There are many simple steps you can take in your facility to help reduce energy costs. Many measures require little or no investment on your part, and can reap great energy benefits. You may be able to fund more capital intensive energy efficiency retrofits using Pacific Gas and Electric Company's Energy Efficiency Financing program. Commercial customers may borrow up to $100,000, and non-profits, schools, and government agencies may borrow up to $250,000 to perform lighting, HVAC, refrigeration and other retrofits – with 0% interest loans repaid through your utility bill. Whatever you do, just make sure you aren’t throwing money down the drain, out the window, through cracks in your ducts … and so on.
Upgrading lighting is one of the most cost-effective steps you can take to save energy, boost your cash flow, and improve the look of your business.
- Replace inefficient fluorescent lamps. Lighting fixtures that are more than 10 years old and have 1.5 inch diameter tubes waste a lot of energy. Replace T-12 fluorescents with T-8s; they have better color, less flicker, and use 20 percent less energy.
- For task lighting, replace incandescent lights with compact fluorescent bulbs or lamps (CFLs). They use 3 to 4 times less energy, and last 8 to 10 times longer. Better yet, use light emitting diodes (LEDs), which are even more energy efficient and longer lasting, and use task lighting rather than lighting an entire area. The NRDC's guide to energy efficient lightbulbs will help you understand the full cost of a light bulb, so you can choose the least expensive bulb over the long run, while also ensuring that you have enough light.
- Install dimmable ballasts for fluorescents where a skylight or some other kind of daylighting is in place.
- Replace incandescent exit signs with Energy Star® LEDs to reduce energy use by half.
- Install occupancy sensors to automatically shut off lights in spaces not frequently occupied, such as storage rooms, break rooms, and conference rooms. Post reminder signs to turn off lights in locations that do not have sensors.
- Install motion sensors or photocells on outdoor lighting. If you already have motion sensors, make sure the controllers are working and set properly. Make sure exterior lights are off during the daytime.
- Halogen lightbulbs are notorious for their short lamp life, and also produce lots of heat, wasting energy that should otherwise be producing light. When standard halogen bulbs fail, replace them with halogen infrared (HIR) that use 30% less energy. Better yet, LED replacement bulbs are rapidly coming down in price. Given their incredible ability to produce light with minimal expense, they are a great investment to minimize operating expenses. Plus, they don't contain mercury or flicker like fluorescent bulbs. One word of advice: LEDs operate best in cool conditions, so be sure to only buy LEDs that have fins along the side (see picture above). These fins act to disperse heat, ensuring that your LEDs will run as long as possible.
Two programs can help you determine what you need: No-cost, no-obligation lighting audit are available for non-profits through the SMC Energy Watch program (650-599-1403); and for small- to medium-size businesses through the RightLights program (888-846-5050).
Heating & Cooling
- Perform scheduled maintenance on all heating and cooling units and have your service technician check that the ducts are still sealed and insulated and that the condenser coils are cleaned.
- Perform regular scheduled maintenance on units, including cleaning burners and air conditioner coils, cleaning and replacing air filters regularly, and checking ducts for leaks and pipe insulation for damage. Have your HVAC service person check the coolant charge, since an incorrect charge can make the unit work harder (and use more energy) to cool your air.
- Replace HVAC air filters at least every three months.
- Install programmable thermostats for better control of heating and air conditioning. Set thermostat to 68 degrees (heating) and 78 degrees (cooling) when occupied. You use 3-5% more energy for each degree the furnace or boiler is set above 68 degrees and for each degree the air conditioner is set below 78 degrees. Adjust the temperature settings to avoid overheating or over-cooling. An adjustment of only a degree or two can cut heating or cooling bills by two to three percent. Extending that to three or four degrees can produce savings of 10% or more.
- Use the economizer on your HVAC system to bring in outside air for cooling when it’s cooler than the air inside. If not using ventilation to cool the building, turn off fans during unoccupied hours.
- Keep windows and doors closed while HVAC system is running. Weatherize your doors and windows with weather stripping or caulk. Leaks can increase your energy use by 50%. Be sure to keep your exterior and freight doors closed as much as possible.
- Install awnings, window film, window coverings and/or reflective roof coverings to reduce summer time solar heat gain. Planting trees or other vegetation on the south and west side of your building will cut cooling costs – and look nice, too.
- Do not block air flow to HVAC vents to allow system to operate efficiently.
- Set the water heater thermostat at 140 degrees or “normal.”
- Wash only full loads in a dishwasher and use the shortest cycle that will get your dishes clean. If operating instructions allow, skip the drying cycle and open the door to allow dishes to dry naturally.
PG&E’s Quality Maintenance (QM) program can help: Designed for rooftop package and split-system units, The QM Program can lower HVAC operating, repair and replacement costs and minimize system failures that can threaten business operations. Plus, incentives are paid directly to the customer and the contractor to help offset the incremental cost of the Quality Maintenance service agreement.
PG&E's Retrocommissioning (RCx) program provides incentives for retrofitting outdated, inefficient equipment, as well as incentives to optimize existing equipment.
PG&E's Demand Response programs offer incentives to businesses that reduce the energy use of their facilities during times of peak demand. Businesses can benefit, and also help alleviate the strain on California’s power supply.
- Buy energy-efficient appliances and electrical equipment. Look for the Energy Star® label. Don’t forget to activate energy efficiency settings.
- Turn off computers, monitors, printers, and copiers every night and every weekend. Check PG&E's list of power management software that is eligible for rebates.
- Office plug loads - the energy consumed by all of our electronics plugged into the wall - account for roughly 20% of electricity in California's offices. Smart strips have specialized outlets, with one outlet in "always on" mode (typically for your computer), and the rest of the outlets controlled by a motion sensor, allowing your devices (task lighting, desktop printer, fan, etc.) to shut down when you walk away from your desk for a while. Smart power strips can save up to $50 a year per strip on your utility bill.
- Check cubicles and other areas to make sure “personal” heaters are turned off – these small heaters are often left on by accident, and surprisingly, represent a significant winter electric load in office buildings.
- Curb phantom electricity use. Even after powering down, equipment such as cell phone chargers can still consume energy in the standby mode if not unplugged. Plug multiple appliances into power strips so that many items can be turned off at the same time.
- Considering a desktop virtualization project? If your calculations show that the new equipment will be more efficient than the industry standard, you may be eligible for an incentive from PG&E. Note: You'll need to apply for the incentive before you purchase any equipment so PG&E can confirm your calculations.
PG&E's Business Computing Rebate Catalog has a list of rebates for computer equipment.
Buildings are the number one energy consumer in the nation, and windows are the number one source of energy loss in buildings.
- Install shades, awnings or sunscreens on windows facing south and/or west to block summer light.
- In summer, close shades during daylight hours in areas that experience heat buildup. In winter, open shades and blinds during daylight hours.
- Window films are most cost-effectively installed on south and west facing windows. There are two types of window film: reflective film that reflects and absorbs solar rays through metalic inserts in the film and non-reflective film that absorbs solar energy. Window film acts as a sunscreen for your windows, blocking UV and infrared rays from entering your building (UV, infrared, and visible light are the 3 components of solar radiation). They block nearly 99% of UV radiation, and save on average 5 to 10% of your building's energy bill.