Become Aware of Energy Consumption, Take Action Towards Energy Efficiency
In 2007, the United States consumed the highest percentage of the world’s energy. Although China has now surpassed us in energy consumption, our energy use still largely outweighs our population.
Where is most of this energy used? In our buildings: our homes, offices, stores, restaurants, supermarkets, hospitals, schools, etc. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) cites that buildings utilize 70 percent of the country’s electricity and over 50 percent of the country’s natural gas. Between commercial and industrial buildings, that is $200 billion a year spent on energy.
Now consider DC and its surrounding metropolitan area’s impact on these energy consumption statistics. We have so many buildings from government headquarters to museums, from office buildings to restaurants, from schools to stores. Commercial buildings in DC used 78 percent of the electricity sold in 2011 according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). And then those buildings produced about 75 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions.
So what do these buildings do with this energy? The energy consumed is dispersed to run the lighting, heating, AC, computers, appliances, etc. to which we, the building occupants, have grown accustomed in order to meet our needs of productivity, convenience, safety, and comfort.
However, with advances in technology and through small efforts of our own, we do not have to sacrifice these needs to make a difference in our energy consumption and environment. In fact, we can increase our energy efficiency, while benefiting our building occupants and ourselves.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 30 percent of the energy consumed by commercial buildings is used inefficiently or unnecessarily. That means that approximately 30 percent of the largest expense for DC office buildings, energy, is basically wasted. It seems that managing our energy use can be key to optimizing our bottom lines.
To know the facts is one thing, but to take action to change them is quite another. Here are some easy ways to start improving your building’s energy efficiency.
According to the EPA, lighting, a big part of a building’s energy bill, uses 35 percent of an office building’s electricity. So…
Don’t forget to turn out the lights. Although we have all heard this reminder throughout our life, sometimes it still needs to be said a few more times to turn those words into action. Whether you are leaving a room empty or overhead lighting isn’t needed because of sufficient sun light, the simple task of flipping a switch takes less than a second but it can start saving you money at no cost to you.
Replace and save. By replacing standard incandescent light bulbs with ENERGY STAR light bulbs, over the lifetime of each bulb you can save about $30 in electricity. Standard incandescent light bulbs can consume up to 75 percent more energy than ENERGY STAR qualified bulbs. ENERGY STAR bulbs also last up to 10 times longer saving you money on your energy bills and maintenance.
Let technology do it for you. Consider installing dimmers, timers or motion detectors to monitor your lighting. These technologies can make turning your lights off one less thing to think about while improving your energy efficiency and your bottom line.
Let your computer nap. Make sure your computer is set up to go into standby mode after 30 seconds to 6 minutes of inactivity and sleep mode after 5 to 30 minutes of inactivity. These can be adjusted by simply checking your computer settings. Keep in mind that energy consumption can be twice as much when you use some screen savers that prevent your computer from going into sleep mode
Turn it off. When you are not going to be using your computer for an extended period of time, especially at night, be sure to shut it down. By some estimates, you can save as much as $75.00 per year per computer simply by turning off the computer and monitors every night.
Unplug it. When you are not using technology, specifically computers or chargers, unplug them or turn off the power strip they are plugged into. Even when these devices are off or nothing is plugged in to be charged, these electronics are still consuming energy.
Buy smart. When purchasing a new computer consider energy efficiency qualities, like an ENERGY STAR computer with power management features already enabled. Also, look at a laptop, which can save by some records up to 90% on energy over a desktop, and a 14 inch monitor, which utilizes 35% less power than a 17 inch monitor.
Properly set your thermostat. Consider setting your thermostat to about 68 degrees in the winter while the building is occupied and set the temperature back by about 10 to 15 percent when it is unoccupied. With proper and consistent setbacks, you can save 10 to 15 percent a year on heating costs. But make sure your thermostat is correctly calibrated so that it is reading accurately.
Control the sunlight. Your energy efficiency can be enhanced or hindered by natural sunlight. Open your blinds or shades to allow sunlight in to help naturally warm up your building during winter days, requiring your heating system to do less work. In the summer, keep them closed or your cooling system will have to work harder to combat the natural heat.