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Energy efficiency in offices

21st October 2021
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Now is the time to be embrace energy efficiency, which is simply to be aware of your electricity
use and find ways to use less of it.
Because not only does increased energy efficiency save you money but it will reduce
greenhouse gas emissions, the cause of climate change.
In fact, increasing energy efficiency is an excellent way to save money particularly if the government introduce a carbon tax.
A carbon tax will increase coal fired electricity prices, encouraging Australians to consume less
electricity while also making renewable energy generation more financially viable.
Renewable energy, solar hot water, insulation and compact fluorescents have all been
encouraged by the government with subsidies and rebates in the past.
These incentives have been generally directed at residential properties and have been well
received.
So if you are serious about saving money and helping the planet, energy efficiency is an area
that you would be well advised to look at.

Energy Efficiency in Offices
Offices around the world are a large source of electricity consumption and carbon emissions.
Fortunately there are a variety of things that even a small office can undertake to increase
energy efficiency and reduce their environmental impact.
The biggest areas of electricity use In an office will nearly always be air conditioning, lighting
and computer equipment.

Air Conditioning
In our sub tropical climate air conditioning is often the largest area of electricity use in an office.
Reducing air conditioning (and heating) use takes into account two main areas, thermal
performance and the energy efficiency of the cooling/heating unit. Thermal performance looks
predominately at where heat is entering and exiting the building envelop (the office building or
structure in this case). Looking at the thermal dynamics of a building can get quite involved and
doing it properly will encompass; orientation; ventilation; insulation; shading; thermal mass and
glazing. One of the first steps to improving thermal performance is to determine where heat is
entering the building – is there a large window that gets direct sunlight? Is there sufficient
ventilation to remove heat generated in the office? After determining the problem, discover the
solution which could involve insulation, heat reflective paint, window tinting and awnings to
reduce heat gain. While Installing exhaust fans, roof ventilators and vents can encourage heat
loss in the office.

There other aspect to look at, is simply the efficiency of the Air Conditioning/heating (AC) unit.
Looking at the star rating on a AC unit will give a good idea of how efficient it is. Star rating are
calculated by dividing the units output power (how much cooling power it can generate) by it’s
input (how much electricity it consumes). This figure is called the EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio),
anything over 3.2 is generally consider efficient. To further increase AC efficiency, ensure there
is adequate and accessible control of your AC and encourage awareness of usage by staff. Set
the temperature slightly higher in summer, one degree difference will make a 10% difference in
your AC costs. Remember to keep windows and doors shut when the AC is on. If you need
doors open installing an air curtain is often a viable solution.

Lighting
Significant lighting savings can be made through behavioural change. Simply turning off lights in
parts of the building that aren’t being used is often an easy solution. Putting in multiple lights
switches for large banks of lights can help give more control in reducing the lights that are on.
Educate staff on best practise and consider installing sensors and timers to also limit ‘on’ time.
Installing skylights and opaque roofing to enhance natural light can be another good option.

Delamping (taking out bulbs in over lit areas) is free and can give instant savings. In The Echos
art room they took 3 tubes out a bank of 12. The light was still ample and they achieved a 25%
saving that was free and took five minutes.

Upgrading old lights to the latest and most efficient types can offer great paybacks (time it takes
to recoup initial outlay through energy savings). Incandescent lights can be cheaply changed to
CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lamps) which are now dimmable and can have a ‘warm’ light. Just
about everyone has now done this but check hallways and storerooms that may have not been
upgraded. LEDs (LIght Emitting Diodes) are regularly getting cheaper and brighter making them
viable alternatives for halogens. LEDs have no mercury, less heat, run much more efficiently
and last 5 to 15 times longer than traditional lighting sources.

The most common lighting source in offices by far are fluorescent tubes. Fluros while
reasonably efficient compared to other light sources can be cost effectively upgraded to more
efficient models. T8s’s with magnetic ballasts are the prevalent kind of fluro consuming around
45 watts per lamp and are used over 95% of the time. Upgrading to a T5 with electronic ballast
that consumes 30w give a saving of 33% and over the many lights typical of an office adds up to
a significant saving. Payback for these upgrades are generally between 2 – 5 years.

Office Equipment
The best rule with office equipment is to turn it off when you can. Printers, photo copiers and
computers should all be turned off when possible. Office Equipment on standby continue to
consume energy and should be turned off at the switch. Computers should be put on their most
efficient settings, putting hard drives to sleep and turning monitors off after short periods off
inactivity. When purchasing new equipment compare how energy efficient it is as the running
costs are generally higher than the original purchase price.

So there you have it, simple ways to save money and increase the environmental performance
of your office space.
Remember you don’t have to own the business to make these changes, some of the best ideas
and impetus for change come from within the organisation.

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