The US industrial sector uses more than one-third of all the energy consumed throughout the country, most of which comes from natural gas and petroleum. Heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems account for between 40 percent and 60 percent of this energy use in the commercial sector, making it the largest business energy drain. In fact, heating and cooling energy use can account for over 30 percent of a business’ typical operating budget, while adding 20 percent to America’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
Burning fossil fuels like natural gas and petroleum creates several environmentally harmful gasses, including carbon dioxide (CO2), which is the most predominant greenhouse gas; methane (CH4), a less common but more potent greenhouse gas; nitrogen oxides (NOx), which contribute to smog and acid rain; and sulfur dioxide (SO2), which has been linked to several respiratory problems as well as acid rain. Additional downsides to developing petroleum and natural gas include disruption of land and ocean habitats, oil spills which can kill wildlife, and pollution of water supplies.
Studies done by the National Institute of Standards and Technology have shown that improvements in windows and insulation are very cost effective, providing potential reductions in heat loss greater than 50 percent, reducing energy use by the same amount, and increasing comfort levels significantly. Improved thermal comfort can also reduce costs by increasing employee efficiency, in some cases as much as 3.5 percent.
Questions to get you started...
- Do you own or lease the office space? Do you pay for energy or does your landlord handle the bill?
- What is the total annual energy bill?
- How is temperature controlled? By individual thermostats or by entire floors?
- Are programmable thermostats installed to control heating and cooling systems?
- Have you checked your building for air leaks around windows and doors? Are draft stoppers in place?
- What is the total area of office space?
- Can you upgrade your windows with double-pane options or window films?
- Have you established an energy management system to track energy use and reduce energy costs? Do you regularly tune-up your HVAC system?
- Joel Makower - Office Buildings As Peaker Plants
- Energy Information Administration - Emissions of Greenhouse Gases Report: Commercial Sector
- EnergyGuide - BusinessAnalyzer A self-guided energy-efficiency analysis tool for small- and mid-sized businesses.
- ENERGY STAR - Portfolio Manager An interactive tool to track and measure energy and water use across a business’ entire portfolio of buildings.
- US Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency: Industry
- US Green Building Council - Green Building Research
- US Department of Energy - Choose Building Components: Heating and Cooling Systems
- ENERGY STAR - Heating and Cooling System Upgrades
- ENERGY STAR - Commercial Real Estate: An Overview of Energy Use and Energy Efficiency Opportunities
- US Environmental Protection Agency - Why Buy Green Power?
- US Energy Information Administration - Petroleum (Oil): A Fossil Fuel
- National Institute of Standards and Technology - Energy Savings Office Investigation: Conclusions Page 28
- Transwestern - Building Sustainability for our Time: Green Buildings Reduce Labor Costs Page 2