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ENERGY RESOURCES FOR BUSINESSES AND NONPROFITS

Whether you're doing an energy efficiency project, looking for easy ways to save energy and money, or just looking for more information, there are lots of resources for you. Feel free to browse around this page for energy efficiency resources, ideas, and projects! 

MANAGE PLUG LOADS

Managing plug loads, including the energy used by office equipment and task lighting, is a simple way to reduce utility costs.

  • Plug loads account for 33% of U.S. commercial building electricity consumption. What is a plug load? It’s simple. Plug loads come from any devices that plug into a building’s electrical system, such as computers, lamps, and printers. Why are plug loads important? Electricity use associated with plug loads is on the rise, and plug loads in commercial buildings are now one of the fastest growing end uses of energy.

  • Energy efficiency efforts in commercial buildings historically have targeted lighting, heating and cooling systems, water heaters and major appliances. Today, the typical business worker also uses an ever-growing suite of electronic devices, all drawing from the power grid and running up the utility bill.

  • The good news is that plug loads can be managed through low- and no-cost measures that are relatively straightforward to implement. Below is a list of tasks that shows how simple changes can you’re your business save energy and cut costs.

What are the biggest contributors to plug loads? 

  • The biggest culprits are typically computers, monitors, imaging equipment, computer peripherals, and server rooms. Other equipment that draws additional power includes task lights, space heaters and portable fans, projectors, televisions, vending machines, kitchen equipment, and cell phone chargers.  The table below shows the energy consumption and associated average annual operating cost.  

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What can you do about it?

Install a smart powerstrip. 

  • Smart powerstrips are easy-to-use and act as a central way to turn off all your devices at once. Use them in an office kitchen for small appliances or for computer equipment. There are different kinds of smart powerstrips, including those with timers, and surge protection.  

Convert existing servers to “virtual servers.” 

  • Server virtualization offers a way to consolidate servers by allowing you to run multiple different workloads on one physical host server. A "virtual server" is a software implementation that executes programs like a real server. In addition, virtualization speeds up disaster recovery efforts because virtual servers can restart applications much more rapidly than physical servers. 

Add a plug load occupancy sensor to individual workstations. 

  • Plug load occupancy sensors can dramatically cut costs with energy savings of up to 50%. This system consists of plug load occupancy sensors controlling powerstrips. They allow the worker to choose which equipment is controlled by occupancy, and which would be left on throughout the day. Plug load occupancy sensors are relatively inexpensive, easy to install and maintain, and are likely to pay for themselves in a year or less. 

Use computer power management software. 

  • Computer power management (CPM) features automatically place computers into a low-power "sleep mode" after a period of inactivity. Simply touching the mouse or keyboard "wakes" the computer in seconds. Your network administrator can activate these settings quickly and easily across your entire network and save up to $50 per computer annually. 

Install a vending miser to existing vending machines. 

  • A vending miser consists of a motion sensor and the miser itself. The miser works by making the vending machine more energy efficient. If no one is near the vending machine for 15 minutes and the compressor is not running, the vending miser will shut off the machine. The vending miser also measures ambient room temperature. If the room is very warm, the vending miser will more often send power to the machine than if the machine is in a cold room. The estimated savings for each vending machine with a miser is approximately $192 per year.

UPGRADE LIGHTING

Upgrading lighting is a simple, low-cost way to reduce energy usage. There are continual advancements in tubular fluorescent and LED (light-emitting diodes) lighting. Adding occupancy sensors or daylighting controls can reduce usage and utility costs even more.

Lighting is a critical component of every office. Depending on the type of business you operate, lighting accounts for 20% to 50% of electricity consumption. This means that significant cost savings can be achieved with energy-efficiency improvements. Due to continually improving equipment, lighting usually provides the highest return-on-investment of major upgrades.

What can you do about it?

Change out your T12 fluorescent tube lamps.

  • Changing out your tube lamps to T8 or T5 fluorescent or tubular LEDs are a great low-cost solution to reduce your office's electric bills and save energy. These types of lamps offer improved efficiency, higher intensity, and potentially longer life due to reduced degradation in light output over time. These lighting systems are constantly increasing in flexibility and are now applicable to a variety of task and accent lighting applications, as well as general lighting of larger spaces. 

Install occupancy sensors and/or daylighting controls.

  • Occupancy or motion sensors are devices that turn lights and other equipment on or off in response to the presence (or absence) of people in a defined area. Some sensors also control lighting based on the amount of daylight available in their coverage area.

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Use dimmable lights and switches.

  • Where possible, consider using dimmable LED or compact fluorescent bulbs. Some compact fluorescent and LED bulbs can be used with dimmer switches, which you can check on the bulb packaging.  

Add task lighting.

  • Provide “task” lighting (over desks, conference rooms, craft tables, etc.) so that work  activities can be done without illuminating entire rooms.

Choose lighter colors.

