’s energy usage.

Here are a few different types of ENERGY STAR-certified products for the office:

  • Computers
  • Monitors
  • TVs
  • Printers
  • Copiers
  • Routers
  • VOIP phones
  • Data servers
  • Uninterruptible power supplies
  • Refrigerators
  • Dishwashers
  • Ovens
  • Dehumidifiers
  • Vending machines
  • Water coolers

Many manufacturers also offer rebates on the purchase of their ENERGY STAR products. Before buying a new product for your office, use this online tool to see if there’s a rebate available. This can help offset the cost of new energy-efficient appliances and equipment for your office.

Control the Curtains

Curtains are more than just an aesthetic feature of your office; they affect your office’s climate and energy usage. According to the DOE, pulling window curtains closed during the summer days reduces heat gains by up to 33% and pulling them closed during the winter reduces heat loss by up to 10%.

Not all curtains offer the same energy-efficient benefits, so it’s important to choose the right type for your office. Insulated curtains offer the greatest benefit because of their thermal-resistant properties that minimizes the transfer of heat.

Cut Back on Printing

Cutting back on the amount of paper that you print can save energy in your office. According to Record Nations, the average office worker prints 10,000 pages of paper each year, nearly half of which ends up in the trash at the end of the day. Each page of paper requires energy to print, and printing tens of thousands of pages can leave your business with a hefty electric bill. So, encourage workers to make smarter printing decisions by printing only the pages that they absolutely need.

You can also cut back on printing by switching to digital media. Rather than printing letters to send customers or clients, for example, you can send emails. You can even design the emails to look just like an actual letter.

Fix Thermal Leaks

Thermal leaks in your office can cost your business big bucks. If your office isn’t sealed, warmed or cooled air will escape, forcing your HVAC system to consume more power as it tries to achieve the target temperature set in the thermostat. Whether you do it yourself or hire an HVAC technician, you should inspect your office for thermal leaks.

Common sources of thermal leaks in office buildings include the following:

  • Missing or damaged weatherstripping around doors and windows
  • Open doors or windows
  • Holes in ductwork
  • Poorly insulated attic or roof

Set Equipment to Low-Power Mode

Check the settings of your computers, printers, copiers and other equipment to see if they have a low-power or energy-saver mode. Many devices now feature modes such as these to help users save energy.  Low-power and energy-saver modes generally work by reducing the device’s performance so that it requires less power to operate. Windows laptops, for instance, will automatically switch to energy-saver mode when the battery is low, but you can adjust the settings so that it’s always on.

You may have to sacrifice some speed and performance when using low-power or energy-saver mode. Assuming you have relatively new, professional-grade equipment, though, it shouldn’t have a significant impact on your business’s operations.

Use Stairs Instead of Elevator

Taking the elevator to reach your office is certainly faster and easier than climbing the stairs, but it also consumes energy. According to Great Forest, elevators consume about 2.5 watt-hour (Wh) of energy for every floor they travel. If you need to go up five floors, that’s 12.5 Wh of energy. The only energy that climbing stairs consumes is your body’s own energy, making it a smart choice for energy-conscious business owners and workers.

Aside from saving energy, taking the stairs is also good for your health. It’s a form of aerobic exercise that stimulates the heart and lungs. Some studies have even found that people who climb stairs daily have a lower risk of heart disease than their counterparts who never or rarely climb stairs.

Beware of Vampire Devices

What are vampire devices, and how can they affect energy usage in your office? A vampire device is any device that constantly consumes electricity. A common example is a phone or tablet computer charger. When plugged into the wall, these chargers will continue to draw power, even if they aren’t connected to a device. Other vampire devices include radios, clocks, monitors, phones, answering machines, security systems, TVs and cable boxes. Unplugging or using a power strip to turn off vampire devices can reduce energy usage in your office.

Install a Solar Power System

Install solar panels similar to OFM, Inc's headquarters in North Carolina.If you’re willing to make the investment, installing a solar power system can reduce your business’s need for grid-supplied power. It won’t necessarily make your office more energy efficient, but it will lower your business’s electric bill by powering your office with clean, renewable solar power. With a solar power system installed atop of your office building’s roof, it will convert sunlight into electricity for use in your office.

A solar power system isn’t an option for all businesses. If your business operates in a high-rise commercial building with dozens of other businesses, you may not have the authority to install solar panels on the roof or surrounding property. But if you do have this authority, a solar power system is a smart investment for your business.

Don’t let the high cost of electricity hurt your business’s finances. Follow these tips to create an energy-efficient office. Be sure to check out our tips on how to Go Green in your office as well.