With temperatures soaring into the triple digits in states across the country this summer, energy costs also can soar to new heights, causing facilities managers everywhere to scramble to rein in high costs while keeping buildings comfortable for workers.
For most commercial buildings, energy is the single largest operating expense, most of which comes in the form of electricity. And, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, refrigeration accounts for the largest share of annual electricity use by the U.S. commercial sector. That being the case, the cost of utility-supplied power is of major concern to property managers searching for ways to lower costs.
Commercial buildings in cities are especially challenging, since the heat from black roofs, as well as other factors – such as asphalt roads, densely spaced buildings, and bus and car exhausts – create what is known as heat islands. These are built-up urban areas that experience significantly higher temperatures than surrounding areas. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), daytime temperatures average one to six degrees Fahrenheit hotter in urban areas vs. rural ones, and up to 22 degrees hotter at night.
So how can facilities managers work to lower cooling and energy costs when the heat island index is the talk of the office? Consider the following five ways to reduce energy costs in the hot summer months
1. Consider your roofing material. As building owners and facility managers work furiously to keep buildings cool through air-conditioning systems on overdrive, rooftop materials can play a major role in keeping heat at bay, since much of a building’s heat comes directly from the sun’s rays on the roof. While some of this heat gets reflected by the roof, a good portion of it gets absorbed and transferred to the building below, significantly increasing internal temperatures and, in turn, driving up the cost to maintain a comfortable temperature for people. Black or dark roofs retain more heat, absorbing both visible and nonvisible light that can reach temperatures of 150-degrees Fahrenheit or more in the summer according to the Department of Energy.
Reducing heat on roofs is one of the better ways to reduce building heat. Heat-reflecting cool paints are an effective solution for keeping roofs cool and are being required in many municipalities. Typically, cool paints are white or light in color, to better reflect the sun’s rays, but they can come in many different forms and colors. Nygra uses advanced polymer coating technology in our cool paints to enable black or dark colored roof coatings to reflect the sun’s infrared rays and significantly reduce heat; our heat-reflecting Nygra Flex White Coating received a solar reflectance index rating of 109 by the Cool Roof Rating Council’s Product Rating Program, which is among the top ratings in the industry.
You can also create cool pavements in parking lots and other outside areas using materials that reflect solar energy.
2. Switch up your lighting. According to Energy Star, lighting uses approximately 18 percent of electricity generated in the U.S., and is a portion of a building’s total energy bill that can be easily reduced. While LED has emerged as an energy efficient way to light up buildings, there have been concerns of the health ramifications, today, brilliantly healthy LED light panels that maintain energy efficiency while maximizing the health of those under them, are available. This new LED lighting offers the invisible stimulus that maintains workers’ circadian rhythms, but they do so by converting, not filtering, existing blue LED so energy efficiency is not sacrificed.
3. Make it a company-wide initiative. When planning conservation efforts to reduce energy usage in your building, it’s important to clearly map out your strategy, and goals and stick to your plan. This also means clearly articulating the energy-saving goals company-wide and involving the staff in taking small measures to decrease energy consumption, i.e. shutting off lights, keeping blinds drawn, avoiding using window fans and keeping doors shut to the outdoors.
4. Plant trees and other vegetation. Focusing on ground covering and shade in outdoor areas can help to keep areas cooler in an eco-friendly way, while reducing air and surface temperatures. A study by Dr. Brian Stone, Jr. of Georgia Tech’s School of City and Regional Planning estimated that by planting more vegetation and using reflective building materials, the cities of Philadelphia, Atlanta and Phoenix could significantly prevent many of the increased fatalities expected from urban heat islands and climate change in 205
5. Conduct an energy audit. An energy audit can systematically identify and develops opportunities to help reduce energy use in your facility and, as a result, decrease building operating costs. Using independent firms or conducting an audit on your own, you can determine your facility’s average energy consumption over the course of a set period, examine specific energy streams and how they contribute to usage, and compare energy usage against similar facilities. You can also look for energy-efficient rebates for use of Energy Star-certified products, or through local utilities providers.
Scientists across the globe concur that summers are getting hotter thanks to global climate warning, but it doesn’t mean you have to break the bank with energy costs. Turning up the heat on finding ways to reduce costs through the use of innovative new building and landscaping materials, energy- efficient lighting and company-wide cooperation can go a long way to keeping buildings cool without overworking your AC system.
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