We’re all looking to save a buck – if we can save the environment while we’re at it, even better. Over the last couple of decades, the ENERGY STAR trademark has found its way onto everything from washing machines to refrigerators to indicate the product’s ability to conserve energy and save money. More recently, the application of the ENERGY STAR to buildings and businesses has gained in popularity. Regardless of the level of involvement you attain within the ENERGY STAR Program, doing your part to ensure optimum energy performance can have widespread benefits for your business.
The Energy Star Program: An Overview
In the official words of the EPA on the Energy Star website, www.energystar.gov, the energy use of your building can be likened to that of the miles per gallon for your car: understanding what you are dealing with can help shape decisions, strategies, and even budgets. Moreover, being able to compare the energy usage of your building to other, similar buildings can help keep you on track with your energy goals.
To facilitate this comparison, the EPA has established an energy performance scale, ranging from 1-100, to determine how your building’s energy efficiency stacks up to other equivalent buildings throughout the country. To earn the ENERGY STAR, a building (or manufacturing plant) must score a 75 or higher on the performance scale, indicating that the facility operates better than at least 75% of similar buildings nationwide. In short, an ENERGY STAR certified facility meets the EPA’s strict energy performance standards, is less expensive to operate (because it is more energy efficient), and causes fewer greenhouse gas emissions than comparable facilities.
Finally, since the ENERGY STAR Program is a partnership between businesses and organizations and the Federal government, a written agreement is required no matter the extent of your involvement. This agreement provides all the appropriate ways in which you may use the ENERGY STAR mark based on the status you have attained within the Program, the two main categories of which are “certification” and “partnership.”
ENERGY STAR Certification
ENERGY STAR certification is a designation given to those products, homes and buildings that meet or exceed ENERGY STAR performance guidelines. In addition to scoring a 75 or higher on EPA’s energy performance scale, the building or plant must be verified by a professional engineer or registered architect as eligible to apply.
For those buildings falling outside of the top 25% nationwide, EPA has compiled “Guidelines for Energy Management” to assist you with step-by-step improvements in order to get your company performing at its best. Quite often, by investing very little time and money, you can increase your energy efficiency enormously and be well on your way to improving the environment and your bottom line. Remember, only certified HERS Raters are eligible to provide these ratings.
ENERGY STAR Partnership
Alternatively, a partnership with ENERGY STAR simply shows your organization’s commitment to and partnership in the ENERGY STAR Program. Partnership status requires no outside certification by a structural professional; the only thing you must do is fill out the application, available on the Energy Star website.
In today’s carbon-footprint-conscious society, businesses and organizations seen as “environmentally responsible” have an edge over the competition. Partnering with the ENERGY STAR Program is a way to manifest to yourself and others your dedication to doing your part for the environment, maximizing the energy you use, and saving money while you do it.
Basic Tips for Energy Efficiency
Until you decide the best course of action for your company – certification or partnership – there are some basic things you can do to conserve energy in your home and business.
- Turn off the lights and electrical equipment when you are not using them.
- Replace incandescent light bulbs with CFLs, or compact fluorescent lamps, which can last up to 10 times as long and can cost 75% less to operate than incandescent bulbs.
- Adjust lighting based on the environment and your actual needs. For example, open the blinds whenever possible to let in as much natural light as you can. Additionally, maintain a proper lighting balance: too much light can be just as bad as too little light.
- Turn off the water when you are not using it, such as when you are brushing your teeth. Adding a few seconds every day to your “water conservation bank” can really add up to a large savings in the long run.
- Fix leaky pipes and faucets. A leak, quite literally, is a waste.
Heating and Air Conditioning:
- Replace HVAC filters every 30 days during the summer and winter (peak cooling and heating times of the year) and regularly check them during the spring and fall. Dirty filters not only cost more as they overwork the equipment but they also defeat the purpose of clean, breathable air.
- Control direct sunlight through glass windows and doors.
- Use fans as much as possible and open windows for natural air flow whenever possible during temperate weather.
At the end of the day, a penny saved is a penny earned. Spending a little time now to ensure you are getting the most out of every facet of your business can equal big savings in the long run and that just makes good sense (and cents!).
Brent Hardy oversees all corporate construction & facilities management activities for Extra Space Storage and leads corporate sustainability programs, implementing solar power, energy efficiencies and more. He writes about corporate sustainable practices at blog.extraspace.com/category/sustainability.