How to maximize your building's energy savings

July 22, 2016

Say your business wants to be carbon neutral. There are unlimited ways to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, so prioritizing solutions can seem overwhelming. Is it better to focus on upgrading your vehicle fleet, or tweaking your purchasing practices? Well, for Joule Energy, it all starts with our office building.

The International Energy Agency estimates that buildings make up roughly one-third of the world’s energy consumption. And according to Energy Star, the average building wastes around 30% of the energy it consumes. This means that up to 10% of the world’s energy consumption is potentially wasteful, consumed by inefficient buildings.

So how can we save energy (and not to mention, money) or reduce carbon emissions in a large commercial building? We can do this in a number of ways:


  • Installing a solar system
  • Upgrading lighting
  • Making structural improvements
  • Making equipment improvements
  • Encouraging operational efficiency


Let’s dive into each before determining which solutions might work best in your business's facility.


Installing a Solar System


There are many benefits to going solar, most of which we have already detailed in-depth.


Of course, going solar is not right for every business, but we like to think it’s a good decision for nearly every business. Good candidates for a commercial solar system are those facilities that:


  • Have a lot of square footage to spare, whether on the rooftop, parking lot, or an adjacent property
  • Have generally high utility bills
  • Plan to remain in the facility for a few more years


And that’s pretty much it. There are a few other considerations that might make going solar more attractive, but they aren’t necessary.


For example, it helps to go solar with a utility that supports commercial net metering, which credits you for the excess energy that you send back to the grid. However, you can go solar without net metering, as long as you size your system so that you consume all of the solar energy it produces on-site. If you’re looking to maximize your system size to fit your roof space, however, it’s helpful to have a net meter.


To get started with solar power, just fill out a free custom estimate request or call our office at 504-586-0625. It will help to have some utility bills ready, and we’ll talk you through the siting, sizing, and specifications of your solar system. Not ready to get an estimate yet? Read through the rest of our blog or our FAQ for more information about whether solar is right for your business.


Upgrading Lighting


In our view, upgrading a building’s lighting system to LED is a no-brainer for any business owner. The fact that virtually every business needs lighting to function well, and the quick payback that LED lighting provides, makes this a low-hanging-fruit investment that could even make your company money over the financing period, so there’s no reason not to look into it.


Who is a good candidate for a lighting upgrade? In this case, the beneficiaries are even more broadly defined as those who:


  • Have generally high lighting costs, whether for electricity, maintenance, or replacement
  • Plan to remain in the facility for a few more years


You may be wondering what “high lighting costs” means. Well, if you have to rent a lift or move your inventory to replace any of your lights, or hire a third-party provider to change them out, then you’re probably a great candidate for an LED fixture replacement. The same is true if several of your lights are currently burnt out, or you’re required to leave your lights on 12 hours per day or more, or you are using anything other than the highest-efficiency LED or fluorescent bulbs. No matter what type of lighting you currently have installed, you’re likely to replace it at least twice within the lifetime of most LED lighting, and spend way more on electricity.


How do you get started with LEDs? Gather your utility bills, hone your lighting schedule, and start researching LED lighting manufacturers. For a free Lighting Discovery and savings estimate, you can either request an appointment online or call us at 504-586-0625. And of course, if you’re looking for more information, read our blog, e-book, or FAQ, or reach out to us to request brochures, case studies, or other information.


Making Structural and Equipment Improvements


Do you have an out-of-date air conditioning system or old commercial kitchen appliances? Do your windows leak and your walls have little insulation? While structural and equipment improvements are generally the most expensive to undergo, they are sometimes necessary for maximizing energy savings and increasing the lifetime of your building.


While this is especially true for older buildings, newer buildings can also experience equipment failures and inefficiencies if they haven’t been cared for properly. So before making any structural or equipment improvements, make sure that you will be able to take care of your new and improved building in the long term.


Encouraging Operational Efficiency


While operational efficiency doesn’t always come with the biggest savings, it can sometimes have the quickest payback (given that many efforts are essentially no-cost). There are two ways to implement operational efficiency, by implementing controls or by changing behavior.


Implementing controls can be expensive, but can save a lot of money on top of lighting and equipment improvements. When it comes to controls, there are tons of options of varying sophistication. For lighting, you can implement anything from a simple timer or room occupancy sensor to “smart” controls at the fixture level. For HVAC equipment, this could take any form from a programmable or “smart” Nest thermostat to a full-blown Building Automation System (BAS). It’s not always appropriate to go with the most complex solution; it all depends on your facility’s size, how much energy is used, and where and when it is used.


Changing behavior, on the other hand, is often low-to-no-cost, but can be tricky to implement effectively. One good example of this is our effort to help employees remember to turn off the lights in their offices. In addition to labels on the light switches, our managers make sure to set a good example by turning off their own office lights and being vigilant about reminding others to do so. Through a combination of subtle reminders and collaboration between our team members, saving energy has become part of our culture.


While there are many ways to save energy in your office, warehouse, or facility, some will be more appropriate for your business than others. The best way to start is to prioritize these solutions (or come up with some of your own) in order of the highest return on investment for you. Not sure how to get started? Just ask one of our Energy Specialists, and we'll make sure you have all the tools and information you need to jumpstart your energy savings.

Interested in saving energy or have questions about our services? Click below or call us at 504-586-0625 to find out if solar or LED lighting is right for you.