Three tips for businesses to improve energy conservation
Business and commercial property owners should be aware of the innovative technologies that increase sustainability
Commercial and residential buildings are responsible for a considerable amount of energy consumption in the United States, but there are actions that businesses can take to reduce their environmental footprint. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, the commercial and residential building sector accounts for 39 percent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the U.S. each year — more than any other sector. In fact, U.S. buildings alone are responsible for more CO2 emissions annually than those of any other country except China.
In 2014, data centers in the U.S. consumed an estimated 70 billion kWh, representing about 1.8 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption. Furthermore, not all the energy supplied to our nation’s cities is actually going to use, as more than 60 percent is lost as waste heat or through other inefficiences, such as doors or windows that allow air to leak or using an incandescent lamp to produce light rather than using LED (light-emitting diode) technology that requires less energy.
The Pew Research Center found the majority of Americans anticipate new technology innovations will solve most climate problems within the next 50 years. However, there are several steps that businesses can take now to reduce their commercial building’s energy use and costs:
1. Reduce Energy Costs with Metering Technology
Energy costs represent a substantial portion of a building’s operating budget, and energy information about specific building systems is necessary for managing consumption and costs. The amount of data needed to characterize and optimize commercial building system energy efficiency cannot be simply obtained using the standard utility meter. Sub-metering systems, however, collect detailed energy data, which can provide vital information, such as equipment operating schedules or failures, to owners or operators, allowing them to optimize energy performance and detect areas for improvement, but they are very expensive. Today, innovative companies, such as Whisker Labs are developing peel-and-stick energy sub-metering technology that could reduce costs by 90 percent, providing real-time insights into energy consumption, and ultimately driving proactive building management decisions and improved energy conservation.
2. Reduce the Energy Required to Light and Cool Perimeter Spaces
Commercial office buildings are typically comprised of interior spaces and perimeter spaces extending 12 to 18 feet from the outer wall, usually including large glass areas. These perimeter spaces have widely varying energy loads due to changing sun position and weather. Next-generation windows and building envelope technologies can provide substantial energy savings, but current solutions, such as electrochromic glass, face barriers to adoption – notably high cost. By reducing the energy required to light and cool perimeter spaces, building owners and operators can help contribute to a cleaner environment. VG SmartGlass developed a polarizing film-based shading solution with the potential to control privacy, glare and energy with a simple design and low cost. The company’s user-controlled technology, called INVISIBLIND, requires no power or phase changing materials and is a lower cost alternative to smart glass.
3. Reduce Data Center Energy Consumption
In the U.S. alone, large groups of networked computer servers typically used by organizations for the remote storage, processing or distribution of large amounts of data, known as data centers, now consumer an estimated 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and the significant majority of that is consumed by building-connected data centers, rather than internet and cloud service facilities. The continued growth of global digital activity ensures that data center energy consumption will also continue to increase and consequently, an energy-efficient solution is necessary. One such solution is a total immersion electronics cooling technology. LiquidCool Solutions has developed an approach for pumping safe and easy-to-maintain dielectric fluid directly into the server enclosure to cool electronic components while protecting them from environmental contaminants. This technology has the potential to deliver improved energy efficiency, 40 percent energy savings and significant cost savings with air-cooled approaches.
Despite the substantial energy consumption of commercial buildings in the United States, technologies that focus on clean energy sustainability are being developed in order to increase energy conservation and improve sustainability to better protect future generations. Every business and commercial property owner should be aware of the innovative technologies that both allow for gains in energy efficiency and help to improve energy conservation in commercial buildings.