Featured image of how to make a commercial building more energy efficient

Energy efficiency should be a top consideration for commercial buildings. Nowadays, numerous options are available to help business owners make their commercial buildings more energy-saving.

From the simple practice of using LED lighting to more complex tasks of optimizing a HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system to save energy, there are many ways to cut energy bills while helping to save the planet. You can look into smart lighting systems, modular construction methods, high-efficiency appliances and equipment, among other options. 

If you’re a business owner asking how to make a commercial building more energy efficient, read the following six ways to make it possible.

Why Make Commercial Buildings More Energy Efficient

Energy efficiency helps commercial buildings save money, conserve energy, and protect the environment. According to US ENERGY STAR, a commercial building wastes 30% of the energy it consumes. This number affects your business since you’re paying for energy not being used. 

Energy efficiency means functioning with less energy. When you utilize energy-efficient technology, you cut down on wasted energy and save on utility bills. These savings translate to lower operational expenses, allowing your business to earn more while enjoying the same performance output. Energy-efficient companies have more elbow room to increase or decrease their product pricing to profit more or gain a greater market share. 

Energy efficiency is an important weapon in the fight against climate change. Data from US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that commercial and residential buildings made up 13% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in 2020. Commercial buildings that follow energy-efficient measures can help our environment by reducing their carbon footprint and lowering energy waste. 

In 2019, the energy-efficiency program of US ENERGY STAR helped commercial buildings and industrial plants save 230 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, reduce 170 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and avoid over $14 billion in energy bills.

Six Steps to Make a Commercial Building More Energy Efficient

1. Optimize Your HVAC System

Around half of energy consumption comes from an HVAC system. Thus, upgrading it or optimizing it can significantly impact your electricity bill and business operations. 

An upgrade to a more energy-efficient HVAC system should be a priority if you are serious about cutting expenses and increasing profit. You have several means, but a straightforward approach is to check your current HVAC systems SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating and consider installing a newer, more efficient unit with a higher SEER. 

According to Learn Metrics, you save about 7% per 1 SEER on electricity costs. If your facility or establishment uses a 10-SEER rated system – costing $1,000 a month – upgrading to a 13-SEER rated system will instantly cut around $210 off of that bill per month. That’s $2,520 a year in savings.

Today, there are units with a 25 SEER rating. Although they are far more expensive upfront, the long-run savings translate to significant profit for your business. Moreover, your prospects will see you as an eco-friendly business; and according to a 2020 survey, 45% of consumers prefer brands that are sustainable or environmentally responsible.

For larger systems in commercial buildings ongoing optimization of the HVAC system can yield small savings that over time may add up to savings of 30% or more. This involves closely monitoring the system performance, and then making small changes to the way the HVAC system is controlled. 

2. Upgrade Your Lighting

Lighting typically accounts for about 17% of a commercial building’s energy cost. Updating your lighting to more energy-efficient technology can help reduce your operating expenses while contributing to the environmental effort.

Using commercial LED lighting will save significant energy, especially in the long run. If you were to replace halogen lighting, you might save around 90%. If you were to replace high-efficiency fluorescent tubes, you might save between 30% to 70%. 

Your building may also benefit from adding features that enhance natural lighting, such as skylights, south-facing windows, mirrors, glass floors or ceilings, and more. You can also consider installing solar windows to convert sunlight into energy. 

3. Weatherize Your Building

Heating and cooling systems account for 40-50% of a commercial building’s energy use. Weatherizing the building can bring significant savings and benefits. Consider fixing air leaks, and adding insulation to walls, floors, and ceilings.

5. Use Energy-Efficient Equipment & Appliances

Commercial building appliances for water heating, cleaning, cooking, and other functions account for roughly up to 20% of annual energy usage. By choosing energy-efficient equipment and appliances, especially those that have passed the ENERGY STAR standards, you can be assured of their efficiency and quality. 

The US Department of Energy (DOE) noted the following potential energy savings based on the  minimum efficiency standards and the higher-efficiency standards: 

EquipmentMinimum Efficiency StandardsHigher Efficiency Standards
IT/ Office equipment41% energy savings41% energy savings
Cooking appliances8% energy savings24% energy savings
Miscellaneous appliances3% energy savings23% energy savings

5. Practice Energy Savings Tips

Educate your workers and employees and encourage them to practice energy-saving measures. Here are some tips:

  • Turn off equipment and appliances when not in use.
  • Use ceiling fans and open windows whenever possible.
  • Inform workers how to use the energy-saving features of your equipment and machines.
  • Reduce paper and energy waste by sending emails instead of printing files.

6.  Use Renewable Energy Sources

Installing renewable energy sources may be costly upfront, but it can bring in considerable savings in the long run. Rooftop solar panels help cut electric costs, reduce your carbon footprint, and may even raise the value of your commercial building.

Infographic of the six steps to make a commercial building more energy efficient

How About an Energy Audit

If you’re still looking for more ways to make a commercial building more energy efficient, seek an energy audit. It will examine your energy usage and efficiency to determine which processes or systems may be improved to help the business save energy.

Commercial energy audits also look at your building’s safety concerns, including ventilation, air leaks, wiring, electrical systems, etc. To get a reliable energy audit, seek the advice of a certified professional.

Changing the Little Things Makes a Big Difference

As you look for solutions to make a commercial building more energy efficient, please consider that small things still have an impact short and long term. Adapt the necessary changes for your business, even if it is just educating workers to adhere to simple guidelines like turning off unused electronics or lights (tip No. 6). 

Infographic of how much energy commercial buildings waste

Commercial buildings contribute to greenhouse emissions all the way from their construction to the later daily operations. Increasing energy efficiency is one solution to lessen the impact on climate change. Conservation is beneficial for the environment while also providing the business owner with cost savings and opportunities for higher profitability. 

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