During this pandemic, many facilities are vacant or almost vacant.  By turning down or shutting off systems, building operators can save money, energy and reduce the load on utility systems. These savings can be especially valuable in this time of economic uncertainty.

Here are a few ways to reduce your energy use while your building is unoccupied:

Building Automation System. If your facility has a Building Automation System (BAS), place the building in holiday mode.  More aggressive setbacks could be considered.  If your building does not have a BAS, turn all but emergency lights off, turn thermostats to setback mode and on hold.  If possible, minimize outside air settings. If aggressive setbacks are pursued, the building should be periodically checked and the HVAC systems occasionally cycled on to prevent issues with humidity, and to ensure idle systems haven’t developed issues (no leaks, for example). Don’t just set them back and forget to check on them.

Exterior. Does your building have an empty parking garage? Can some of the lights be turned off?  Can exterior decorative lighting and fountains be turned off?

Plug loads. Shut down and unplug computers, televisions, monitors or other equipment that draw “stand-by” energy. Think creatively: what other plug loads in the building could be turned off?  Many small incremental changes can result in big savings.

Analyze energy use. Use this shut down period to understand your energy consumption patterns. Compare energy consumption during the shut down to your usual consumption this time of year.  Understanding your energy use may help you identify ways to extend savings to occupied periods. Examining BAS trends and electrical interval data may highlight systems that are running when they shouldn’t be, and point to other portions of systems that may need tuning such as VFDs, damper operations and more. Use this unoccupied period to identify your facility's baseline energy usage to inform future energy savings efforts.

Prepare for future energy efficiency projects. While it may not be possible to implement some energy efficiency measures at this time, operators can still identify projects so that they are ready to go once restrictions are removed. SEDAC can help by analyzing utility bills, benchmarking energy usage, and conducting virtual site visits.

Building operators have a tremendous opportunity to save energy and money at a time when facilities are empty and budgets are tight, building a solid foundation for future energy efficiency when normal operations resume.