9 Best Practices for Superior Energy Performance

9 Best Practices for Superior Energy Performance

9 Best Practices for Superior Energy Performance

9 Best Practices for Superior Energy Performance

Industrial facilities use a lot of energy and much of that’s wasted. That’s why the U.S. Department of Energy developed the Superior Energy Performance (SEP) program, which certifies industrial facilities for implementing an energy management system and achieving improved energy performance.

The program is growing because it’s producing results. On average, certified facilities have reduced energy costs by 12% within 15 months of implementation.

If you’re already certified to ISO 50001, you’re well on your way to achieving SEP, which prescribes performance improvement criteria and third-party verification similar to the ISO standard. In addition to energy savings, the benefits of SEP certification include:

  • Paybacks in less than 18 months (with more than $2 million in annual energy costs)
  • A method for measuring carbon footprint and achieving carbon neutrality
  • A more accurate measuring system to monitor performance and track progress
  • Independent verification of energy savings, which helps justify future investments

SEP requires a company-wide commitment to energy management. Such a commitment increases the level of energy awareness throughout the organization. Energy management software helps you prepare for audits and simplifies the certification process.


Best practices

To optimize your energy performance using the SEP process, follow these nine best practices from certified facilities:

  1. Designate energy expenses as fixed costs allocating a portion of funds to pay future utility bills and redirecting to projects that reduce the size of those bills. Maintain a separate capital fund.
  2. Consider all program implementation costs including staff time spent on development and audits; technical assistance and third-party audits; and monitoring metering equipment.
  3. Choose team members with expertise in both management and energy systems, which simplifies the implementation process.
  4. Select a baseline period representing ‘business as usual’ production and energy consumption.
  5. Identify the most significant energy uses by performing a mass energy balance analysis across the facility. Use submetering to identify energy reduction strategies for each unit.
  6. Adjust baseline production variables to account for added capacity. In one case, two years of metered data was used to develop an energy/production ratio to estimate the additional electricity needed for a new facility.
  7. Use a point source (specific weather station) for weather data rather than a regional average.
  8. Provide adequate training for staff, which increases employee engagement and participation.
  9. Communicate progress by posting monthly energy data for each department. Use software to highlight real-time, system-specific energy consumption data.

The DOE’s Energy Performance Indicator tool helps you establish a baseline of energy performance and track the progress of performance improvements and energy savings.


SEP really works

A $248,000 investment in SEP is paying off for one manufacturer of diesel engines and components. The plant is saving $716,000 annually with more than a third coming from low-cost operational measures. These savings alone paid back the investment in just 11 months. Based on this success, the company is certifying internal auditors to assist with other facilities pursuing SEP.

A small manufacturer of plastic injection-molded parts implemented SEP and achieved annual energy cost savings of $52,000 with a payback in a little more than two years. SEP helped the plant implement more accurate methods to measure performance.

See Superior Energy Performance for more information on how you can achieve certification and start reaping the benefits.

Lighting System Maintenance: Savings and Performance

Lighting System Maintenance: Savings and Performance

Lighting System Maintenance: Savings and Performance

Lighting System Maintenance: Savings and Performance

Let’s talk about lighting maintenance. Lighting makes up about 20% of total energy use in the average commercial building, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. At the same time, lighting is critical to a safe and comfortable indoor environment.

Given the importance of good lighting and the need to reduce operating costs, a detailed plan to optimize lighting performance and efficiency should be a high priority. Often, however, lighting maintenance doesn’t extend beyond replacing burned-out bulbs. An effective maintenance policy that includes written procedures, training and inventory control can improve light output and save you money.


Focus on the basics

Maintenance is the most overlooked, yet cost-effective way, to reduce the overall cost of lighting. Light levels decrease over time because of aging light fixtures and the dust that collects on lamps. Together, these factors can reduce total illumination by 50% or more while light fixtures continue to draw full power. Often, facilities compensate for this light loss by adding more fixtures, which increases energy costs.

The following maintenance strategies can help improve lighting system performance:

  • Clean fixtures, lamps and lenses every six months.
  • Replace lenses if they appear yellow.
  • Clean or repaint indoor walls regularly; dirt collects on surfaces, reducing the amount of light they reflect.
  • Use group lamp replacement, which saves labor and optimizes light levels.


