Five Major Ways Your Building is Losing Energy (& How To Find Them)!
We all want to know where we can get the best deals – whether you’re a coupon clipper, a sale hunter, or an expert bargainer, saving cash is always gratifying. Today we’re addressing the age-old question of how you can save the most on utility expenses. You might have an idea of how to reduce the amount of money you’re paying for energy and water every month, but there are a lot of small changes you can make that will make a significant impact on saving your building energy and money.
1. Leaking Air
- When air leaks through your building's envelope, it's moving air that you've paid to heat or cool and replacing it with uncomfortable outside air. Once that happens you're paying to heat or cool that new air. It's important to keep the air you're paying to make you comfortable stay inside your building. Energy.gov offers an illustration of common leakage points and strategies for finding and fixing them.
- Windows and doors: One of the quickest ways to solve leaky air is to check for gaps around windows and doors. Especially in older installations, it can be really common for drafts to occur through the bottom of doors or the edges of windows. Draft guards and weatherstripping can be used on doors to tighten them up. Old wooden windows can be made nearly as efficient as modern ones through restoration and weatherstripping. Some weatherstripping can be done yourself, but full restoration is best left to the professionals.
- Ceiling: believe it or not, most air actually leaks through the cracks near ceiling fixtures, like lights and fans. Called the “Stack Effect,” this difference in air density causes a natural suction of air though the top of a building, as well as outside air through the bottom of the building. This can be avoided in two steps – by sealing any cracks in the foundation, and properly insulating the ceiling of the building.
- Efficient bulbs: While both LED (light-emitting diode) and CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) lighting can increase lighting efficiency, we’re partial to LEDs because of the easier cleanup. CFLs contain small amounts of mercury, and therefore need to be specially recycled. However, both can contribute to greater efficiency and lower bills. Keep in mind that both types of lighting can work with special dimmers, but not typically with standard light bulb dimmers. LEDs are a bit pricier, but they are now subsidized by Ngrid.
- Dimmers: Everyone knows it’s efficient to turn off lights when you’re not in the room or when you can use natural daylight, but installing dimmers on light switches can increase electric savings even more. When you dim lighting, you’re reducing wattage and output, while also increasing the service life of the bulb. Installing dimmers is an inexpensive way to save electric usage. Dimmers work especially well with dimmable CFLs and LEDs.
3. Tenant Habits
- Wash clothes in cold water: this will not only save heating energy, but also help prevent that new favorite sweater from accidentally shrinking.
- If you live in a mild climate, consider air-drying your clothes outside. Air-drying also reduces the possibility of accidentally shrinking something.
- Unplug electronics when they’re not in use: this might be an obvious one, but it’s an easy one to ignore! Phantom loads can contribute to 10% over your overall home electric use. Smart power strips also help reduce phantom loads by only powering plugs when the device is actively turned on.
- Turning down the heat at night is a debated form of energy efficiency. Although it certainly saves energy at night, some argue that it takes almost as much energy to re-heat the house in the morning. Instead of letting it fluctuate, try to keep your thermostat at a comfortable, constant setting.
- Prep homes before a long vacation: if you know your home is going to be unoccupied for more than a few days, it will be worth it to turn down your heat to somewhere near 50 degrees if you’re in a colder climate, and unplug your larger electronics.
4. Programming Issues
- The controls on your heating system can have flaws that lead to unnecessary energy spikes. Improperly functioning heat pumps that operate only on a back-up heat source can increase heating costs as much as 40%. Boiler controls also need to be fine-tuned to ensure they're running correctly.
- We recently wrote a blog post about one of our clients who was able to catch a serious programing issue by viewing their data spikes in WegoWise. Be sure to keep track of these mechanical systems, because you never know what could be causing high usage.
5. Wild Cards:
- Toilet leaks: unless your bathroom floor is pooling up, you might not know if your toilet is functioning inefficiently. Tracking your water use can be an important way to spot spikes and fix an old piece of equipment. You can also do a dye test to ensure everything is in good working order.
- Furniture placement: radiators work by not only radiating out hot air, but also through convective loops. Take a moment to check where the radiators are along the wall. If you’ve placed a large couch directly in front of one, it could be impeding your heating system’s maximum efficiency.
- Hot water pipes: If you can access your hot water piping, this is a relatively inexpensive fix to do yourself. The added benefit is one of convenience--when everyone is getting ready in the morning and using hot water, the water in the pipes will stay hotter longer, meaning shorter wait times.
To get a better idea of how your building is doing, look into ways where you can track and visualize your utility data. You could be missing out on some easy ways to save big bucks!