Don’t forget to check your utility tariff

DON’T forget the electricity tariff – It is easy to overlook the painless cost savings achievable by simply choosing the correct Utility Tariff for your facility or building.  A tariff is the published rate for electricity charging, typically utilities offer different charging schemas for low, medium and high consumers.

Tariff Analysis is a scientific based approach, examining your the utility bills to identify the optimum tariff for you, that the tariff with the lowest cost.

Where the utility company permits summation metering, and the facility has more than one power meter, re-analyse using the totalled data – using all the meter readings, to check and identify if summation metering provides a beneficial tariff.

Remember that tariffs change frequently and without notice,  so its wise to ensure that you order a Tariff Analysis at least once per year.

Green building its cheaper than you think

The cost of green building is lower than traditional building period. For example, design the building envelope with decent solar shading immediately (and forever) reduces the space cooling load, therefore the building needs a smaller chiller. But that is only half the story, along with a smaller chiller, all the associated distribution equipment including the air handing units, air moving equipment, piping, cooling towers, circulating pumps, switchgear, and cables are also smaller, and less expensive. This is a critical point often overlooked using integrated design – minimise the load, drive the need for small equipment, it is not only cheaper, but uses less space.

There is good news from Good Energies that found evidence from 146 green buildings in USA that the additional cost for green building was only 2% not 17%.  However, whether or not these buildings used integrated design principles mentioned above was not reported.

Additionally there is still no cost category to account of the “soft” benefits of building green. How customers have you lost because you don’t have green building? People have already discounted your building (or your product) because it’s does not have a green label, and is not energy efficient, and I guarantee they didn’t stop by to tell you where you went wrong.

I believe, finally, the market is beginning to understand the future, oil and gas is finite resource will not last forever, and the energy position of operating costs are inevitably rising.

After your staff costs, energy represents the largest proportion of the operating budget for buildings. In Hong Kong buildings are voracious, consuming 86% of all the electricity generated, and 33% of all electricity generated is used to power air conditioning systems.

Let’s face it, incremental improvement is pointless, single digit savings will barely stave off inflationary pressures – Use the integrated principals to save your CAPex today and your OPex tomorrow.

Top Ten Energy Conservation Tips

Top ten list of energy smart decisions:

1. If you can’t measure it, how can you manage it? Regularly monitor and record on your electricity consumption, plus other fuels such as gas and oil. Provide and monitor sub-meters to record different systems and sub-systems.  Also don’t forget that utility companies are not infallible – remember to check that your bills relate to the fuel that you actually used rather than an “estimated” meter reading.

Incidentally, the fact that BEAM rewards a credit for energy sub-metering is an indication of the importance of energy awareness.

2. Switch off lights in empty rooms – sounds like common-sense doesn’t it? Turning off lights in unoccupied rooms and corridors especially at the end of the day. This can save up to 10% of your energy bill. And yes that includes fluorescent lighting fittings.

3. Use energy efficient light fittings – they use 25% less power and last six times longer. Switching to the last technology today will save the cost of the investment long before the old lamps have expired – recoup the savings today.

4. Use the light you need. Bright corridors? delamp (remove) or switch off alternate lighting fittings.

5. Use daylight it’s free, so regularly clean your windows.

6. Clean light fittings regularly – Dirt reduces lighting levels, encouraging people to switch on more lights.

7. Too cold, set the room thermostat at comfort levels say 24°.  Air conditioning consumes forty percent (40%) of buildings energy. For example, every 1° decrease in room temperature, the energy cost increases by approximately eight percent (8%) .

8. If humidity and condensation is not a risk, don’t pay for cooling unused space e.g. empty offices, storerooms, corridors, etc. turn off the air conditioning.

9. Check that your thermostats are property sited, out of draughts and away from cold or hot spots. Consider installing remote sensing or wireless. Bonus tip – horrified, I saw a the air conditioning thermostat installed next the hand dryer – please don’t.

10. Keep equipment such as air conditioners and filters clean. Dirt reduces efficiency and lowers output.

Bonus Tip

Top eleven tips just didn’t sound right, so here is a bonus tip, it is so critical that I can’t possibly leave it out – Lead by example.

If management and senior managers are “seen” to ignore the new corporate energy measures, I guarantee that your efforts will fail. It is human nature, people follow visual cues for seventy five percent (75%) of their information – we watch and learn. Actively demonstrating energy conservation will do more to promote energy conservation campaign within your organisation or business than a memo will ever achieve. Plan to ensure that your employees see your energy strategy.

Out of Service

Three vending machines all using energy, a closer look reveals the unit in the middle is out of service, see the photo below.  Didn’t anyone think about turning off the electricity completely? As you can see some of the lamps are still on, still burning electricity.

Powering an appliance that can’t or does not serve its intended purpose is an egregious waste of energy.

The lights are ON but nobody is home

I recently conducted an energy audit of a building discovering an entire floor of unoccupied plant rooms with the lights in every room switched “ON”.

The photograph below, is typical, yet another unoccupied plant room with the lights burning fuel late into the night.

Is it safe to assume there is a disconnect here? Actually, it is a common problem. The firms which are employed to operate our buildings don’t actually pay the energy bill every month, so there is no financial or other incentive to switch off unnecessary lighting fittings.

We know penalties don’t work, a system of positive incentives are needed here.