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NEWS | Oct. 20, 2008

Manage energy use in workplace

By Energy Management Office 437th Civil Engineer Squadron

Every workday, everyone has the chance to make decisions that create a more sustainable work environment. Many of the choices they can make are easy to do, while others can be substantial but, in every case, these decisions can make a difference for both the environment and the bottom line.

The backbone of any energy-saving initiative is the staff with whom people work. Saving electricity is everyone's responsibility and can only be effective if everyone is encouraged to play their part, according to base energy management officials. There is a perception that one's own behavior can make little or no difference, but it is precisely individuals' collective actions which make all the difference. Small changes in individual behavior do equate to significant changes in a group's behavior.

Energy-intensive activities are typically associated with factories and manufacturing processes, but business offices also require a significant amount of energy. Lighting, heating, cooling, office equipment and transportation are all energy users that pose a significant opportunity for us to reduce costs as well as pollution. Current technology can save 25 percent on energy bills, which translates to $4,000 per year in savings for a 10,000 square-foot office. Here are some examples:

Lighting accounts for 29 percent of energy in a typical office. The following is a number of energy-saving options which can cut the energy used for lighting in half.

· T-8 fluorescent lights have better color, less flicker and use 20 percent less energy.
· Compact fluorescent lights should be used in lighting fixtures fitted for incandescent bulbs, including many exterior lights and exit signs.
· Occupancy sensors and photocells are inexpensive and simple to install.
· Switch outside lights from mercury vapor to high-pressure sodium to cut energy use in half.

Office equipment accounts for 16 percent of an office's energy use. If every U.S. computer and monitor were turned off at night, the nation could shut down eight large power stations and avoid emitting 7 million tons of carbon dioxide every year.

On average, heating and cooling the air in offices accounts for 39 percent of energy use a typical setting. To save energy, consider the following:

· Turning the heating and cooling system off when it is not needed; an automatic setback thermostat can help with this.
· Adjust the temperature by a degree or two; if people can extend that to three or four degrees, they can save up to 10 percent.
· Have heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment maintained regularly or maintained by building management -- including regularly changing filters.

One may not have much control of physical constraints for where one works in relation to where one lives, but one can reduce energy use in all office conditions. Locate desks and computer monitors to take full advantage of natural day lighting where possible. Be mindful of shadows, glare and the quality of adjacent reflective surfaces to minimize the illumination required from electric sources to comfortably work. Combine indirect lighting with task lighting to provide what cannot be achieved by day lighting alone. If lights are not in use, turn them off.

People seldom have the opportunity at work to control personal comfort during warm weather by opening a window. Air conditioners are operating most of the year, so save energy by reducing its use.

· Use the light coming through windows if possible and turn off office lights.
· Turn off all lights not being used including closets and unoccupied lunch rooms.
· Turn thermostats to a warmer setting.
· Use a tabletop or floor-resting portable fans.

During winter, people can improve energy efficiency by doing many of the same practices as during warm weather with the following adjustments.

· Layer clothes and wear heavier clothing
· Do not use personal space heaters; they are not energy efficient
· Turn thermostats to a cooler setting

The bottom line is, by working together as a team and exercising some of the tips mentioned above or simply modifying behavior and habits, people can start to reduce consumption and cut energy bills. For more information on reducing energy consumption, visit