Consistency is the best policy

A lighting maintenance policy serves as a guideline for consistently applying best practices for reducing costs and optimizing system performance. The following are some basic elements that should be included in an effective policy:

  • Specifications for all lighting equipment, as well as vendor and service provider contact information
  • Procedures for replacing and cleaning fixtures, including a schedule with a service tracking log
  • Schedule for adjusting controls
  • Procedures for lamp and ballast disposal

To maximize energy savings, coordinate the lighting policy with your overall energy management strategy. Review your policy when considering a lighting upgrade.


Shed some light

Training is critical to carrying out an effective lighting maintenance policy. Educate appropriate staff members on procedures, such as cleaning, lamp and fixture replacement, and fixture inspection. Include a detailed overview of the written maintenance policy and each employee’s role. Provide regular updates to account for new technologies, policy changes or staff turnover.


Think group replacement

Spot replacement (replacing lamps as they burn out) is the most commonly used technique in traditional maintenance programs. While group replacement can increase initial lamp costs, it offers several advantages:

  • Optimized light levels. In most lamps, light output depreciates over time, reducing overall light levels before they fail.
  • Energy savings. Group replacement integrates easily with efficiency upgrades, potentially reducing energy costs.
  • Lower maintenance costs. Group relamping can be performed by outside contractors, potentially reducing the size of an in-house maintenance staff.

Lamp and fixture compatibility is another factor to consider. Matching replacement lamps to existing fixtures and ballasts can be tricky, especially with older fixtures. Installing new fixtures made for new lamps produces superior energy savings, reliability and longevity when compared with spot relamping.

Optimizing Chiller System Performance

Optimizing Chiller System Performance

Optimizing Chiller System Performance

Optimizing Chiller System Performance

Chillers provide critical cooling for air conditioning and refrigeration, but they use a substantial amount of energy. If your energy budget is feeling the heat, take steps to improve chiller systems performance and save money.

A number of chiller system design changes and operational strategies will help to improve overall system efficiency and reduce energy costs. Two of the most effective involve fans and economizers.


Fan speed

In cooling towers, two-speed fan motors in combination with fan cycling provides improved control and efficiency over fan cycling alone. Variable frequency drives (VFDs) provide the most efficient method of control. Fan speed control is most effective in facilities with small cooling loads, and in moderate or dry climates.



Chiller bypass systems can be retrofitted into central plants, enabling waterside economizers to cool spaces with chillers offline. In these systems, the cooling tower alone provides chilled water directly with filtering or indirectly with a heat exchanger. These systems are best suited to applications with significant chilled water requirements and in climates where the outdoor temperature is below 55°F for at least 3,000 hours a year.


More ways to save

Additional ways to improve chiller efficiency include:

  • Reduce the temperature set point of condenser water. Check with the manufacturer to make sure the chiller will operate properly at a lower temperature.
  • Replace oversized water impellers pumps and motors with smaller, energy-efficient units.
  • Trim the pump impeller rather than using a balancing valve to reduce flow and pump power.
  • Install VFDs on water pump motors, compressors and fan motors.
  • Convert single-loop chilled water and water flow configurations of the condenser to primary/secondary loop configurations.
  • Replace three-way valves with two-way valves on cooling coils and implement VFDs on the chilled water secondary loop pumps to regulate flow.
  • Consider thermal storage (chilled-water storage tanks above 500,000 gallons) and check with your utility about rebate programs.
  • Increase wall insulation by adding an exterior insulation and finish system. Include a drainage layer to accommodate for small leaks occurring over time; avoid barrier-type systems.

Savings achieved by downsizing the chiller can help pay for these energy improvements.

Outdoor Lighting: Understanding BUG Ratings

Outdoor Lighting: Understanding BUG Ratings

BUG (Backlight, Uplight, Glare) ratings make it easier to find the right outdoor lighting for your facility, but only if you understand what they mean.

For reference, any light that comes off the fixture below 60 degrees is considered the ideal usable light. In theory, you’d prefer that all your light goes there.

BUG ratings measure the backlight, uplight and glare of a fixture. If properly used, they can help you put the most light in the places you need it and avoid any light creep that could violate local ordinances.

Here’s a quick look at where the light is coming from:

  • Backlight is any light coming from the fixture between the 60- and 90-degree point. Backlight that leads to light trespass is bad, but sometimes backlight can be OK.
  • Uplight is any light that is sent up into the air. It’s mostly just light pollution that causes sky glow.
  • Glare is light coming out of the 60- to 90-degree range from the front of the fixture. That’s basically that angle that blinds you rather than helping you see.

Backlight, uplight and glare are each scored on a scale of 0 to 5, with 0 being the lowest lumen or light output.

