By Barbara Larson
When I first started working for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program, I thought energy efficiency was all about major building retrofits and new facility designs. While such projects can take advantage of new technologies and may result in large energy savings, there are many simpler steps that result in energy savings that can be implemented at little or no cost.
Museums are constantly fighting the budget battle, often with many ideas and too little money with which to implement them. Did you know that a lot of energy is wasted in the average commercial building – typically about 30%? Paying attention and reducing this waste can result in savings on your museum’s utility bill as well as reduce greenhouse gases from the generation of the energy.
A simple place to start is to look at what is turned on (PC’s, conference room lights, etc.). If it is on, does it really need to be? You can conduct a nighttime “audit” to see if there are areas being heated or lit after hours that do not need to be. Of course, certain types of exhibits and artifacts require specific conditions – but look around to find things like meeting or conference rooms, offices and office equipment, hallway or exhibit area lighting, etc. that might be “energy wasters.”
Educating museum staff is important since occupant behavior affects your facility’s energy use; this includes management, exhibit staff, volunteers, janitorial and facilities staff. Ensure that team members from every department are trained in the importance of energy management and basic energy-saving practices. Hold staff meetings on energy use, costs, objectives, and employee responsibilities. Involve them as part of the team to “treasure hunt” for ways to save energy. And it is important to get the support of executive staff and board members, too, so they are onboard with your energy saving goals.
Do all staff members know to turn off their PCs and other office equipment when they leave at the end of the day (or if they are going to be out of the office for an extended period of time)? Enabling the power management function on office computers automatically puts monitors to sleep when not in use. For information about this function, visit www.energystar.gov/powermanagement. Turn off printers, copiers, and fax machines when they’re not in use.
Maintenance is important! Improve operations and maintenance practices by regularly checking and maintaining facility equipment to ensure it is functioning efficiently. If it’s not operating properly, it is likely costing you money. Even simple things make a difference: a dirty air filter makes it harder to push the air through, so it costs additional money and puts more wear and tear on the equipment. Set back the thermostat when the building isn’t occupied. Review system start-up and power-down times to see if they can be adjusted to more accurately match building operating hours.
Lighting for conservation and exhibits is a specialty in itself, but there may be areas in your museum where you can implement some of the lighting ideas presented here (e.g., hallways, lobbies). Adjust blinds to make the best use of natural daylight and take advantage of skylights or other natural daylight sources to reduce artificial lighting during daytime hours. Replace lamps or fixtures with newer LED or energy efficient fluorescent models to save energy and take advantage of utility rebates and incentives to help defray the cost. Timers and occupancy/daylight sensors are fairly inexpensive changes that can result in significant energy savings, especially in areas like meeting rooms or classrooms that are only used periodically. A variety of rebates and incentives are available – check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency at www.dsireusa.org for a listing of federal, state, local and utility opportunities.
Check restrooms, kitchens and break rooms for toilet and faucet leaks – remember that hot water takes energy to heat. Sewer bills are often calculated on the amount of water coming into your building, so extra water used due to drips and leaks is going down the drain and so is your money!
But the ENERGY STAR product list includes much more than just light bulbs. It comprises office equipment, electronics, commercial food service equipment, water heaters, vending machines, heating/cooling and many more categories. By modifying your procurement language to require vendors to supply products that earn the ENERGY STAR and meet the ENERGY STAR specifications for energy efficiency, you will reap the energy savings benefits over the lifespan of the product. Also be sure that you procure efficient water fixtures. Wasting water consumes both energy and water and adds unnecessary costs to your operation. Ratings for many water fixtures are available from at the EPA WaterSense website.
For a more complete list of inexpensive and proven ways to stamp out energy waste see: Stamping Out Energy Waste
Managing your energy is like managing any budget – you can’t manage what you don’t measure.
ENERGY STAR’s Portfolio Manager is a free and interactive energy management tool that allows you to track energy and water consumption for your building (or portfolio of buildings) in a secure online environment. Portfolio Manager can show you where and when your use and costs occur. Get started with energy benchmarking at: ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. In addition, lots of online training resources are available and you can get started at ENERGY STAR Commercial Buildings Training.
If you want to take a more comprehensive approach to energy management – a good place to start is ENERGY STAR for Existing Buildings. There are many great resources here for improving the energy efficiency of your existing building, based on two decades of ENERGY STAR experience and analysis. Go to ENERGY STAR for Existing Buildings and get started!
Barbara Larson supports the ENERGY STAR program at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 10, which covers Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. She is a registered Professional Engineer and likes using both sides of her brain – in her spare time she enjoys art, reading and dachshunds.
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