Expenses can add up quickly in an office space. The utility bill is one of the largest expenses businesses deal with for operations. Electricity is necessary for powering electronics throughout the building, but how can business owners save money?
Nowadays, there are smart ways to increase energy efficiency and keep a company rolling. This guide will outline how businesses can invest wisely in energy-efficient office improvements.
Investing in High-quality Windows
One worthwhile investment for an energy-efficient office is high-quality windows. These structures are integral in determining how eco-friendly the building is. Natural light entering the office is ideal because it increases productivity and helps workers’ health. A Cornell study found that optimized natural light reduced eyestrain by 51% and headaches by 63%. Though natural light has benefits, it can significantly alter the temperature of an office.
Natural light can quickly increase the temperature of the interior, especially in southern states during summer. A wise investment for an office is double- or triple-pane windows. These provide a thicker barrier to the outside environment, leading to more comfortable temperatures all year. The improved insulation leads to decreased dependence on the HVAC unit, thus lowering utility bills.
Examining Efficiency Ratings
Industry professionals can measure the efficiency of windows and other products before deciding on investments. A reliable rating comes from entities like Energy Star, a federal program the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DoE) use to promote building efficiency. They use metrics such as:
- R-value: The R-value is a common way to determine efficiency. In buildings, it refers to how an object, such as a window, resists heat flow. A high R-value means it effectively shields the inside from outside forces. However, the R-value doesn’t account for the entire unit for windows. To get that metric, a professional uses the U-value.
- U-value: The U-value, also known as the U-factor, is the inverse of the R-value. The U-value measures the rate of heat entering through the barrier. So, lower numbers are a good thing because they indicate higher efficiency. U-value is more important than R-value because it’s a part of the Energy Star program.
- SHGC: Another essential rating is the solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC). This metric determines how effectively a window or door blocks heat the sun produces. Lower SHGC values are better because they indicate that a low amount of solar heat transmission has occurred.
Adding Solar Panels
Solar panels are one of the smartest investments a company can make. These fixtures are a relatively new but growing technology in the energy sector. Solar production in the United States has increased significantly since 2012, when the country produced 4.3 million megawatt-hours. In 2021, the U.S. generated over 115 million megawatt-hours.
Installing solar panels is a quick way to see a return on investment (ROI). Solar power effectively generates cleaner energy for buildings, whether a company purchases one panel or an array. The panels use photovoltaic (PV) cells to absorb the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity. They reduce an office’s dependence on the energy grid and protect businesses from outages, power cuts, and other problems.
The 2020s are an excellent time to purchase a solar panel because of the tax credits that the federal government offers. In August 2022, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), expanding the government’s investment in renewable energy. The law extends the Solar Investment Tax Credit through the end of 2034. Commercial and residential property owners can receive a 30% tax credit for installing a solar panel through 2032.
Researching State Programs
The federal government offers the Solar Investment Tax Credit, and other opportunities exist to take advantage of financial incentives. Many individual states provide tax credits to property owners who purchase and install solar equipment. Commercial building owners can earn these credits on top of the federal ones, depending on the state. For example, New York taxpayers can earn the federal tax credit on top of the state credit without reducing either incentive.
Besides solar, there are opportunities for property owners to participate in state-sponsored programs that offer incentives for energy efficiency. Tennessee offers up to $300,000 in a zero-interest loan to cover the cost of energy efficiency upgrades after the state conducts an energy audit. New York provides a rebate of up to $1.65 million for Con Edison customers who match the state’s Energy Smart New Construction Program requirements.
Turning Off Electronics
Some organizations operate 24 hours daily and must keep their equipment turned on. However, other businesses have daytime operations and leave buildings empty at night. These offices should turn off their electronics at the end of every business day to conserve energy. Many businesses keep their lights and other equipment on without anyone there to use them. Turning off all devices makes a huge difference that will be reflected in the utility bill.
Energy consumption in buildings has become a significant problem. The power demand is rising and outpacing the world’s energy efficiency and decarbonization progress. In 2021, buildings consumed 30% of the world’s energy. Electricity alone was responsible for 35% of energy use in buildings, and air conditioning usage also rose. Turning off electronics at day’s end is an investment of time that will help the bottom line and the environment.
Making Equipment Changes
Powering down equipment is a manageable way to save money when nobody is in the building. What can offices do when people are present and working? Making small investments around the building can go a long way in becoming energy efficient. They may include:
- Electric fleet: Some companies have a fleet of cars the employees use for business purposes. Investing in an electric vehicle (EV) is a worthwhile venture. EVs are typically easier to maintain than gas-powered cars. They have no tailpipe emissions and improve the air quality around an office building.
- Smart thermostat: One strategy to improve indoor air quality (IAQ) is to get a smart thermostat. This device monitors many factors like temperature, humidity levels, and IAQ. Building owners can use their smartphones to control these aspects, whether in the office or out of town. Smart thermostats regulate the temperature when nobody is present and keep it comfortable when workers are there.
- LED lighting: Another easy upgrade for an office is switching to LED lighting. These bulbs are brighter than incandescents, consuming less electricity and producing less heat. They also have a longer life span, lasting years before replacement is necessary. LEDs are also beneficial for offices in cold climates. They require less power to turn on and remain energy efficient.
Making Wise Investments for the Office
In the 21st century, companies are focused on profitability and sustainability. These concepts have become connected as the planet becomes more concerned with global warming. Making energy-efficient office improvements is an investment that pays for itself over time. Simple changes like turning off electronics and switching to LEDs are immediate changes, whereas solar panels and EVs are excellent for the long term.