Friday, August 24, 2012

Ten Low-Cost Strategies to Reduce Your Energy Bill

This article previously appeared in the Entergy Solutions Plus newsletter, and is used with permission.

Key Points •A variety of conservation measures can lower your energy bill with little or no upfront investment.

•Conduct a walk-through audit to look for operational and maintenance practices that waste energy.

•Post reminders that will encourage everyone to get involved in your company's conservation efforts.
Reducing your energy bill is a great way to lower operating costs and increase your bottom line. However, the large upfront investment required for many efficiency upgrades is often a barrier, despite the long-term financial benefits. The low-cost measures that follow will help you save energy and reduce peak demand:

1.Take a walk. A walk-through energy audit is free and it is a great way to uncover cost-saving opportunities. Examine past energy bills for consumption data and review manuals and drawings for information about the building system and design. Visually inspect your facility to look for operational and maintenance practices that waste energy.

2.Use only what you need. This is the simplest and often the most effective energy-saving strategy. Turn off lights, motors, and electronic equipment when they are not being used. Time controls, occupancy sensors, and other energy-management devices are low-cost alternatives that automate this process and optimize energy savings.

3.Control temperature settings. Set building temperatures to minimize energy use while maintaining occupant comfort. Recommended energy-saving temperatures are 68°F in the winter and 75°F in the summer, although these could vary by facility type. Programmable thermostats are inexpensive and can optimize energy savings by automating temperature settings.

4.Maintain heating and cooling systems. Make sure that heating and cooling system equipment is cleaned and inspected by a qualified technician at least once per year. Regularly check for and repair leaks around seals, valves, pipe joints, and instrumentation. Check gauges and other instrumentation to ensure that they are in line with building maintenance policies or manufacturer's recommendations.

5.Slay the energy vampires. Office equipment, electronics and appliances continue to draw power when they are not in use; even when they are turned off. At industrial facilities, transformers consume power even when there is no load. Use sleep mode for computers, printers, and copiers to power them down when they are not being used. While you cannot unplug every device, use power strips to shut off clusters of equipment with a single flip of the switch.

6.Maintain lighting systems. Regularly clean and dust lamps, fixtures, and lenses every 6 to 24 months. This will maximize light output and reduce the need for additional or task lighting. Consider group relamping. This does not cost extra in terms of installation and it saves on labor while helping to maintain light output.

7.Reduce hot water temperatures. Water heaters are often set by manufacturers at 140°F. This is higher than necessary and can result in a substantial amount of wasted energy. Set water heater temperatures no higher than 120°F.

8.Vary operating hours. Depending on rate, peak energy demand and electrical rates may be highest in the late afternoon and early evening, particularly in the summer. By shifting work hours to periods of lower demand, you can save on energy costs. For example, a pharmaceutical manufacturer reduced peak demand by shifting summer production hours to 4:30 AM to 1:00 PM, and office hours to 6:00 AM to 2:30 PM. Employee flex time—where appropriate—can also reduce peak demand usage.

9.Limit personal appliances. Personal appliances such as space heaters, fans, and microwave ovens, can cost up to $135 per office each year. To limit expenses, require a formal request for personal appliances or charge for the privilege of using them. Remind employees with personal appliances to turn them off or unplug them when they are not being used.

10.Get everyone involved. Educate staff about the importance of conserving energy and their role in improving energy efficiency. Post reminders about turning off lights and equipment when not in use (see Energy Posters). Hold regular meetings about energy policies and solicit conservation ideas from staff.

These low-cost action items are a great starting place for a more complete energy-management program. See the Commercial and Industrial Energy Efficiency Recommendations for comprehensive, industry-specific advice on how to reduce costs and save money at your facility.