The environmental impact on what we do seems to be a deciding factor no matter where you turn. From the cars we drive to the food we eat to the places we work, it’s hard to go through a day without considering other implications of our decisions. Technology is often there to help us make better choices, weighing our options and enabling us to make educated decisions. For example, Google’s Maps app will start directing drivers along routes estimated to generate the lowest carbon emissions based on traffic, slopes and other factors. The 2018 report from the European Environment Agency determined three main sectors of energy consumption: industry (31%), mobility (28%), and buildings (41%).
As we pick up and go places, the buildings that are our destinations are also seeing an increase in energy cost. These costs may be due to increased air ventilation requirements after the pandemic or people requesting spaces to be more comfortable after a year or so of working from their own home. The days are getting warmer and our buildings are carrying extra loads; what are some ways to reduce energy costs in the summer?
The number one way to reduce energy costs is to eliminate any unnecessary energy usage. We know about turning off lights when leaving a room and to unplug electrical devices when they aren’t in use (phantom energy usage adds up!), but technology offers a much more efficient way to do this. Through sensors and automation, rooms can be effectively shut down when no one is using them. Connecting occupancy sensors with lighting guarantees that lights are off if the room isn’t in use. When these sensors are connected with a BMS or BAS, the HVAC system can also modify the level of air circulation and desired temperature in the unoccupied zone.
The European Association for Building Automation Control has reported that improving a BAS could save up to 20% of energy in HVAC and up to 7% in electricity consumption. However, exact data on how much BAS can save in energy usage in general is largely dependent on the type of building, age of the system, and other variables.
Taking the time to analyze the natural light levels of a building and the pattern of the sun during the day can also have a powerful impact on energy usage. By keeping blinds closed when the sun is directly shining on that side of the building, the heating effect of the sun’s rays are minimized. As the sun moves throughout the day, the blinds shut during the morning can be opened to allow passive sunlight in while those facing the West may be shut during the late afternoon as the sun sets.
Controlling lighting doesn’t only impact cooling costs but can also eliminate the need for artificial lights to be used during the brightest times of day. Tying in sources of data like weather to the IoT network, blinds can be left open on rainy days and lights can be dimmed on very sunny days. Dimming lights not only reduces the amount of energy used but can make the bulbs last longer, reducing energy expenditure even more.
Thermostats and Air Flow
The U.S. Department of Energy suggests a 78*F (26*C) interior temperature to reduce energy costs. Setting it at this temperature can save up to 10% in energy costs each year. If this doesn’t sound comfortable, using ceiling fans can make a room feel 4*F cooler. If in an area where the climate cooperates with this idea, opening windows at night to allow in the cooler air and then shutting them again as the temperatures start to heat up again can trap the cooler air inside.
Automation and programmable systems are, again, very useful with this focus on saving energy. Using a smart system, buildings can prepare to be at the preferred and comfortable temperature again once occupants arrive. Say the building is set at a higher temperature over the weekend when no one is there, the building can be automatically programmed to be at the right setting once Monday morning rolls around. The result? No discomfort or frustration by occupants but energy savings are still realized.
There’s a conscious effort around the world to do what we can to reduce our carbon footprint and as buildings are the largest energy expenditure there is, they’re an important part of the puzzle. There is enough data around the success of energy-related tech that investing in it has an important return on investment. As more data can be collected by powerful sensors from occupancy to temperature and everything in between, today’s buildings can be very smart structures if they have the right tech backbone connecting data and empowering analysis.
Energy utilities make up about 70% of the average building’s operating costs, meaning that energy efficiency is a financial as well as an environmental benefit. A smart building system for existing commercial facilities can help increase comfort and reduce energy cost while enabling monitoring and management from any web-enabled device. To learn more about what Envio Systems can do to improve and enhance your building, contact us.