Often times building owners are overwhelmed with salesmen pushing their innovative products at great promise for more efficient buildings. Making energy efficient changes to appliances and electronics, heating and cooling equipment, can all aid in creating a more energy efficient building, however, being green goes beyond the purchase.   

Savings are not always the same for all products and uses—a technology that might save a lot of energy in one instance may offer little improvement in others. A variety of factors should be taken into consideration, to determine the most suitable energy efficiency measure. This includes: building specifications and uses, sustainability and efficiency goals, as well as budget and available incentives. An experienced energy consultant specializes in considering all aspects and help find the best solution to meet specific goals and requirements. When considering implementing energy efficiency measures, it pays to engage an energy consultant.

One Size Does Not Fit All

When it comes to technologies and products to improve energy efficiency in commercial real estate, one size does not fit all.  For example, Thinfilm technology, which can be applied to windows to reduce solar heat gain and transfer effects, are of great use if applied to an office building with large amounts of south facing glass windows. However, if applied in the residential building with shaded windows, the product is near useless. It’s imperative to understand how to use a product and its benefits, using it incorrectly may make the purchase an unwise decision.  

Another example to reference is the use of lighting. LED lights lower costs and have a low electricity demand compared to the standard incandescent or fluorescent lightbulb. However, this isn’t always the case depending on specific situations. Understanding energy and cost savings can be transferred into simple math, which can be calculated as follows: (Hours used) X (Change in efficiency of the equipment) X (Time of use energy cost). As a result, changing a light bulb in a closet which is on to two hours a day, as compared to a light bulb in a hallway, which is on 24 hours a day, will result in 1/24 the savings. The technology is the same, but it will produce different results and differences in energy savings depending on specific situations. Going green is beyond making proactive changes—it’s about being mindful of how and when the product is being used.

Another common practice is to oversize hot water heaters and air-conditioning units, sometimes by a factor of two, which can result in overuse. Solar photovoltaic systems are also often oversized and the electricity generated but not used by the facility is often compensated at a lower rate or not at all by the utility. Sizing the correct solar system goes beyond looking at annual energy consumption or peak demand. There is a need to look to look at the metrics daily, specifically during night and daytime hours. With correct sizing, operating costs and installation costs can be reduced. Energy consultants can help in correctly sizing a project, and understand that larger isn’t always better.

In addition to sizing, examining the operations of existing equipment may result in the savings. Equipment optimization, or reducing the hours necessary for building equipment to run while still maintain operating parameters (such as temperature, air quality, light levels), can will cost more in analysis but can usually be implemented cost effectively, and often times achieve a one or two year payback time. A common example is to turn air-conditioning off when unoccupied or utilizing cool outside air as opposed to turning on air-conditioning units to cool the building. As opposed to providing general energy saving statements, consultants can provide more detailed information, by performing an energy audit or retro-commissioning studies.

Choosing the Right Energy Solutions

Energy optimization goes beyond implementing the latest and greatest technology in the market. There are many elements that need to be carefully assessed such as: property use, existing building systems, owner goals and requirements, regulations and laws, financial flexibility, and possible incentives for “going green”.

A knowledgeable consultant whose motivation isn’t to promote a single technology, is the person to help you objectively assess all these different criteria and identify what will yield the greatest results, to achieve the highest savings and payback. Working with a consultant whose primary goal isn’t to have a stake in the implementation of projects and has no allegiance to one technology over another is imperative. It pays to have someone on your side who has the same objective as you do—to be energy efficient.