October 12, 2023

Whether your company rents or owns its space, there are plenty of opportunities to save energy in an office building while improving employee comfort and safety.

Choose LEDs and use sensors and controls.

Lighting accounts for about a fifth of the total energy use of a commercial building,[1] making LEDs an excellent way to cut costs. Meanwhile, the longer lifespans of LEDs reduce the maintenance time required to replace burnt-out bulbs.

Thoughtfully installed efficient lighting can also improve employee productivity and safety. Lighting design factors in the operation of your business to provide appropriate lighting where it is needed and less light where it isn’t required.

Lighting controls and sensors reduce energy use when employees aren’t occupying certain areas, or fewer employees are in the office. You can also install occupancy sensors on vending machines and other specialty equipment to ensure they only light up when someone walks by. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, installing occupancy sensor lighting controls in office spaces can save between 10 and 50 percent on energy costs.

Learn more about Commercial LED Lighting

Purchase energy-efficient equipment.

Offices use a lot of audio/visual equipment, computers, displays, printers, and other electronics. While the energy consumed by one laptop may not amount to much, the cost of powering an office full of electronics can add up over time.

Whenever possible, invest in ENERGY STAR-certified products, which are independently certified to meet strict energy efficiency standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Avoid blocking thermostats or sensors.

Office managers need to account for many variables when establishing an office layout. One important aspect is to make sure that equipment isn’t too close to sensors and thermostats.

Avoid placing large equipment in front of thermostats. The waste heat given off by a heavily used printer or copier can trigger a falsely high room temperature. The heater may not kick in when needed, leaving building occupants too cold.

Another tip is to avoid placing equipment or furniture in front of light or ventilation sensors. Doing so may prevent the sensor from detecting when someone has entered or exited the room.

Pay attention to heating and cooling zones.

No matter how high-tech the building, there’s always that one room that is too stuffy or cold. Avoid this issue by monitoring temperatures and complaints about specific areas and how they map to the building’s heating and cooling zones.

In some cases, heating and cooling zones are mapped to multiple rooms, such as a conference room and a supply closet. Make sure that the most used room controls the zone. For instance, a conference room that is heavily utilized should take precedence over a supply closet that is barely opened.

Learn more about Commercial HVAC

Discourage personal heaters and appliances.

If people use space heaters under their desks, personal fridges, or coffee makers, address the root problem. Personal appliances in office spaces aren’t just energy hogs—they can also be a fire or electrical hazard. Space heaters can overheat a space or trip a breaker, wiping out power for everyone until a facilities person can repair the damage.

Adjust the temperature until most people feel comfortable if a room is too cold. If five people have a mini-fridge under their desks, consider installing a communal fridge, which will use far less energy (especially if it is an ENERGY STAR-certified model).

Coordinate work-from-home days.

These days, many offices have introduced hybrid work schedules that allow employees to work from home a few days a week. Lighting, heating, or cooling a big space for just one or two employees can be a big waste of energy.

Consider asking employees to work in the same area or try to have everyone work from home on the same days. By coordinating the days that employees use the space, you can set back or increase temperatures and turn lights off to save energy while no one is in the office. You can also consider increasing desk task lighting, which gives employees the option of only lighting their work area rather than an entire office if only a handful of employees are in the building at one time.

Shut equipment off automatically.

Laptops go into power-saving mode when they are shut, and most other modern office equipment includes a power-saving mode. However, if several people in your office have desktop computers, their monitors can still waste a lot of energy overnight.

One solution is to use smart power strips. These strips include a master outlet that should be connected to each employee’s main computer power cord. When the employee powers down for the day, the strip automatically turns off their monitor and other desk electronics.

Air seal your entrance space.

If you live in a cold climate, make sure that your office entrance space includes a vestibule or air curtain. Vestibules trap outside air before it can flow into your main office space. However, they take up a lot of space and can be expensive to install.

A more efficient and affordable option is to install an air curtain. These machines blow controlled air to create an air seal that keeps heat in and chilly outside air where it belongs.

If you are a tenant…

Don’t chalk up high energy bills to the cost of doing business. Read your commercial lease carefully—ideally before you sign or renew—and monitor your building expenses, particularly if you pay for utilities.

Even if your property owner pays your energy bills, it may still be worth having a conversation. Energy-efficient improvements could lower the owner’s bills while improving productivity and comfort for your employees.

If you own your building…

Did you know that ENERGY STAR-certified buildings have higher rental and occupancy rates and cost $0.54 less per square foot to operate?[2] Reduce maintenance time and operating costs, and improve tenant satisfaction by investing in a more energy-efficient building.

To get started, grab a clipboard and print out ENERGY STAR’s Treasure Map for Office Buildings. The handout will guide you through a tour of your building, helping to alert you to your best opportunities to save money on energy.

Questions? Reach out!

Efficiency Smart can help your businesses prioritize energy efficiency upgrades that improve employee experience, reduce downtime, and lower operational costs. We provide rebates and technical guidance specifically designed for office buildings. For more on how to get started, contact your local account manager, call 877-889-377, or email [email protected].

[1] https://www.energy.gov/femp/articles/wireless-occupancy-sensors-lighting-controls-applications-guide-federal-facility

[2] https://www.energystar.gov/buildings/building_recognition/building_certification