Buildings consume almost 40% of the total electricity generated worldwide.
Now, that’s a massive portion.
Naturally hence, building energy conservation can take us a long way towards building a more sustainable world.
But then, we all want to have the cake and eat it too – we want to save energy in our homes and offices without having to sacrifice any of our comforts.
What are the smartest ways to conserve energy in existing buildings without making our lives miserable?
I am not going to discuss a whole lot of intricate things we can do to make new buildings efficient. This post is more to tell you avenues through which you can make fully functioning buildings efficient, without having to slog it out or without having to spend too much money.
The two aspects where energy efficiency and conservation can be incorporated without much sweat (or money ) are:
- Use of energy efficient appliances – This is by far the most effective. The next time you need to replace any of your electrical equipment, replace it with an energy efficient one – energy efficient ACs &washing machines, LEDs instead of CFLs or conventional lights, energy efficient heaters. These appliances work equally well as do their older, not-so-efficient ones, while consuming far less energy. These alone can reduce your energy use by up to 25%, if not more.
- Use of passive sunlight and natural ventilation in order to cut down on energy consumption – this may not be possible for all homes, as it depends on your existing building’s design and layout. If your building however has a number of windows and natural ventilation avenues, use these to the extent possible. Having windows open can significantly cut down on lighting, and can cut down on AC use as well, at least on certain times of day. While the potential reduction from this avenue might not be as high as the first one (use of energy efficient heating, lighting, ventilation and cooling appliances), any reductions you get from this avenue is at absolutely no cost at all!
The above two alone can bring down your building energy consumption by up to 30-35%, without any significant expenses needed. You may argue that energy efficient appliances cost money. Yes, they do cost, but if you are only buying them when replacing your existing appliance, you will be spending a higher amount, but the payback period for these energy efficient equipments are less than a year, and thus you get back the extra money spent within a year, and after that, what you are getting are pure savings for the rest of the equipment’s lifetime.
Beyond the above two easy ways to conserve energy, for office buildings, I would suggest a third, simple avenue: Do a basic energy audit.
One simple way to estimate the extent of energy savings possible is to get an energy auditor to visit your office. Beyond suggesting some of the obvious improvements such as the one listed above, an energy audit expert will also be able to ascertain which electrical equipments you use could be replaced or altered to maximise your energy efficiency, and other such intricate changes. (See this post: Are energy audits really useful?)
Today, in many developed countries, there are “smart energy auditors” who can actually do a reasonably good estimate of how much energy your building can save even without a visit, through a combination of your electricity use data and some effective algorithms. They even have a term for this – Virtual Energy Auditing!