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Saving energy in your office

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Saving energy in your office

Saving energy in your office does not need to have a bad impact on the work environment.

There are simple ways to achieve massive and sustainable reductions in energy consumption that not only help profitability but can also boost staff morale as their contributions have an environmental benefit.

A savvy combination of technical and behavioural improvements is the best way to ensure maximum results from any office energy-saving/sustainability project.

At the top of the tech list for any energy-focused strategy is office lighting, as it accounts for about a fifth of the electricity consumption in a commercial space.

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Retrofitting LED lamps while keeping a keen eye on lighting quality design can lead to big electricity savings – up to 85% depending on the type of fitting installed. LED technology has continued to develop rapidly and there are now LED lighting solutions for just about every context, from panels to tubes, downlights and spotlights, as well as emergency and external lighting.

When chosen with care, LED lamps not only ensure quick return on investment and ongoing savings over many years, but also improve light levels and productivity. LED solutions give flicker-free, natural-looking light and shrink operating costs because they are near-zero maintenance with a very long life.

And every LED lamp also reduces carbon emissions, which is a welcome benefit for the environment.

Most offices can also cut energy use by maximising the natural sunlight. Painting walls with a high reflective tone or pure white shade amplifies the light effect and office managers can ensure that light sources are available by pruning any obscuring trees or bushes.

Every office can achieve impressive energy savings through better water management. If the workplace has shower facilities, then replacement of traditional shower heads with quality models that cleverly mix air with water flow will cut consumption by more than 50%. This has an equivalent impact on heating and pumping costs.

Similarly, swapping inefficient taps with eco taps and fitting tap aerators where unit replacement is not wanted ensures big reductions in consumption by also mixing air with water flow and cutting the amount of gas and electricity used in heating and pumping.

Other simple technical steps include draught-proofing by installing weather strips around doors and windows and adhering to a regular HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) cleaning programme.

It’s important to check and replace HVAC air filters as necessary, while making sure that evaporators, condensers, coils and heat exchanger surfaces are cleaned every month at a minimum.

Another no-brainer is to make sure that radiators work effectively by regularly bleeding them. There’s also no need to have the heat on high in spaces that are used irregularly, such as storerooms and corridors. Turning the heating down a notch or two in these areas will not affect working environments but will save a significant amount of energy.

Most offices would benefit from smart controls for both HVAC and lighting. Intelligent heating controls sense when a room is unoccupied for a period of time and reduce the temperature. Lighting controls work in a similar way to avoid wasting energy.

It’s worth double checking that when the office is closed, the thermostats are set to optimum efficiency at different times of the year. Big savings can be achieved by increasingly the “kick-in” temperature on the thermostat during the hot summer season, for example.

Offices can reduce energy use further with better boiler management, making sure that the heating system is running at maximum efficiency.

Another technical tactic is to conduct an equipment audit to identify whether the office kit is effective in terms of energy use. The latest office equipment – from monitors to laptops and printers for example – has much improved energy ratings. At the same time, a well-planned maintenance programme should add to the efficiency and effectiveness of office equipment.

Office managers can support and guide employees to increase energy awareness and make simple changes in behaviour by drawing up guidelines and policies for equipment use, from equipment stand-by to printing.

It’s understandable that people are less energy conscious at work than at home simply because they are not paying the office bills. But intelligent, proactive education for staff on the environmental importance of energy efficiency encourages financially responsible behaviour and increased concern for the planet.

Companies can benefit greatly from identifying and appointing energy ambassadors at every level of the business. By working out a detailed action plan with them, including a financial incentive, these advocates can improve business energy savings.

Be aware that some technology purchases that save energy, like sensors or timer switches, can give tax breaks through the Enhanced Capital Allowance scheme.

Finally, any successful energy-saving programme works best when employees see their bosses leading by example and every manager can apply their company’s eco rules in their daily activities to ensure the goals of saving energy and cutting bills are achieved.

Mark Sait is managing director of SaveMoneyCutCarbon.com, a full-service efficiency partner helping businesses and households reduce energy and water consumption, and cutting carbon emissions to improve sustainability.

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