22 Oct 5 Trusted Things To Cut Your Office Building Utility Bills
Running a business is hard. The last thing business owners want to deal with is skyrocketing utility bills when the winter weather strikes. Entrepreneurs get into business to follow their passion and want to focus on growing their business, not managing the office building. However, we feel it is important that owners are aware of where they are spending their hard earned money because it may be floating out the front door.
Studies show that energy costs impact the bottom line:
When it comes to energy costs, [taking action] makes savings here makes enormous sense for business overall…the Carbon Trust has said that just a 20 percent reduction in energy consumption equates to increasing sales by around 5 percent, and not many business owners would sniff at that!
So what can an entrepreneur do to control their utility costs? There are a few trusted things that offer varying degrees of impact and costs.
Find Do-It-Yourself Action Items
There are some simple do-it-yourself steps that you and your employees can do starting today. The main driver of energy costs is air flow, so focus on keeping the air inside the office building.
Owners may want to remind employees that these costs will add up and look to treat the office like their own home. After all, most people spend about the same (if not more) time at the office. Sure Close outlines some simple things, like:
- Close the doors.
- Pull down the blinds at night.
- Insulate the pipes and hot water tanks.
- Install radiator foils.
By nature, office buildings have a lot of traffic. Employees want to leave the building to take a break or find some fresh air. Depending on your business, you may have salespeople that need to leave and talk to customers and close deals. These are great and valid reasons for the traffic, but cause nightmare for facilities managers trying to keep the warm air inside the building as the temperature starts to drop. The DIY actions all aim to manage the airflow and keep the warm air (and in the summer, the cold air) inside the office.
Another action, which may require a bit more effort relates to the building pipes and radiators. If the pipes and radiator are located near external walls, then insulation and radiator foils are particularly important. When in contact with an exterior wall, then cold wall will leach the heat out of the room. Radiator foils help reflect the heat back into the room.
Insulation is King
Real estate professionals have a saying: location, location, location. Well, for anyone looking to control utility costs, there should be an equally prolific saying: insulate, insulate, insulate.
Business owners know that cash is king. So, when looking at cutting your utility bills, improper insulation is like watching your hard earned cash float out the front door because hot air literally floats away. The stats are quite alarming: 60% of heat loss occurs through building fabric.
But what is building fabric?
Simply, the materials that protect the building from the outside. Of the roughly 60% of heat loss that floats out of the office building, these are the main culprits:
- 25% via windows.
- 20-25% via roof.
- 10% via walls.
- 10% via floors.
So why does insulation work so well? Proper insulation prevents drafts that lead to warm air leaking through the walls, windows and ceilings. Additionally, proper insulation works year round because air remains inside the building regardless of the season (which means less reliance on the air conditioner in the summer as well).
Identify the Airflow and Improve the Air Quality
Insulation is a major step to keeping the air inside the building, but owners should also learn how that air moves around the building. Stagnant air that is recycled throughout the office will lead to poor air quality (and may be why employees need to take a break for some fresh air).
The first step is to identify and understand how the air flows throughout the office building. To take a deep dive into the cause and effects of airflow, then Inspectapedia provides some more depth on the topic. To summarize, the following are the major actions that create the building’s airflow:
- human activities – naturally, employees (humans) move throughout the day and create airflow.
- ventilation systems – note that the vents are not ‘set it and forget it’ because old or dirty systems impact the office air quality if they move contaminated air throughout the office.
- natural and/or chimney effects – the dominant force behind office airflow is the building and office design, including shape, size, stairwells, elevator shafts, etc.
- temperature changes – mother nature is at work on your office because seasonal changes impact air pressure, temperature changes and weather conditions (like wind and rain), which plays with the building airflow.
For those folks in larger buildings (or facilities managers of large office buildings), then consider the revolving door. Some investigative reporting by Slate and MIT concluded that revolving doors work.
According to their calculations, the swinging door allowed as much as eight times more air to pass through the building than the revolving door. Applying average Boston weather to their equations, the MIT team found that if everyone used the revolving doors, it would save more than 75,000 kilowatt-hours of energy—about 1.5 percent of the total required to heat and cool the building.
And if your next question is “how do we get people to use the doors?” just ask nicely. In the study, the reporters identified that people used the revolving doors if asked with a sign like: please use the revolving door.
Here’s the good news: The research team found that in another building on campus—one where a simple and polite sign had long been posted before researchers started tracking door usage—revolving-door use was higher than anywhere else on campus, even after those signs were taken down. And the MIT team also noticed that there appeared to be a snowball effect—once one person used a revolving door, other people often followed, particularly since it required less force to push through.
Don’t Delay – Deal With Issues As They Arise
Procrastination is part of human nature. In particular, things that we don’t want to deal with, we tend to put off for tomorrow. And tomorrow turns into another tomorrow and so on until the minor issue because an urgent issue.
Previously, we discussed why preventative maintenance works and is important for home ownership. Taking a proactive approach helps spot and identify developing issues before they become problems. For any business owners that have customers or clients on-site, then clearly, any building problem has a direct impact on your sales and ability to conduct business.
One approach, outlined by Spiral Utilities, a professional building and utility management firm, is conduct an annual check. Many businesses have fluctuating demand, which means there are busy times and times to catch your breath. An annual building check up is a great thing to schedule when you have some down time. For example, an accounting firm, which is typically busy from January through April, should consider a ‘building audit’ during the summer. Ideally, there would be a significant date that is selected (like the 4th of July or something business specific) so they don’t forget each year.
There are many costs and expenses associated with running a business and maintaining the building. At times, depending on the business cycle and general state of the economy, projects likely need to compete for limited resources. Business owners need to weigh the pros and cons associated with all projects, and this includes building updates and upgrades. Depending on your business, then the physical space may be more important (like a retail or restaurant compared to a web developer).
Therefore, it is important to set your priorities. In general, working to stop air drafts and leaks a good first step. As noted, much of the energy costs relate to the building airflow because warm air rises and finds those empty spaces. Identifying and eliminating air leaks impact the heating and cooling expenses, along with improving the temperature and atmosphere for your co-workers. After all, nobody likes working in a drafty work area.
To help provide a high level overview where to focus, then Inspectapedia provides the following guidance.
- Stop Drafts and Air Leaks – find any leaky windows and doors because cumulatively, they will add up to large amounts of air loss.
- Insulate Attics – as noted Insulation is King because hot air rises and tends to vacate the building via an “up and out” method, so target the top level of a building (i.e., the roof and ceilings).
- Update and/or Upgrade Windows – new windows (following an energy audit to ensure they are the problem) should have the most bang for your buck compared to replacing the entire window unit.
- Insulate Walls – after the roof and any leaky windows, walls are next on the leaky air list (also include basements and crawl spaces, as applicable).
- Review Heating and Cooling System – like all business processes, it helps to review and maintain year round to understand your building costs and expenses.
The last thing you want to worry about is an office building issue because it distracts you from your employees and customers. Being an entrepreneur is hard enough (we will back you up!), so it is important to spend your time on your passion, your products and your business growth. Luckily, at Snappy, you are our customers and we would be happy to answer any questions about building maintenance. Contact Snappy today and ask about our energy audit to understand the airflow in your building.