Unless you are fortunate to live and work in a very temperate climate, HVAC is a necessary expense for at least some of the year. And while the cost of everything, especially energy, is higher these days, there are simple things you can do to keep your expenses under control.
Here are some tried and true methods for reducing the HVAC-related costs on your office’s monthly energy bill.
Change the Setpoint
No, we’re not asking office employees to wear swimsuits in the summer and parkas in the winter, but by adjusting the setpoint during non-working hours such as evenings, weekends and holidays, you can cut the cost of heating and cooling an empty building. A smart thermostat like ENASTAT makes it easy to create schedules down to the exact calendar day.
Unplug the Space Heaters
Space heaters are energy-intensive fire hazards but, most importantly, a sign that you may have a larger HVAC issue if employees are having to self-regulate the temperature in their areas. If your building is plagued by hot and cold spots, it may be worth having an assessment from an energy or HVAC professional.
Check Your Economizer
AC systems often take advantage of a damper vent which opens to draw in outside cooler air and reduces the need for conditioned air. While this is a great way to save money, it should be inspected regularly because a broken damper can increase an energy bill by as much as 50% by allowing hot air in during cooling season and cold air in during periods of heating.
Change the Filters
The rule of thumb is to change your filters at least once per quarter, but this frequency can vary greatly depending on usage. Give your filters the eye test monthly and don’t hesitate to swap them out; clean filters not only ensure the air you paid to heat or cool is delivered, they reduce the long-term stress on your system.
Check the Airflow
Hold your hand or a piece of paper to the vent from which conditioned air is being distributed. If the airflow is weak (or non-existent), have a licensed professional check your system. Even if the air isn’t being delivered properly, you’re still paying for it…plus the system will have to work that much harder to achieve the setpoint.
Visually inspect all of your system components from time to time, but particularly the outdoor units which are prone to buildup of dirt and debris. When systems become clogged, their ability to efficiently heat and cool is negatively impacted.
Work with the Sun
The sun’s radiant heat is wonderful in the winter, so open the blinds and allow nature to do its job! In the summer, though, blinds or curtains can block the unwanted heat so your AC doesn’t have to work quite as hard.
Move the Air
Circulator fans are a great year-round complement to your HVAC system. In the summer, they can distribute conditioned air for more balanced temperatures and allow you to increase your setpoint because they create a “cooling effect.” Just be sure to turn them off when a room is unoccupied as they don’t change air temperature. In the winter, run them slowly (or at high speed in reverse) to draw hot air trapped at the ceiling down to the occupant level.
There are lots of little things you can do around the office to lighten the (HVAC) load or save energy in general. Put your plan together and then monitor consumption for several months — you might be surprised how the small modifications lead to big savings!