Aaron owns and operates a 10,000-square-foot light commercial business building. He has been very unhappy with his skyrocketing utility bills. He isn’t sure what to do about it, but he’d love to do SOMETHING as they are keeping him from salting away funds for much-needed expansion.
His friend Mark, meanwhile, another local business owner, shows him HIS utility bill, and Aaron can’t believe how much lower his bill is for roughly the same-size business! Mark tells Aaron his lack of attention to setting the business’s thermostat is costing him money each month that he could be saving toward his expansion plans.
Here are five easy steps that Mark suggests to Aaron:
1. Maintain the recommended economical set points of 78 degrees for cooling and 70 degrees for heating.
This step alone represents a 27% savings on Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Star program. The savings translates into over $750/year.
Even greater savings are possible. For cooling, each additional degree can affect Aaron’s bill as much as 7% due to additional run time. This means setting the thermostat from 79 rather than 78 will save 34% or over $1,000/yr (as opposed to the 27%, $750 figure listed above).
Heating has an even higher rate of return. For each degree Aaron lowers the thermostat below 70’F, he can save just over 8%, per US DOE Energy Star. Of course, Aaron needs to consider the comfort of his employees, too – but if his business is well-insulated, there might not be much of a difference between, say, 70 and 69. And yet look at the cost savings!
2. During non-business hours, change the thermostat setting by 4-5 degrees for cooling and heating to save on utility bills.
(In other words, make the set point 82-83 for cooling and 65-66 for heating). This will give Aaron a savings of nearly 50% for non-business hours. If his business is closed just the average of 54 days a year, this still represents $100/yr – in addition to – the savings listed above.
3. Upgrade to a programmable thermostat that makes scheduling settings easy while saving money by optimizing HVAC use.
See above points for savings. The advantage to programmable thermostats is how automating temperature changes can help ensure savings. Put another way, programmable thermostats save energy and money by placing less of a demand on the HVAC system after business hours, while “kicking in” to maximize comfort during the peak hours everyone is at work.
Self-Monitoring Analysis And Reporting Technology, better known as SMART thermostats take this concept one step further by connecting to the Internet – often through a Wi-Fi clip, but also through other devices. Aaron could even adjust a SMART thermostat remotely through smartphone apps. Talk about easy!
4. Do not turn off your HVAC system completely!
It’s true that heating or cooling a business can be a pretty massive utility drain and thus it’s tempting to turn off when your business is closed. As an example why this isn’t a good idea, let’s say that it’s a time of year when it can get pretty chilly at night. Most of the time, Aaron’s business will cool down so much that heating it back to a comfortable temperature when he gets back to the office will waste more energy than simply letting it run, adjusting the temp up or down accordingly with that handy programmable thermostat.
5. Install a SMART ventilation control system to not only optimize IAQ, but also to save energy by “banking” cool air or warm air as needed.
A SMART ventilation system can ventilate a building when the outside temperature is 75 degrees or even 70 degrees, allowing the indoor temp to drop to 76 when the set point is 78. This means cooler rooms will be 73 degrees and even the warmer rooms will be 78. Since the HVAC will not come on until 79 degrees, the fan can circulate the “banked” cool air and the cooling system will skip compressor cycles. The same principle holds true for heating cycles and banking warm air.
How this translates into saving money for Aaron: Banking alone saves 30% (just over $800/yr). When added to the set point changes noted in bullets #1 and #3 above, savings can total 55% (just over $1,400/yr.) AND, if combined with bullets #2 and #3 above, savings can be as much as 60% (or just over $1,800/yr.)
Addressing each of these five energy-saving steps will maximize the efficiency of an HVAC system – and thus save money – which holds true for any commercial business, regardless of whether it’s Aaron’s or YOURS.
About the Author
Jonathan Carson is a certified HVAC contractor and a founder of the Lake Wales, FL-based Natural Air E-Controls, LLC (www.naturalair.com). Natural Air E-Controls, LLC designs and builds HVAC control systems that enable the building’s HVAC equipment to provide fresh air and remove pollutants by taking in outdoor air in amounts needed to improve indoor air quality while saving on heating and cooling bills.