Bringing Energy Efficiency to Offices

Office buildings represent approximately 17 percent of energy use in commercial buildings nationwide and consume more energy than any other building type. With almost 60 percent of existing office buildings built before 1980, many are in desperate need of upgrades to aging building equipment, appliances and systems. Even small offices can reap a big payoff by introducing energy efficiency measures: Small businesses can typically save as much money and prevent as much pollution, per square foot, as large organizations.

Buildings may use more or less energy for a variety of reasons, ranging from equipment efficiency, energy management practices and business activities to variations in climate. Whatever the variables, all office buildings present some opportunities for energy efficiency improvements. At the heightened pace of emerging technologies, even relatively new buildings can garner savings. Successful continuous improvement of building performance requires more than just better technology—the goals of energy efficiency need to become part of the company’s culture.


Depending on the type of business you operate, lighting may account for 20 to 50 percent of your electricity consumption. This means that significant cost savings can be achieved with lighting, which usually provides the highest return-on-investment of major upgrades. Here are three lucrative areas to focus on:

Fixtures. Though often ignored, the quality of the fixture itself is a critical consideration for improving the energy efficiency of your facility and saving money. For example, LED fixtures have a huge impact on the LED lamps’ performance, ensuring the laps reach full brightness instantly and eliminate buzz and flicker.

Lighting controls. Controls maximize a system’s flexibility and minimize wasted light. Bi-level switching, dimmers, occupancy sensors and daylight sensors are all cutting-edge technologies that adjust the light to the specific circumstance, reduce unnecessary illumination and result in significant savings.

Lamps. Conventional light bulbs (lamps) waste most of their energy as heat. With traditional incandescent light bulbs that operate at 20 percent energy efficiency, up to 80 percent of the electricity is lost. LEDs keep cool and thus more efficient. And their lumen-to-watt ratio makes them the leader in efficacy—a measure of brightness based on electricity use.


HVAC is key to maintaining a comfortable, healthy and productive work environment. Collectively, HVAC accounts for approximately 40 percent of the electricity used in commercial buildings. Through implementing best practices and upgrades, you can improve your office’s heating and cooling performance along with substantial energy savings.

Appropriate size. Oversizing equipment increases both your capital cost at the time of the installation and the cost of operation. Proper sizing can have a huge impact on efficiency.

Life cycle costing. Estimating the total cost of ownership over the life of an asset is often a much more savvy approach that just calculating its initial cost. Focusing on life cycle costs usually results in a better long-term solution.

Office Equipment

Office equipment represents one of the fastest growing uses of electricity in commercial buildings in the United States. Businesses pay more than $2 billion annually for the electricity consumed by office equipment. Here’s a telling example of inefficient practices: The use of air conditioning to remove the waste heat generated by office equipment costs nearly $1 billion more. Here are three types of office equipment that offer substantial savings.

Copiers. Copiers, the most energy intensive type of office equipment, waste energy by sitting idle for several hours each day. The new Energy Star models use 40 to 55 percent less energy than standard models.

Computers. Computers account for the fastest growing electric load in business world. Two practices you can put into effect immediately: Turn off equipment at night and make sure you have power management software installed.

Monitors. More than half the energy that a desktop computer uses goes to the monitor. Make sure that you right-size your monitors, as larger monitors use much more energy than smaller ones.

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