Small Business Energy Tips | Alabama Power

Small Business Energy Tips

Building Envelope

Add Roof Insulation

The time to add roof insulation is when you are building or replacing the roof. Whether the project is a 19th century historic property with a lead-coated copper roof or a flat-roofed industrial building from the 1930s, roof replacement is an opportunity to add insulation, including a vapor barrier. This is one of the most cost-effective energy conservation measures available. The cost to increase insulation is a small portion of the overall roofing project and can result in a rapid payback.

Artificial Lighting and Air Conditioning

Artificial lighting and air conditioning consume the largest amount of electrical energy in a typical commercial building. The two are tied together in that the more artificial lighting used, the greater the heat load imposed on the air conditioning system from lamps and ballasts. Carefully increasing the amount of natural light will decrease the need for artificial light, reducing energy in both lighting and air conditioning systems. However, West facing glass can bring in a significant amount of heat which can be costly to cool in the warmer months. Consider planting trees that lose their leaves in multi-story buildings to shade this glass.

Fix Air Leaks

Seventy-five percent of a building's total air loss is from small leaks. Seal electrical outlets and gaps between moldings, as well as plumbing and wiring penetrations. Attic checkpoints include hatches, plumbing vents, chimneys and other roof or wall penetrations. Many areas can be sealed with a caulk gun and tubes of silicone or urethane caulking. For larger areas, foam sealants may work best. Outlet plugs and foam pads that are installed behind outlet and switch covers are wise investments.

General

Consult the experts

Take advantage of expert advice by asking your local utility for technical energy audits, payback calculations, cost comparisons, rate analyses, fuel cost projections, and estimates of future rate increases. It is staffed with representatives specializing in commercial energy applications who are eager to assist you.

Perform energy audits

Perform regular energy audits to establish the basic costs and uses of energy forms including electricity, gas, and steam, and to identify waste or inefficiency. By identifying on-peak and off-peak periods, you can take advantage of a utility's rate structure.

HVAC

Change Filters Regularly

Maintaining cleaner heating and cooling coils by using and regularly changing filters can lead to greater efficiencies. Effective filter replacement schedules will reflect changes of use in the building. (See Electronic Air Cleaners.)

Clean and maintain the HVAC mechanical system

For greater HVAC system efficiency, clean and maintain its mechanical parts. Check for dirty coils and filters that restrict air flow, loose fan belts, outside air dampers that do not close correctly, and improperly functioning control valves.

Make Sure Everything Is Working Properly

The effectiveness of an energy management system largely depends on the physical condition of the equipment it is intended to control. No system can achieve the best efficiency if a mechanical system is plagued with dirty coils or filters that restrict air flow, loose fan belts, outside air dampers that do not close correctly, or improperly functioning control valves.

Raise the thermostat setpoint

Raising the cold air temperature set point on your thermostat can result in significant energy savings without causing noticeable discomfort to room occupants. Most air conditioning systems are designed to maintain a temperature of 72oF to 75oF and 50 percent relative humidity. By raising room conditions to 78oF and 55 percent relative humidity, you can save approximately 13 percent of the energy required for cooling.

Indoor Lighting

3 simple and effective light savers

There are three ways in which lighting energy use can be reduced by building owners: implement a greater degree of control over the use of lighting, use more efficient lighting equipment and apply better lighting system design strategies. Translated into a general guide, the goals statement for a comprehensive lighting energy conservation program should read: turn it off when it isn't needed; use the most efficient, suitable equipment; and provide light only where it is needed.

Balance ballast costs with bulb life cost savings

Fixtures that have state-of-the-art lamps or ballasts (T8 lamps, electronic ballasts, etc.) may save plenty of energy but may also require a higher premium at relamping or reballasting time. Much of this cost is offset because of the longer life. This longer life not only cuts down on replacement component costs but also reduces the associated labor expense to replace them.

