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Many energy-efficient options for owners.

Whether you are looking for ways to pare your energy bill or you're pushing the limits of your building's maximum electric load, recent technological advances energy-efficient products provide building owners and managers with an abundance of choices.

Even building systems in relatively new properties can waste significant amounts of energy, boosting operating costs unnecessarily. The three best areas to look for wasted energy are lighting, the HVAC system including motors, and the building envelope.

New lighting technology, including electronic ballasts, energy-efficient fluorescent lamps, compact fluorescent lamps and energy efficient fixtures and reflector kits, provides a number of ways to cut energy consumption dramatically.

Some building owners have reduced lighting operating costs by as much as 50 percent by completely replacing an old lighting system with a modern, energy-efficient one. Others have significantly cut costs by replacing four fluorescent lamps and old ballasts with two energy-efficient lamps and an electronic ballast, retaining the same fixture. The cost of purchasing and installing the new equipment can be recouped through energy cost savings in as little as a year or two, depending on the type of equipment purchased, the equipment it replaced and the hours of usage.

An excellent energy-saving retrofit is the replacement of incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents. New compact fluorescent lamps manufactured by a number of reputable firms are smaller than previous models and can fit into virtually any incandescent fixture. Compact fluorescent lamps have advantages. They provide the same amount of light as the incandescent bulbs they replace, but consume only about 25 percent of the electricity. And since compact fluorescents last up to 10 times as long as incandescents, the cost of labor to change bulbs is reduced as well.

Incandescent bulbs in most office and multi-family buildings are usually found in common areas such as stairwells or in exit signs that are often operating around the clock. This constant operation increases the dollar savings potential.

Other steps can be taken to reduce lighting costs, including the installation of occupancy sensors in conference rooms that will automatically turn lights on and off as needed and dimmers that can adjust the amount of artificial light depending on the amount of sunlight in the room. Keep in mind, however, that dimmers can only be used if the proper ballast is installed. Task lighting such as desk lamps can help reduce the amount of ambient light by providing the required illumination onto the work surface.

Air conditioning is another major expense for most businesses and office buildings, but it is an expense that usually can be reduced, sometimes by taking very simple steps. Merely turning off air conditioning systems when not needed and setting the thermostat a degree or two higher can cut operating costs. Adjusting temperature upward can be done gradually, perhaps only one degree a week, giving tenants time to adjust. Checking to make sure tenants remain comfortable is essential during this transition process.

Other simple projects to ensure efficient operation of the air conditioning system is to make sure filters and coils are clean and to check for and repair leaks in ducts.

Replacing one or more non-functioning components of your HVAC system, or replacing the entire system, presents you with an opportunity to save significantly on operating costs. When replacing one component, don't automatically use the same type and size as the old one, but check for energy-efficient alternatives.

If energy efficiency improvements have been made in the building since the current HVAC system was installed, smaller replacement parts may be capable of doing the job more cost effectively. Energy efficient lighting, for example, reduces the amount of heat that needs to be expelled from the building, so if these improvements have already been made, you may be able to utilize a smaller chiller that consumes less energy.

Installing an air conditioning economizer properly set and maintained can significantly reduce your energy bill well. When external air temperature is low enough, the economizer cycle will shut down the air conditioning compressor and cool the building by drawing in outside air.

The HVAC system incorporates numerous motors of different sizes. Because they operate at varying load conditions, installing adjustable speed drive units should be given consideration. Significant energy savings will result by operating the equipment at slower speeds during light load or low output conditions.

Installing adjustable speed drives with energy efficient motors will provide even greater energy savings. To determine whether new, energy-efficient motors will be cost-effective, survey all the motors in your building and check their hours of operation and motor load.

You may find that due to system modifications, old motors are oversized. If they are running at less than 40 percent capacity, replacement with a smaller, energy-efficient model is worth the investment. Although the cost of energy-efficient models can be 10 to 20 percent higher than a standard unit, the payback time is as short as two years or less. And energy efficient motors not only save energy, but are usually more reliable and of a higher quality than standard models.

If it becomes necessary to replace the entire air conditioning system, consider all the alternatives. A number of high-efficiency electric systems on the market can save significant sums in operating costs. Electric units, however, are not the only choices. Steam driven and gas-fired air conditioning systems are gaining tremendously in popularity. The savings in energy costs from electric demand charges alone may surprise even the most seasoned building manager.

Finally, the building envelope is another area you can often find significant energy savings. Often inexpensive improvements such as caulking windows can reduce cooling or heating loss and reduce operating costs. Other improvements such as insulation and solar screens to reduce solar heat gain can pay big dividends as well.

While many of the above steps require an investment on the part of building owners, the savings in energy costs after a short payback period can make it well worth the initial cost. To help reduce the payback period, most utility companies including Con Edison offer rebates on the purchase of qualifying energy-efficient equipment such as lighting, air conditioning and motors. Before proceeding with any energy-efficiency project, be sure to check with your local utility representative.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Technology; advice for building owners
Author:Napoli, Frank
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Sep 22, 1993
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