BUG ratings are useful tools that can help you design an evenly lit outdoor space that promotes safety and security without bothering your neighbors.

Why Lighting Controls Make Sense

Why Lighting Controls Make Sense

Why Lighting Controls Make Sense

Why Lighting Controls Make Sense

Lighting accounts for 20% of the electricity used in commercial buildings. Despite the attention paid to efficiency upgrades, great opportunities exist for reducing energy use by simply turning lights off or dimming them as needed. However, it’s often difficult to get staff or building occupants to cooperate. An automated lighting control system using occupancy or vacancy sensors is more effective in many cases.

Occupancy vs vacancy

Occupancy and vacancy sensors look similar and they both control lights, but they work in different ways. Occupancy sensors automatically turn lights on when someone enters a space and turns them off when the space is empty after a set time.

A vacancy sensor requires someone to turn on the lights when they enter a room. The lights still automatically turn off after the set time, but the lights will stay off unless someone enters the room and manually turns on the switch. This can save even more energy by eliminating those extra minutes of unnecessary lighting.

Finding the right fit

There are two major types of sensors; each has strengths and weaknesses:

  • Infrared sensors detect motion from a heat source (such as a person) and therefore need to see the occupant, so they usually don’t perform well in restroom stalls or office cubicles. Also, slight motions (such as typing on a keyboard) aren’t always detected.
  • Ultrasonic models detect motion from objects using sound waves and are good at sensing small movements. They also don’t need to see the occupant directly. However, because ultrasonic waves bounce off room surfaces, any movement will alter their return patterns.

Occupancy or vacancy sensors may not be a good fit for every part of your facility. Start by identifying spaces that are unoccupied on a regular basis, such as executive offices, copy rooms, restrooms and conference rooms. Selection of appropriate spaces requires an accurate understanding of how they’re used.

Installation and coverage

Occupancy and vacancy sensors are available as wall- or ceiling-mounted units. To avoid false detection with ceiling-mounted sensors, it’s important to specify a viewing range that matches the application. For example, a hallway sensor should look in two directions but not into an office, while a conference room sensor should pick up motion from anywhere in the room. Some of the most common failures of occupancy control systems are from inadequate sensor coverage or improper tuning of a sensor’s sensitivity.

Coverage area of sensors depends on the room arrangement, room geometry, the presence of partitions, type of sensor, location of sensor, sensitivity setting and type of motion. Ultrasonic sensors cover a wider range than infrared sensors but are more prone to false triggering from air motion. Wall-mounted sensors typically cover much larger areas than ceiling-mounted models. Integrating multiple sensors may be necessary to cover the entire area. Each sensor has controls to adjust the time interval before lights are turned off, typically ranging from one to 15 minutes.

Save energy with sensors

When properly installed and located, occupancy and vacancy sensors can significantly reduce your lighting costs, while maintaining comfort, safety and security in your facility.

Improving Energy Performance: Five Questions to Ask

Improving Energy Performance: 5 Questions to Ask

Improving Energy Performance: Five Questions to Ask

Improving Energy Performance: Five Questions to Ask

Chances are, there’s plenty of energy waste at your facility. Finding the sources of that waste and improving efficiency can be difficult. Start with a little investigation. Take a look around your facility and ask yourself the following questions:


1. Are there linear fluorescent lamps in the office or production area?

T12 lamps are no longer manufactured for sale in the United States and there are fewer T8 lamps to choose from, due to federal energy efficiency regulations. Now is the perfect time to switch to higher-efficiency and longer-lasting LED replacement lamps or fixtures.


2. Have building controls been properly tuned?

Energy management systems can reduce operating costs, but it’s easy to forget about them. Over time, sensors, thermostats and other controls can become out of tune. Ensure all system components are calibrated properly and updated to reflect seasonal changes and occupancy schedules.


3. Are plug loads using energy when they’re not in use?

Electronic equipment continues to operate 24/7, whether anyone is using it or not. Employ power management settings on computers and office equipment. Smart plugs power down devices after hours or when they’re not in use. Occupancy sensors can reduce energy use for vending machines.


4. Is maintenance reactive in nature, responding only to problems?

Scheduled, preventive maintenance for lighting and building systems can save on energy costs and keep building occupants comfortable and productive all year long. A successful preventive maintenance program requires written procedures, training and documentation.


5. Is your facility filled with personal appliances?

Space heaters, mini-refrigerators, fans and other small appliances are difficult to control from an energy management standpoint. To discourage their use, maintain a comfortable work environment and provide access to appliances in break rooms and other common areas.


