As your business adapts to this time and changes to how you operate, it’s natural to worry about how your energy bill impacts your bottom line. Here are some tips to minimize your energy use while also considering security and air quality. Staying open or partially open? Jump to our tips below.
It’s tempting to completely turn off your HVAC units if no one will be there. But this could lead to mold or other air quality issues. So consider lowering your heat settings instead (say, from 68 degrees to about 45 or 50 degrees). As the weather starts to warm up consistently, this will be less of an issue.
In general, think of all the possible implications of having partially or completely vacant buildings shuttered for long periods of time, including all aspects of air quality.
Block outside cold air, or summer sun, so your heater or air conditioner – which should still be on but just at a lower (or higher, for A/C) set-point – doesn’t work as hard.
Make sure your circulation pumps are off, as well. You can also turn your water heater down below 75 degrees if you’re uncertain how long you’ll be away.
Turning off lights is a good idea but do consider safety and security. Just like when we leave our homes for vacation, it’s good to provide the impression that someone is there occasionally. You may want to purchase simple timers to plug a few inside lights into. On the outside, consider installing motion-detector controlled lights. There are many LED options that are solar powered and won’t have any impact on your bill.
Be sure to clean them out thoroughly first, and prop the doors open so they don’t get moldy.
Unplug printers, scanners, computers and monitors, microwaves, water coolers and any personal entertainment systems or device chargers your staff may have. These “energy vampires” draw a small amount of power even when they’re powered off. Use sticky notes to remind people what needs to be plugged back in when you return.
As you re-open, if you have fewer stations in use for physical distancing, it’s a good idea to shut down unused equipment to save energy. Of course, it’s important to properly flush irrigating or suction equipment first, for example, so it stays clean while sitting unused for long periods.
You may want to leave a couple of lights on or purchase simple automatic timers to plug a few inside lights in to. Consider installing motion-detection lights outside. There are many solar-powered, LED options that won’t have any impact on your electric bill.
A water heater consumes 25% of its energy to keep the tank of water warm—even if hot water is not being used. When lowering the water temperature, set it above 115°F or below 75°F to prevent the growth of Legionella bacteria, which can cause illness.
As always, consider lowering (for heat) or raising (for A/C) your thermostat 5 to 10 degrees for times the building will be unoccupied for longer than 8 hours.
This helps block outside cold air, or summer sun, so your heater or air conditioning doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain the same indoor temperature.
You may also be thinking about air quality for your team if you’re staying partially or fully staffed. The solution here comes down to whether you want a longer-term, clean-air solution that costs a little more, or want to get by for right now as inexpensively as possible.
If you’re trying keep costs down and ride out the current situation, you can use your HVAC to do whole-building, full-air-change flushes at the appropriate time of day or night to reduce the formation and buildup of mold and unhealthy indoor environments.
If you’re planning for the long term, there is equipment you can install that efficiently helps your HVAC system manage air quality. Here’s an example . This will likely drive energy use up, not down, but can make your work environment very clean.
The CDC recommends also considering the following changes to your HVAC system:
Increasing ventilation rates
Increase the percentage of outdoor air that circulates into the system
One full cooler is better than 2 that are partially full, for instance. Not only does that allow you to turn the unused one off, but it also helps the one you’re still using save energy, since the fuller it is, the less energy it will use to maintain the cold.
Be sure to clean them fully first to prevent mold. You can also buy desiccants that absorb excess moisture and place them inside. Large home improvement stores carry refillable containers and desiccant materials.
Looking for more ways to save energy and money? Contact us for a free, energy-efficiency Savings Checkup. You’ll get custom recommendations tailored to your business.