1. Label light switches
This seems so mundane, but is important for any multiple light switches. Often people will come in to the office and switch on every light, because no one has really paid any attention to which switch operates which lights. By labeling switches with stick-on labels, it becomes clear which lights can be switched off on sunny days or when no-one is working in that area.
An easy win, at no cost.
2. Switch off lights in unoccupied rooms and then install sensors
Most offices have store rooms, photocopier rooms, archive stores and kitchens. Label the switches with “turn off this light” stickers, and get everyone into the habit of switching off when they leave. The next step is to install occupancy sensors which can be simple wall-plate replacements. Occupancy sensors are particularly useful for toilets, where we have seen 80% reduction in lighting use. Place them properly though.
3. Blinds up – lights off
Many offices have the blinds shut all day because of early morning glare. If you can, open the blinds, let the sun shine in, and switch off the lights.
4. Retrofit lamps if possible
There are two easy to fit retrofit solutions for lights which can be done. The first is LED spotlights in place of 50W tungsten halogen spotlights. The LEDs seem to cost a lot, but the cost and hassle of forever replacing blown lamps will quickly repay the outlay. The second easy retrofit solution is to use “T8 to T5” converters on the fluorescent lighting. Here you replace wide diameter T8 (3/4”) tubes with an electronic gizmo and a T5 (5/8”) tube. Savings are from 20% to 40% of electricity depending on size of tube and hours of use. LED strip lamps are also becoming affordable, particularly in 24/7 uses. Full lighting refits are more expensive than retrofits but can pay back in around 4 years.
5. Sleepy computers
When you go home at night, either switch off, or put your computer to sleep. (hibernation), turn off your screen. If your IT department doesn’t allow this, get them to install an office wide centralised PC shutdown system such as “Nightwatchman”. These easily pay for themselves in energy savings. Make sure all the other office equipment – printers, photocopiers, faxes, display TVs and projectors are set to energy saver mode. Put simple timers on to make it even easier to switch off overnight and at weekends. Tiny stuff – phone and laptop chargers, desk-lamp transformers can all be switched off when not in use. Not big but easy to save a few watts of vampire loads.
6. Increase the temperature in the server room
Cooling of IT equipment is important to keep it functioning. However, common practice since the days of flared trousers was to keep it at 18 C all year round. Walk into most server rooms and the chill is apparent. A lot of electricity is used to keep these rooms cool. The IT equipment is now much more robust than in the 1970s. Recommendations from ASHRAE give a range of temperatures and humidity accepted by the IT industry. The recommended range is 18 to 27 degrees C, so a central set-point of 25.5 C with a range of +/- 1.5 degrees would be appropriate for reducing energy as much as possible. New guidelines are expected which allow even higher temperatures for some servers. Clearly the closer to the top of the temperature range that can be reached, the less energy will be used in chilling plant.
7. Know your heating controls
Office heating is often zoned and controlled remotely. Make a plan of the office and mark which thermostats control which zone. Colour it in ‘a la Blue Peter’. Make sure people know how their thermostats work and which one operates their heating.
8. Get to know your Energy Manager
Get friendly with your energy or facilities manager, (whoever controls your Building Energy Management System). Find out the times and set points they have, and see how, together you can shave off a few minutes here and there. Some large organisations have Heating Policies given to every employee which state what the temperatures and times for heating & cooling are.
9. Air conditioning dead-band
Make sure your air conditioning is not fighting your heating. There should be a “dead band” of from about 19 to 24 C where there is no heating or cooling. This prevents the often encountered lunacy of simultaneous heating and cooling! Also persuade the powers that be to install window interlocks on the air conditioning control system, so that, when the window is opened, the air con switches off. Otherwise you are trying to cool the whole world.
Go and look in the fridge. Does it resemble an iceberg inside? It’s time to get a new A++ fridge, and recycle that 1980s beast with no icebox cover. Put timers on “ambient” drinks machines so they are off overnight and at weekends. Replace the kettle or boiler with an instant boiling water dispenser.
11. Spending money on easy wins
There are some easy wins which you can persuade top management to carry out on the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system and on the building fabric. Most will pay back faster than any renewables. Draughtproof everywhere, particularly around fire doors. In the boiler room, make sure all pipework and valves are insulated using jackets with velcro fixings. Install variable speed drives on air handling unit fans and heating circulating pumps (big electricity savings here). Install cavity wall insulation if your building is suitable. Install insulation above false ceilings. If the budget will stretch, install condensing boilers and new control systems, and install heat recovery on ventilation air extracts.
12. Awareness raising
Finally, raising awareness and knowing that you can do something is a powerful motivational tool. The Carbon Trust has loads of information on this topic. One of the best campaigns was a local authority’s green team who would walk round after hours and place a chocolate bar reward and a card on a random workstation where everything was switched off.