Know your energy score

You’re off to a great start, but to take efficiency to the next level, you need to assess and compare your energy performance. Use ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager, a free online tool for measuring and tracking energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. You’ll get an energy score and compare your energy use to thousands of similar facilities.

If your energy performance isn’t where you want it to be, consider a facility energy audit. A professional auditor will help you target the most effective cost-saving opportunities.

LED Lighting Goes Organic

LED Lighting Goes Organic

LED Lighting Goes Organic

Organic products are growing in popularity. Is LED lighting joining the trend? Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are not exactly all natural, but this innovative technology holds promise in both display lighting and general illumination. While OLED products are still emerging in the marketplace, many industry experts believe they have a bright future.


How are OLEDs different?

OLEDs are an offshoot of conventional LED technology. An LED is a semiconductor diode, which is a small chip of silicon treated with chemical elements. These elements help to create light by moving electrons to produce photons of light. In simple terms, electricity goes in and light comes out, thanks to the semiconductive material. A conventional LED fixture typically consists of multiple rows of these tiny semiconductor diodes.

OLED technology takes this concept and basically flattens it out. Instead of an array of LED diodes, OLEDs use layers of thin light-emitting films. What’s “organic” about OLEDs? The light-emitting films consist of organic carbon-based materials. Conventional LEDs, by contrast, use semiconductors that contain heavy metals, such as gallium arsenide phosphide.


How do OLEDs make light?

The basic structure of an OLED consists of four primary layers:

  1. Substrate provides the underlying structure of the OLED
  2. Cathode which injects electrons
  3. Anode draws electrons and adds electron holes
  4. Organic layers in between the cathode and anode.

The organic layers break down into three parts. The hole conducting layer transports electron holes from the anode. The emitting layer brings in electrons from the cathode and holes from the anode. This is where the light is produced. The electron conducting layer transports electrons from the cathode.

When electric current is applied to the organic material, negative electrons are injected from the cathode and positive electron holes enter from the anode. The negative-positive interaction causes the electrons and holes to mix and the organic layer enters a high-energy state. When the energy level goes down in the organic layer, it gives off light.


What are the benefits of OLEDs?

Organic and conventional LEDs are highly efficient, but OLEDs offer some potential advantages for general lighting:

  • Easy on the eyes. Conventional LEDs emit bright light directly. OLEDs can be configured as more diffuse light sources that cover a large area. The softer light can be viewed directly with less need for lenses or louvers to cut the glare.
  • Design flexibility. OLEDs can be bendable and made into almost any shape. They also can be transparent, emitting light from either side of the device. These features greatly expand lighting design possibilities.
  • Small footprint. OLEDs are very thin. This increases the visual appeal and allows for easy attachment to walls and ceilings.


What does the future look like?

OLEDs are still emerging in the general lighting market. They are visually appealing, especially for television screens, but are not yet used in many practical lighting applications. There are OLED products now available that offer efficacies of 75 lumens per watt and a color rendering index (CRI) of greater than 90, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. OLED technology continues to advance.

Cost is a major barrier to widespread implementation. Until prices come down to be more in line with conventional LEDs and other high-efficiency lighting products, OLEDs may be limited to niche applications.

LED Lighting Improves Worker Performance

LED Lighting Improves Worker Performance

LED Lighting Improves Worker Performance

LEDs are highly efficient and they last longer than conventional lighting technologies, saving on energy and maintenance costs. That’s great, but studies also show LED lighting can improve employee mood and overall work performance. An LED upgrade can thus brighten your bottom line in more ways than one.


The benefits of LEDs

The market for LED lighting is growing and the technology is advancing rapidly. The latest generation of LED products include several features and characteristics that can benefit your business:

  • High energy efficiency
  • Long rated life (up to 50,000 hours or more)
  • Improved light quality for bright, vivid lighting
  • Inherently dimmable for use with daylighting controls
  • Instant-on capability for compatibility with occupancy or timer controls
  • Color tunable (available in a variety of color temperatures or tones)


LEDs and productivity: what the research says

LEDs upgrades can do a lot more than reduce your energy bills. Research has shown LED lighting can have a positive impact on worker performance and some of the aspects that contribute to it — such as mood, comfort and visibility.

One study compared fluorescent lighting and advanced LED lighting in terms of visual acuity, perception and other measures affecting worker performance. LEDS:

  • Improved visual and cognitive tasks by 8%
  • Reduced fatigue and increased activity
  • Lowered reaction times

The researchers concluded “relative to traditional fluorescent technology with relatively low color temperature, LED appears to support positive mood, extended wakefulness and faster performance on both visual perceptual and cognitive tasks.”