  • The reflectance of interior surfaces has an important bearing on lighting efficiency. Choose lighter colors for walls, ceilings, floors, and furniture. Dark colors absorb light and require higher lamp wattage for a given level of illumination. Light-colored surfaces should be kept clean to keep reflectance levels high.

Upgrade exit signs to energy efficient models.

  • Exit signs are an excellent, low-cost, low-labor opportunity to increase the energy efficiency and safety of your facility. Replacing incandescent exit signs that operate at about 40 watts per sign with an ENERGY STAR-qualified exit sign can increase the energy efficiency of your exit signs by 3 to 8 times!

SEAL LEAKS

Every opening in a building (doors, windows, pipes and electrical boxes) is a potential pathway for conditioned air to escape.  Caulking, sealants, spray foam and weather-stripping eliminate air leaks and help to regulate the temperature differential between indoors and outdoors.

When areas of your office are not properly sealed, outside air can leak into your building causing reduced comfort. Additionally, outside air mixes with air from heating and cooling systems, which contributes to large amounts of energy waste. A quick and easy solution to prevent such air leaks is to add weatherstripping and air sealing to windows and doors. This is cost-effective and will reduce your office's electric bills. Below you will see methods that will help you identify and seal these leaks with appropriate materials.

What can you do about it?

Weatherstrip and caulk around all entrance doors and windows.

  • Weatherstripping and caulking limit air leaks that could account for 15% to 30% of heating and cooling energy requirements.

Seal air leaks.

  • Use caulk, foam spray, and weather-stripping around electrical outlets, cable and other wiring.

Did you know?

Air Sealing vs. Insulation

Insulation is like a fuzzy wool sweater on a winter day. It will certainly keep you warm if the air is calm. But if the wind picks up, you are going to need a windbreaker to keep the breeze from carrying away the heat. Air sealing is like adding the windbreaker. It keeps the conditioned air where it belongs.

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OPTIMIZE HEAT AND LIGHT FROM THE SUN

Natural daylight is free, healthy and abundant. Controlling for glare, windows and skylights can provide adequate light for many activities. Adding a light shelf to windows uses the sun to naturally light the building, while preventing heat from entering. Open curtains, shades and blinds on south and west facing windows for heat and light, or close them to keep cooler.  

  • Utilizing curtains and window film gives you the power to control when and how much light and heat enter your home or office. They are also inexpensive and easy to install. Proper curtains and window film can reduce energy usage without requiring an upgrade!

Smarter Curtains

Curtains can be a powerful tool for maintaining a comfortable temperature in your home or business. On sunny but cold winter days, keep curtains or shades open to allow the heat from the sun rays to naturally warm your home. Using light-colored curtains and keeping them closed will keep unnecessary heat from infiltrating your windows.

Save the light, ditch the heat

Installing window film on your windows will block out the sun's heat while still allowing sunlight into your home. Additionally, this film will reduce unwanted glare. Window film is inexpensive and easy to install.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF PASSIVE DESIGNS

Plant shade trees, install window shades and adjust them to control the sun, and open and close windows to take advantage of the natural flow of air. Your building will be more comfortable, and you will save money on electricity.  

 

  • Adding trees, awnings, lattices, or vines to shade exposed areas of your business' exterior will help reduce your cooling load (the energy required to keep a building cool).

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What can you do about it?

  • Use curtains, window film, and landscaping to shade windows during the summer. Focus on shading east, west, and south facing walls. 

Install window screens.

  • Coupled with shade from landscaping, window screens can maximize shade potential from your home. Use screens with a shading coefficient of .76 or lower to reduce heat radiation.

Add awnings and overhangs to windows.

  • Awnings and overhangs should be close to the top of windows to effectively shade the glass. A good rule of thumb is to cover half the surface of glass at the summer solstice (e.g. A 30" overhang at the header will cover the top half of a 4' tall window). 

Place trees appropriately to optimize solar gain.

Plant evergreen trees on the west and east sides of the building to keep out heat all year long. Use deciduous trees in the south because during the winter, after dropping their leaves, the branches will filter the sun and provide desirable partial passive heating.

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If you're doing new construction, there are even more passive design features that will help decrease your energy usage.

  • Passive design features take advantage of a building and its site to minimize energy use. Efficient passive design utilizes solar energy and windows, walls, and floors to distribute heat in the winter and reject heat in the summer, which can help you save energy and money.

 

What can you do about it?

Shade windows on south-facing walls with trees.

  • Trees can reduce summer temperatures significantly, especially when they’re located on the south and west sides of a building. Large specimens that shade the roof and walls from the afternoon sun can reduce indoor temperatures by as much as 8 to 10 degrees F. 

Install clear (uncoated) double-paned glass and use insulated blinds.

  • In the winter time, double-pane clear glass will let in a large amount of sun while limiting heat loss. Additionally, using insulated blinds at night will further prevent heat loss in the winter.

Add a light shelf to existing windows.

