The average office building in the United States constitutes about 40% of the entire country’s energy expenses. While this high percentage comes at a cost to company owners, it also increases pollution at a time when sustainability can be a competitive advantage.
Needless to say, offices need some energy-efficient upgrades. Not only will doing so cut back on power usage, but it will also improve a business’s bottom line. Here are seven easy ways companies can save energy around the workplace and minimize costs.
1. Encourage Energy-Efficient Habits
When it comes to workplace energy expenditure, the employee’s daily habits are more influential than any design change. Business leaders need to encourage their workers to practice energy-efficient habits. These are some good places to start:
- Do routine energy audits.
- Only use the printers when necessary.
- Turn off the lights when leaving the room.
- Unplug devices when not in use.
- Open the windows instead of using A/C when practical.
- Use low brightness, dark mode and other power-saving settings on computers.
- Create an energy-saving employee rewards program.
Like with any other long-term goal, organizations can only achieve their energy conservation goals with complete buy-in from the staff. Many small efforts throughout the day can add up to significant savings.
Promoting employee health and wellness also plays a surprisingly important role in energy conservation. Allow the staff to stay active at work instead of glued to their electronics. For example, a flexible break policy means workers spend slightly less time on their computers and tablets, which helps to reduce their energy usage on those devices.
2. Switch to Green Appliances
There are also many small eco-friendly appliances businesses can use to cut back on daily energy consumption. These particular appliances have seen the most success in commercial spaces:
- CFL and LED light bulbs
- EnergyStar-certified HVAC system
- Solar-powered phone and laptop chargers
- Non-toxic cleaning products that don’t harm the indoor air quality
- Power strips, computer monitors, water filters and other SMART technologies
One product might not make a vast difference, but a commercial building full of energy-saving appliances can make significant reductions in the long run.
3. Set a Strict Temperature Policy
Temperature control is a vital part of energy conservation. If the building’s temperature fluctuates throughout the day, the thermostat and HVAC system have to work harder and thus expend more energy. Employees also tend to make frequent thermostat adjustments that slowly increase energy emissions.
Managers and executives need to establish the building’s ideal temperature and enforce it. Don’t allow employees to change it whenever they want. Other minor adjustments like sealing up drafts and using heavier curtains during the winter will make the HVAC system’s job easier and help to stabilize the building’s temperature.
4. Invest in High-Quality Windows
One worthwhile investment for both commercial and residential buildings is high-quality windows. Their size and transparency are equally important. Larger windows such as wall windows and skylights let in more natural light, improving employee health and productivity and reducing your reliance on artificial lighting.
However, too much sunlight can cause indoor temperatures to rise, especially in warmer climates. To prevent this problem, add heat-reflecting window films to improve insulation and keep the temperature steady. They block up to 80% of heat from the sun and offer UV ray protection.
These window upgrades also have smaller benefits that aren’t immediately apparent. They will make the building look more visually appealing because any smudges on the glass will be harder to see. Reduced glare will help workers use their computers without hurting their eyes. The summer months will also be more comfortable without businesses needing to blast the A/C.
5. Add Solar Panels
Solar panels have boomed in popularity in the last decade, both in residential and commercial spaces. They provide a reliable alternative energy source, using photovoltaic panels to absorb sunlight and convert it to clean electricity. They can reduce the office’s dependence on the local power grid and offer protection from power outages.
The initial installation will be expensive, but commercial buildings should see a full return on investment in just three or four years if they use the panels properly. Plus, if the company ever has to relocate, selling the building will be easier because solar panels are highly sought after in the housing market.
Solar panels also come with some sizable government incentives. The Inflation Reduction Act passed in 2022, which expanded investments in renewable energy and includes a 30% tax credit for property owners who install solar panels before 2032. Business owners should take advantage of this tax credit to offset the expensive installation costs.
6. Install a Water Recycling System
Water usage is one of the most overlooked aspects of workplace energy consumption. Everyone focuses on electricity, but water is just as important. Instead of staying reliant on local sources, businesses should set up their own water recycling systems and harvesting devices to drastically reduce their consumption.
These systems have simple recycling procedures. They capture rainwater and snowmelt, pump it through a purification device, then send the finished product back into the building’s pipe systems. Using recycled water can satisfy up to 50% of the building’s needs, slashing its water usage — and water bill — as long as the system remains clean and functional.
7. Take Extra Care of the Roof and Ceilings
Every building’s roof and ceilings are the main structural components responsible for stabilizing indoor temperatures. If the shingles and ceiling insulation are in good shape, it becomes much easier to adapt to outdoor weather changes throughout the year. Commercial property owners must pay special attention to their roofs and ceilings if they want to conserve energy.
Businesses should also consider installing roof tiles that reflect sunlight and prevent the layers underneath from overheating. Reflective paint is another viable option that reduces heat absorption and keeps the shingles cool. Closed cell spray foam insulation is the most energy-efficient option for both commercial and residential buildings.
Energy Efficiency Can Be Simple
These seven pointers are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to energy efficiency. Conserving water and electricity in commercial spaces isn’t complicated. It just requires daily participation from the workforce, some appliance upgrades here and there, and strategically placed investments in renewable or recyclable energy sources. Business leaders can confidently use this list as a launching pad for their future energy conservation efforts.