In our campaigns to cut down our dependence on fossil fuels, reducing energy consumption in commercial buildings is an important step – achievable through upgrading existing mechanical systems and introducing new technologies. Almost all functional areas of commercial facilities provide opportunities for reducing energy use. Let’s look into six ways of increasing energy efficiency in commercial settings.
The energy used for lighting in commercial buildings ranges from 35 to 75 percent of total energy use. However, it’s estimated that light levels in more than half of work areas are higher than necessary. Fluorescent light still remains the commercial environment mainstay, as these bulbs are able to mimic daylight and have high light output, essential for work areas. Other new technologies can be successfully used for specific business advantages. Ceramic metal halide bulbs, for example, provide high-fidelity natural colours ideal for retail displays, art collections and foyers.
Heating, cooling and ventilation systems are responsible for about half of a commercial building’s energy use. The current situation shows that buildings are split evenly between those with central plant air conditioning and those with self-contained air handling packs. The energy performance of individual AC units varies greatly, but there’s definitely an increase in efficiency, with today’s top-shelf models performing up to 15 percent better than those in 2006. A central plant system, on the other hand, provides plenty of customization and energy savings.
As an addition to a central plant system, thermal energy storage can make chilled water or ice during off-peak electricity demands at night and use it during the day to supplement air conditioning needs. Such a chill water storage is simple to make – a well-insulated tank and a pumping unit. Ice storage, on the other hand, requires a more complex tank and an industrial-grade ice making unit. Thermal energy load shifting system like this can reduce total HVAC operating costs by 20 to 60 percent.
Generate your power
Commercial buildings that require higher energy demands may consider generating and storing energy on site. This outline is especially interesting for industrial building, in which a small distributed generation unit can reduce peak demands and serve as backup. Another type, called a cogeneration unit, can increase efficiency by using the excess heat of power generation to heat water and spaces. In addition to this, a modern gas steam boiler is ideal for rapid steam generation in facilities that rely on it, such as dry cleaning, hospital, pharmaceutical and food processing.
More efficient motors
From HVAC systems and elevators to air compressors and industry-specific machinery, every operation in a commercial building requires a motor. Electric motors installed in those units have a long life span, so they are seldom replaced. However, motors used 15 or more years ago are far from efficient by today’s standards. By comparison, an older generation induction motor for a small constant-speed fan may consume 400 watts, while a modern one with newer components and materials will do the same job at 60-80 watts.
Smart energy control
A wide range of automated systems available today allows businesses to monitor and control energy consuming devices in their buildings. However, newer technologies enable more sophisticated features such as electric load levelling, real-time optimization and data reporting. On its highest level, energy management becomes an integrated system that shares information and control strategies among various parties in the building, as well as financial managers, technician and third-party service providers.
Each building and commercial application has its energy consumption scheme. In order to create a plan and cost-benefit analysis for reducing energy consumption in commercial environments, business owners and building managers need to explore all the options currently available to them.