Energy Wasting – What to look out for in Occupancy Behaviour

A large percentage of energy can be saved by a change of habit. Office buildings use vast quantities of energy unnecessarily, often when no one is in the room. There four main things to look out for when performing a walk round to asses where energy is wasted through occupant behaviour. Involve staff in your walk round as much as possible. They most probably know far more about your building that you do! Dont forget to print of the checklist, found here.

  1. Lights on when not needed
    Lights are often required to be on first thing in the morning when it’s a dark, however they can be left on all day. Taking a walk around at midday/early afternoon will allow you to see if lights are on when not needed.
  2. Equipment left on
    A walk around during lunchtime will give you a picture of whether staff’s computers are left on. Although it might not be necessary to shut down computers, computer monitors should be turned off. Most monitors have an automatic standby mode. Printers and photocopiers should also be in an energy saving mode and should be turned off and night.
  3. Ventilation fans
    Ventilation fans in unoccupied areas should be switched off. This will save fan energy and the need to heat/cool the room. Ensure these are switched off at night.
  4. Heating and cooling
    Heating on during the summer? Air con in the winter?. These may be required but ensure that the thermostat is set to an appropriate temperature. 21-23°C (69-73°F) is often quoted to be the ‘thermal comfort’ temperature.

After your walk round and your checklist is complete, a report should be prepared. This report should detail any problem areas and which actions are required. The results should then be reported to staff and management. A plan of action for each individual or team is a useful way to promote your ideas.

This report should be followed up with regular walk rounds to assess progress. Setting a 3 or 6 monthly assessment is useful and will give you an excellent opportunity to analyse a quarterly electricity bill. The bill should hopefully be going down!


Energy is wasted in many areas

Often energy is wasted in areas that you don’t realise. If we think of a typical office building, energy is used in heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, computers, monitors, printers, kitchen equipment and anything else that is plugged in. The easiest and perhaps most affective method to assess where energy is used in your building is to perform an energy walk round. As the name suggests, this involves walking around the building. Something you have probably done a number of times! This time however, you will possess a new understanding and knowledge of what to look out for. The aim here is to identify bad practice, inefficient equipment and poor energy habits. With the aid of a simple checklist found here, you will be able to identify wasteful energy use, opportunities for savings and maintenance issues that need addressing.

Calculate energy use at night

A great way of assessing wasteful energy use is to see how much is used out of working hours. If you take a meter reading at the end of the day and then again the next morning, the difference is the energy used whilst the building is empty. There will obviously be some energy used, a fridge and/or a security system may be in place. To bring some perspective, an average refrigerator operates at 160 Watts. Say between first checking the meter in the evening and rechecking the following morning 12 hours has passed then 160*12/1000 = 1.92 kWh of electricity has been used. Depending on what else you have on in your building, if you calculate an electricity usage significantly greater than this, then energy may be being wasted.

The walk round

Using the checklist (provided) or another of your own creation assess the entire business or site to get a record of how things currently are. Noting where you think energy is being wasted.

Report your findings and follow up with an action plan. It is more than likely that this report will refer solely to occupants behaviour. If the report is detailed, outlining why the measures are proposed then staff with be stimulated into action.

Following up

Subsequent walk rounds may focus on priority areas identified in the first. They could also reassess the situation after some energy measures have been implemented.

Assessing the energy use in your building

Energy is one of the most easily controlled costs in your organisation. If you managed your energy as effectively as you manage project finances, costings of up to 20% or more could be saved. This is a sizeable amount and it is not difficult to achieve. Most of it is just a different way of thinking, a change of habit, rather than capital costs for new equipment.

The Carbon Trust (UK) website provides excellent publications on how to become energy efficient. These (free) publications are used by all energy management consultancies and energy providers when assessing your energy use, providing advice, and setting up programmes. The problem is that there are a significant number of these publications, you might not know what to look for and you may not have the time to analyse them in detail. As an aspiring energy manager, I need to know these inside out, which at this point I don’t. By becoming familiar with these myself I hope to be able to offer the correct publications and advice to you. This should (hopefully) boost my employment prospects!

The first publication that we will look at is entitled ‘Assessing the energy use in your building’ and it is an energy saving factsheet. To get your hands on this directly from the Carbon Trust, all you have to do is signup to the Carbon Trust site and then click here.

In this publication we are looking at where energy is wasted in your building. I think it is most appropriate for an office building, we will look at industrial and others at a later date. Furthermore, we will break this down into two energy wasting areas; firstly energy losses by occupant behaviour and secondly energy losses by the building fabric and equipment. These posts to follow.