Businesses of all sizes are challenged to improve their bottom line. Some choose to do more with less; other options include resizing, cutting expenditures, and more efficient spending. One of the best, yet overlooked, ways to improve the bottom line is employing energy efficiency measures within a facility to decrease energy expenditures.

Contractors can recommend that businesses adopt the following 10 steps to make their facilities more energy efficient, decrease energy expenditures, and support environmental stewardship.

1. Conduct an energy audit - Enlisting an energy services provider or contractor to conduct an energy audit is the first and best step a business can take to evaluate the type and scope of energy savings opportunities. This will identify where energy is already being used wisely, as well as opportunities for saving more energy. Improving energy efficiency provides benefits for all types of buildings and commercial facilities.

2. Upgrade lighting - Lighting systems are responsible for nearly 35 percent of electricity costs in commercial buildings. Upgrading to energy-efficient lamps and ballasts can decrease energy consumption between 20 and 50 percent. Lighting improvements should include changing magnetic ballasts to electronic ballasts and changing T-12 lamps to T-8. Incandescent bulbs should be replaced with compact fluorescent bulbs, which can last years, as well as use less energy. Fluorescents use less energy, create less heat, and provide softer light, making working environments more comfortable.

3. Collect energy information ... and use it - Energy bills should be reviewed for historical trends, billing errors, and rate information. Utilities often provide varying rate structures based on use and the type of facility, so businesses should ensure they're receiving the best rate. As well, the facility manager should be tasked with collecting, analyzing, and taking actions based on regular reports.

A Web-based building management system, such as the Johnson Controls Metasys system, provides access to building information anywhere a computer is available, as well as the ability to provide facility messages and alerts through mobile devices such as cell phones or Web pads. (Photo courtesy of Johnson Controls.)
4. Control HVAC and lighting- Some of the simplest and most effective energy- saving measures come from HVAC and lighting controls. Programmable thermostats and lighting sensors should be installed in all spaces, and whole-building automation systems, such as the Johnson Controls Metasys® building management system, can control large facilities down to specific rooms. Cooling systems should be correctly rated for the size of facility and should have a high SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) rating, which can provide significant return on investment over the life of the system.

5. Evaluate building envelope for leaks - Simply weatherstripping doors and windows and sealing cracks where outside air can enter provides almost immediate payback. Adding batt insulation to roofs and ceilings can also save energy. Leakage from ductwork joints, elbows, and connections can waste up to 30 percent of the energy used to heat or cool a space.

6. Change employee behavior - Employees should be active members in a company's conservation program, and their efforts can save between five and 20 percent of a company's energy budget. Often, the biggest impact on energy use can be made by employees simply turning things off (or down) when not in use.

7. Manage water usage - Reduce hot water temperature (most buildings set water temperatures too high), reduce system pressure, and install low-flow toilets and sinks. These simple tactics reduce both energy and water costs, and will rarely impact the quality of water used.

8. Insulate and seal pipes and ducts - Insulate water pipes in non-conditioned spaces or when the water is warmer or cooler than room temperature. Also, even small water leaks can have an impact on energy costs. Duct insulation is needed when ducts are exposed to non-conditioned air. Large duct leaks, particularly in non-conditioned spaces, should be sealed.

9. Implement sustainable methods - Comprehensive approaches to energy savings include using the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system. The exhaustive list includes taking advantage of natural daylight entering buildings through windows to reduce heating requirements up to 10 percent. At night, shading windows reduces radiant heat loss from buildings and reflects artificial light back into the building. Plants, courtyards, and open areas outside can impact energy costs by providing shading in summer and insulation from wind and cold in winter.

10. Go Energy Star - Energy Star is a voluntary government program that encourages businesses and individuals to use energy-efficient products that save money and help the environment. Equipment that meets federal energy efficiency standards can receive Energy Star designation. For example, Energy Star-rated computers have power management features that use up to 70 percent less energy than standard computers. Buildings can achieve an Energy Star label if they are ranked among the top 25 percent in the country. In 2003, the program saved enough energy to power 20 million homes and saved nearly $9 billion in energy costs.

Reprinted courtesy of Johnson Controls Inc., Milwaukee. For more information about how to make nonresidential facilities more energy efficient, visit

Alliance to Save Energy
United States Green Building Council
U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Star

Publication date: 08/09/2004