  • A light shelf can be used to reflect natural daylight that enters a building. Light shelves make the lighting in rooms much more efficient and as a result you don't need to worry about using as much electricity for lighting.

BUY ENERGY STAR APPLIANCES

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ENERGY STAR rated equipment uses 20-30% less energy than standard models.

  • Every piece of equipment comes with two price tags: what it costs to take it home and what it costs to operate and maintain it each month. ENERGY STAR qualified equipment and appliances utilize advanced technology to use 10-50% less energy than standard models.

  • Choosing energy efficient equipment is easy—simply look for the ENERGY STAR certified sticker when you are shopping for new equipment for your business.  ENERGY STAR ratings are available for commercial refrigerators, computer monitors, copy machines and more. To find out more, visit ENERGY STAR today.

BE WATER SMART

By reducing your office's water usage, you can save both water and money.

  • Water is essential to our everyday lives. Water supplies are limited, so using water wisely has never been more important. 20% of California’s total electricity consumption is related to the transportation and treatment of water, as well as the disposal of wastewater. 11% of the state’s electricity consumption is related to residential, commercial and industrial end-use.

  • So reducing water usage is also good for reducing energy usage – the less water required by businesses, the less water needs to be treated, transported and disposed of. Cutting water use inside and outside your business is key.The best part about saving water is you save money in the process! See the tips below to get your business started on the road to being Water Smart.

 

What can I do about it?

Repair leaking pipes, fixtures and seals.

  • Repairing leaks is a cost effective and effortless way to save money and water.

Install controls that turn faucets off automatically.

  • These controls are inexpensive, plus easy to install and will save your business money.

Install water-efficient equipment.

  • Most water based equipment now comes in more water-efficient models for your business to use. For example, toilets, urinals, ice machines and food steamers are now made to use water efficiently. When you use these water–saving products in your business, you can expect exceptional performance and savings on your water bills. Rebates available!

Implement water efficient landscaping by planting native plants.

  • Native plants are adapted to rainfall conditions and also demand less water.

ADDING ENERGY EFFICIENCY TO THE OFFICE

A remodel is a great opportunity to incorporate energy efficiency and sustainable elements into your business by reducing energy usage and energy costs. You can also take advantage of several rebate and incentive programs and financing options specifically for energy efficiency remodels.

 

Where should you begin?

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1. Consider landscaping and other passive design features.

Plant trees on the west side of the building. Additionally, add trees, awnings, lattices or vines to increase shade.  If you're building a new business, there are lots of opportunities to utilize siting and other passive design features to decrease your energy usage.  

 

2. Upgrade lighting

Install compact fluorescent or LED bulbs, electronic ballasts and photo sensitive controls.

3. Upgrade windows

Install weather-stripping or window film for a low-cost fix.  Replace windows if appropriate based on the type and size of your project. 

 

4. Install a "cool roof."

Add "cool roof" coating on existing roofing or use a "cool roof" re-roofing system.

 

5. Add Insulation

Add spray or rigid foam to the top of the roof.

6. Seal and test Ducts

Perform a “duct leakage” test to find leaks in existing ducts. Seal all joints and cracks.

7. Upgrade heating and air conditioning unit

Replace AC unit with a unit with higher efficiency rating, economizer cycle. Make sure the unit is the “right size” based on your electrical needs. 

*Be sure to check with your city before beginning any work to make sure you understand the city’s building codes and obtain the required permits. Permits are critical because they help you ensure the quality of the work you have done on your property. Plus, rebate programs require you to show documentation of your permit to be eligible for the rebate. 

MULTIFAMILY BUILDING REMODELING

A remodel is a great opportunity to incorporate energy efficiency and sustainable elements into your multi-family units by reducing energy usage and energy costs. You can also take advantage of several rebate and incentive programs and financing options specifically for energy efficiency remodels. 

 

How are your units functioning? 

 

As a part of preparing to remodel and/or upgrade, find out how the apartment units are working - test the ducts to look for leakage by doing a "blower door" test to see how much air leaks out of the unit through cracks, electrical outlets, windows and doors.  Testing just 15% of the units will give a good sense of major defects.  It provides an opportunity to seal the cracks and gaps and save money through the selection of very efficient HVAC units.  The Energy Code requires many of the tests and verifications to take advantage of the energy savings the design intended.

 

Where should you begin?

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1. Consider landscaping

Plant trees on the west side of the building. Additionally, add trees, awnings, lattices or vines to increase shade.

2. Windows

Add film to existing single pane windows. Consider replacing windows for more savings.  

3. Install "cool roof"

Add "cool roof" coating on existing roofing or use "cool roof" re-roofing system.

4. Upgrade heating and air conditioning unit

Replace AC unit with higher efficiency rating, economizer cycle, and "right size" the unit.

5. Add light colors

Paint exterior surfaces light colors to reflect the sun and heat.

6. Seal and test ducts

Perform a "duct leakage" test to find leaks in existing ducts. Seal all joints and cracks.