Another study identified a 33% increase in mood ratings when lighting simulated daylight using dimming and color tuning. This mood increase would translate into a 6% improvement in overall work efficiency.


Take action

It’s clear LEDs can help make your workplace shine. Here’s what you can do:

  • Replace conventional lights with high-performance LEDs and start realizing their benefits in energy efficiency, long life and improved light quality.
  • Install occupancy and dimming controls to save energy and create a more comfortable visual environment.
  • Use the color tuning capability of LED lighting to affect the mood and productivity of workers.

Make sure the LED light products you choose meet DesignLights Consortium quality standards. Work with a lighting professional to find the right type of lighting for your application.

5 Ways to Save with Smart Technology

5 Ways to Save with Smart Technology

Are you looking to increase energy efficiency and save some money? Then smart technology upgrades are a bright idea. Check out these five smart gadgets that can benefit your business.

1. Smart locks

With smart locks, you can give entry codes to employees, revoke access and even lock and unlock doors remotely — all from your smartphone or computer.

2. Smart lighting

Upgrading to smart lighting makes it easy to save energy. Smart LEDs can be controlled automatically, turning lights on and off based on occupancy or visible daylight.

3. Smart doorbells

Smart doorbells can use facial recognition software to let you know who’s at your front door — no matter where you are.

4. Smart thermostats

Smart thermostats make it easy to heat and cool your business remotely. Some devices can even learn your occupancy patterns and adjust temperatures automatically.

5. Virtual assistants

Virtual assistants are a great way to increase productivity. They can be controlled by voice command, send and receive notes, dictate messages and give reminders.

Use these smart devices to enhance security, save energy and improve operations at your business.

Comfort Zone: Improving HVAC System Performance

Comfort Zone: Improving HVAC System Performance

You want to improve the performance of your HVAC system, but it’s so complex. One way to tackle this problem is to start at the zone level (conditioned space) and work your way back to major system components. Going in this direction allows you to take advantage of downstream savings before taking on more complicated (and costly) projects.

As an example of this approach, repairing corroded dampers will ensure that they open and close properly, reducing energy waste and increasing comfort. This fix may also reveal additional savings opportunities, such as resetting controls or rightsizing equipment.


Optimizing zone-level performance

Zone-level equipment includes mixing dampers, reheat coils and thermostats that control the conditioned space. As facilities age, this equipment can fall into disrepair or out of calibration, reducing overall system performance. Fixing problems in the zone can save energy and increase occupant comfort. Measures you can take at the zone level include:

Inspect dampers. Without regular maintenance, dampers often become frozen in position, rendering them ineffective at regulating air flow and saving energy. Locating and repairing nonfunctioning dampers can be time-consuming and expensive, but it can pay dividends in increased system efficiency and enhanced comfort.

Recalibrate thermostats. In systems with pneumatic controls, recalibrate thermostats every six to 12 months to ensure that the temperature is regulated accurately and efficiently. Although you should check calibration in response to a problem or complaint, proactive maintenance can optimize system efficiency and energy savings.

Maintain reheat coils. Inspect reheat valves and coils to ensure that they respond appropriately to control system commands. Verify the capacity of an electric reheat coil by measuring its power input with an amp probe and comparing it to the nameplate value. If the measured value is significantly lower than the nameplate value, replace the coil.

Shut off reheat systems in summer. If your facility includes a constant-volume reheat system, consider disabling it during the cooling season. With electric reheat systems, it’s possible to power off reheat coils at the breaker, saving energy. In certain situations, it may be necessary to leave some reheat coil breakers active to maintain comfort.

Control static pressure (resistance to airflow). Dual-duct systems typically include air balancing dampers to regulate static pressure in hot and cold ducts in response to zone demands. Over time, these dampers can fall into disrepair and fail, resulting in wasted energy and reduced comfort. Regular inspection and repair will help optimize system performance.

Ensure airflow. Vacuum the coils of ceiling-mounted chilled beams and variable-refrigerant flow (VRF) cassettes annually to maintain a free path for air through the heat exchanger. For VRF cassettes, clean the internal air filter each month, and make sure grilles and diffusers are not blocked.

Now you’re ready to tackle the big picture. Examine major HVAC system components and look for issues such as outdated or oversized equipment. Consider an energy assessment of your facility. A qualified professional can help you target the most effective cost-saving opportunities.