The biggest consumers of energy in an office setting are lighting, heating, cooling, and office electronics. Energy usage can be curtailed dramatically by focusing on those big energy uses, which can be upgraded to higher efficiency models or used less frequently by adjusting employee behavior (or both). The following list focuses on activities that can be accomplished with little or no financial investment (Note that efficiency improvements related to information technology are discussed later in this section).
The Alliance created a matrix to help you assess the cost effectiveness of each of the following strategies by comparing the level of operational investment to potential environmental impact. To view the matrixes for this section, click on the links below:
| Periodic Action|| Property Manager Involvement|
| Habitual Action|| Lower-Impact|
| Policy-Driven|| Higher-Impact|
|Get an Energy Audit|
If you’re interested in making substantial improvements to your office’s energy efficiency, an energy audit may be a good place to start. Whether it’s via an online audit tool or conducted by trained energy auditors, audits help identify and prioritize energy-saving opportunities so that you focus your investments on the most cost-effective efficiency upgrades. Talk to your utility about any energy audit or retrocommissioning programs that they offer; if they don’t have a program, they can recommend trained professionals who can conduct the audits for you.
|Energy Usage Software|
Many utilities now offer online tools to analyze past energy usage and monitor current usage. By examining patterns in energy consumption, you may notice areas of opportunity to reduce consumption. For instance, you should notice a significant drop in energy consumption during unoccupied hours; if you don’t, there may be a need to reduce heating and cooling or ensure that lighting and other equipment is shut off during unoccupied hours. Studying your current consumption patterns will also help you track your program’s accomplishments going forward.
Turn Off Lights and Appliances When Not In Use
Encourage all employees to turn off the lights as they leave a room. Make sure that the light switches are clearly visible; try putting reminder stickers on the switches, particularly for infrequently used rooms such as conference rooms, storage rooms, etc. Reminder stickers on infrequently used electronics and appliances would also be helpful; if it doesn’t need to be on all the time, it should be turned off or unplugged.
|Make Use of Daylight|
Offices can be organized in a way to maximize the use of daylight as opposed to artificial lights. In many cases, artificial lights can be turned off for most of the daylight hours.
|Label Light Switches|
Use labels to make it easy for employees to know exactly which switches control which lights, and whether or not those lights can be turned off or should be left on overnight for security purposes.
|Use Fans to Redue the Need for Air Conditioning|
Fans help make higher temperatures more comfortable. If strategically located fans help you raise the thermostat setting one degree during the summer without reducing comfort, you can save 3% in cooling costs.
|Move Copiers and Servers Away from Thermostat|
If the thermostat is located near the coper, server, or other heat-generating equipment, it may cause the air conditioning to run more than necessary, which wastes energy and reduces employee comfort. (A more efficient copier or server would also solve the problem!)
Only Heat and Cool Spaces When Necessary
If possible, avoid heating and cooling infrequently used spaces such as storage spaces and conference rooms except when necessary.
|Weatherstrip around Windows and Doors|
Use weatherstripping to minimize drafts and seal any leaks so that your HVAC system can do its job properly.
Deeper Efficiency Retrofits:
There are numerous upgrades to your building’s lighting, heating, cooling, water heating, and other systems that may be very cost-effective depending on your existing equipment’s efficiency. An energy audit (offered for little to no-cost by many utilities) can help uncover those major equipment upgrade opportunities, and many of these upgrades are eligible for utility rebates to help offset the costs. The ENERGY STAR Guide for Small Businesses (PDF) provides an excellent summary of these potential opportunities for equipment upgrades and also provides links to many additional resources.
Your organization should consider how long it intends to occupy the current building before making major efficiency upgrades. If you’re in a leased space, explore opportunities to share the costs and benefits of efficiency upgrades with your landlord via a green lease. See the California Sustainability Alliance’s Green Leases Toolkit for more information and sample lease documents.
ENERGY STAR’s Small Business Online Guide: Provides links to many technical resources on lighting, heating, cooling, and other technologies.
Summary of ENERGY STAR Tools and Resources for Businesses
DSIRE Database of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Incentives and Programs
PG&E Customers: List of Commercial Energy Efficiency Rebates
SCE Customer: Energy Management Solutions Guide for Offices (including incentive program information)
SCG Customer: Large Commercial Rebates
SDG&E Customers: Fact Sheet on Energy Efficiency Business Incentives