Learn how to become an energy efficient business, and what it means for older commercial buildings.

Key Takeaways:

  • A data-driven approach can lead to optimal energy efficiency
  • Reduced costs and improved sustainability are big benefits for commercial buildings
  • Energy audits provide valuable money-saving information
  • Energy efficiency is more complicated for older buildings, but not impossible

Energy consumption can climb dramatically when the number of people and equipment a structure holds increases. This makes it easy to imagine how high meter readings can be for large corporate buildings! Optimizing power usage helps businesses save money and reduces their environmental footprint. Measuring and monitoring energy efficiency in commercial buildings is essential.

Various methods can bring buildings closer to this goal, from practical “nuts and bolts” solutions to using data-analytics tools to make well informed, cost-effective energy decisions. Here’s an overview of diverse ways businesses can stop wasting power and start generating savings.

It’s audit time

Don’t panic! Energy audits are the kind you want; they reveal where your business is burning unnecessary energy and dollars. Level 3 audits are the most extensive and effective.

Level 3 audits study everything in your commercial building that uses energy, including the people in it. Energy usage habits and schedules will be recorded to see who’s using what, where, when, and why. Diagnostic tests are key for energy audits, checking factors like the building’s insulation, airflow, and any leaks where internal heat or cold are escaping.

The role of a building energy management system (BEMS)

A BEMS is an increasingly common addition for energy-conscious businesses. It’s a computerized system that’s always running, constantly monitoring and controlling a commercial building’s energy use. A BEMS provides metering and submetering data, supplying powerful performance analytics that help businesses and electrical professionals see where energy inefficiencies are hiding.

Readings are precise; they record not only separate electrical systems and the energy use of individual pieces of equipment to discover the biggest power drains. A BEMS adds another layer of energy monitoring via remote control of electrical equipment, HVAC, and related systems.

Worried you left the lights on, but you’ve already locked up and left? Use the BEMS to switch them off. HVAC left running after hours? Power down from offsite! Maybe you have staff working overnight, such as in a warehouse or other industrial setting. A BEMS makes it simple for managers to check power consumption onsite or remotely via an online portal to monitor night shift energy efficiency.

Even when everyone is onsite, a BEMS can, with sensors, automatically turn HVAC, lighting, and more on and off as building and room occupancy shifts. Think about it: the larger your business, the more unoccupied space that typically exists. This means a lot of wasted energy if HVAC and lighting are on for nobody.

The cost of a BEMS depends on site square footage and the desired onsite technology. The final expense will therefore vary.

When energy data leads to electrical work

Depending on the results of your energy audit and EMS feedback, your commercial building may need to repair, upgrade, or replace electrical equipment and fixtures. In some cases, the HVAC system may benefit from a complete overhaul. Investing in a high-efficiency commercial HVAC system may sound intimidating, but it comes with many advantages (more on that below).

Changing commercial lighting is a common energy efficiency upgrade. Fitting LED lighting gives sites more control over how much light they use, and LED bulbs can last three to five times longer than fluorescents, and up to 30 times longer than incandescent bulbs. This makes them great energy savers and smart investments. Check out our earlier blog for more on the pros and cons of a lighting retrofit.

It’s easier in some structures than others to upgrade existing electrical systems like lighting and HVAC. Don’t worry if you’re in an older building; you can still make money-saving changes. The initial outlay will be higher, but long-term gains offset the investment cost. Older buildings may also be historic, which makes the retrofit process a little more complicated.

For example, some locales may impose certain building upgrade and alteration restrictions. This can limit what electrical upgrades can be done. Any work that can be completed will be subject to the same strict standards as any other commercial building.

Hopefully, businesses housed in older structures will only need some repairs and minor upgrades to stay up to code. Book an electrical inspection before you start considering energy-based alterations. Know exactly what you need, and can do, to make your business code compliant.

Energy efficiency benefits, summarized

Don’t make the initial expenses of energy-efficiency upgrades your primary focus. Instead, think of everything your business can gain:

  • Reduced long-term operating expenses through lower utilities and optimized equipment lifespan (inefficient energy use makes equipment work harder and wear out faster)
  • A lower commercial carbon footprint
  • Improved compliance with federal regulations on energy efficiency and emissions
  • Potentially increased property value at resale
  • Potential tax incentives and grants to help with energy upgrades

The incentives your business may qualify for varies based on scope of work and your location. Contact your local energy provider for more details and check out these Advanced Energy Retrofit Guides. They’re full of good ideas and proven practices for energy management. Best of all, they’re free!

Contact UES for expert power advice

We’re here to help many different industries in South Florida to optimize their electrical systems for efficiency, cost effectiveness, and safety. From HVACs and lighting to power supplies and control centers, UES is the team to call before or after an energy audit. Just contact us with any questions or for a free quote!