Consider a T8 System Retrofit

Even if you have already retrofitted a lighting system with energy-efficient core-coil ballasts and "watt miser" lamps, you can get further savings with a T8 conversion. The T8 system is, in most cases, the best retrofit method for existing fluorescent lamps. T8 lamps and ballasts are much more efficient than standard lamps and ballasts and their use creates an opportunity for delamping by astute use of reflectors, new lenses and "overdriven" ballasts. Often, existing four-lamp fixtures can be retrofitted with three or even two T8 lamps and ballasts and still maintain the same light output. Fixtures that have state-of-the-art lamps or ballasts (T8 lamps, electronic ballasts, etc.) may save plenty of energy but may also require a higher premium at relamping or reballasting time. Much of this cost is offset because of the longer life. This longer life not only cuts down on replacement component costs but also reduces the associated labor expense to replace them.

In lighting systems, one size does not fit all

When incorporating energy-efficient lighting technologies, it's important to remember that every facility is different. Without careful thought as to which are best suited for your particular application, you will not achieve the best rate of return on your energy conservation investment. In some applications, it will make sense to replace the entire incandescent fixture with a fluorescent one. In others, it is better to simply replace the incandescent lamp with a compact fluorescent lamp.

Increase natural light

Increasing the amount of natural light used in your facilities dramatically lowers your utility bills. The more artificial lighting used, the greater the heat load imposed on the air conditioning system. This is a critical point because artificial lighting and air conditioning consume the largest amount of electrical energy in a typical commercial building.

Replace Incandescent with Compact Fluorescent

It's a good idea to replace incandescent lamps with compact fluorescents (CFLs). When doing so, the proper ratio is about 3 to 4 incandescent watts to 1 compact fluorescent watt. There may be an aesthetic problem with replacing incandescent lamps with CFLs in "can" fixtures because these fixtures are not designed for CFLs. The lamps often protrude from the bottom of the fixture, and the light distribution from the fixture is poor because its optical characteristics suit an incandescent lamp. Another approach: retrofit with a specially designed reflector and lamp holder that maximizes the optics of the CFL and has a more pleasing appearance.

Motors

Be aware that there are benefits to "soft starting," but energy conservation is not one of them

"Soft starting" refers to reducing the current in the power supply during motor acceleration. Benefits of soft starting include preventing a severe voltage dip when then motor starts and lessening mechanical shock to equipment. Despite the claims of starter suppliers to the contrary, soft starting does not result in reduced energy costs.

Carefully evaluate whether to replace a functioning motor with a more energy efficient one

Carefully evaluate whether to replace a functioning motor with a more energy efficient one. It is not a good idea to replace motors that run only a few hours per day. Continuously running motors such as those used in the papermaking process are better candidates for replacement. It takes too long to recover the cost of replacement of motors that run less than 4,400 hours per year.

Choose a motor with a sufficient horsepower rate

Choose a motor with a sufficient horsepower rate. In general, a motor operates at three fourths of the horsepower shown on its nameplate. For this reason, an oversized motor is often a more efficient way to drive a the load than a smaller motor.

Do not invest in "power factor controllers" to save energy

A power factor controller adjusts motor voltage to suit motor load. This device only saves energy on smaller motors; such motors use so little power that the savings is insignificant.

Office

Turn off computer equipment and copiers when they're not in use

Encourage employees to turn off computers, monitors, printers, and copiers when they are not being used. Consider equipping computers with devices that turn them off automatically after a set period of inactivity. Turning off a typical personal computer during non-working hours saves about $75 per year in energy costs.

Water Heating

Reduce Hot Water Temperature

Reduce generating and storage temperature levels to the minimum required for washing hands-usually 105°F. Boost hot-water temperature locally for kitchens and other areas where it is needed, rather than by providing higher-than-necessary temperatures for the entire building.

Windows

Design and place windows based on internal wall characteristics

The type of internal walls used in your facilities should influence the design and placement of windows. Highly reflective--but not glossy--light-colored walls spread daylight back from the sidewalls. Jewel-toned walls absorb more light and may require more supplemental lighting sources.

Use interior window treatments

In addition to being attractive, interior window treatments reduce energy consumption. Use insulating vertical or horizontal blinds and/or draperies to reduce heat loss and solar gain through window openings.

Use window films

Window films help reduce air conditioning and heating energy use while allowing occupants to enjoy the view. In optimum situations, energy savings frequently pay back the cost of film installation in a year or less.

Call Alabama Power’s Business Service Center

1-888-430-5787

Monday through Friday,
7 a.m. to 6 p.m.