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5 Energy-Efficient Tips for Commercial Buildings

When it comes to making your home more energy efficient, the resources are endless. However, if you’re a landlord or property manager of a commercial building, those resources don’t necessarily apply.

While energy efficiency starts on an individual level, there’s no questioning commercial buildings and corporations are the biggest propagators of pollution and waste. Still, there’s limited knowledge surrounding how to optimize commercial buildings for energy efficiency.

This is primarily due to their size, but also due to the fact that many property owners don’t wish to take the initiative because it seems too tedious. Fortunately, it’s not, and there are a few simple upgrades that can help bigger structures make a bigger impact. Here are some of the recommended energy-efficient tips that you can follow:

Install low-flow plumbing

Low-flow fixtures have become particularly popular in regions prone to drought, such as California, Arizona, and other parts of the West. For some, low-flow showers are the bane of their existence, but this isn’t a problem in a commercial building.

Since commercial buildings typically only contain toilets and sinks in their bathrooms, this upgrade can go a long way. Low-flow toilets use only about 1.28 gallons per flush while traditional toilets use 7 gallons per flush. Multiply this by the number of people using toilets in commercial buildings, and the water waste is exponential.

Low-flow toilets can take getting used to, but they make a massive difference, particularly in areas where water is scarce. The best part about this is that you don’t even have to go through the trouble of installing new toilets.

With a dual flush retrofit kit, you can convert your regular toilets into low-flow toilets by adding a flusher that varies flushing capacity by the type of waste. While this requires some personal responsibility on behalf of the individuals using the toilet, there’s no doubt it can make a big impact.

Opt for a VAV HVAC system

Heating and cooling systems make up the vast majority of commercial carbon footprint. Many HVAC systems operate on constant air volume (CAV) systems, which are present in older commercial buildings due to their affordability. However, these units operate at full capacity until the desired temperature is reached, at which point they shut off.

Sounds logical, right? Except, it’s not. The energy required for the system to shut off and switch on is more than expected. It’s cheaper to install, but raises your energy bill.

Meanwhile, a variable air volume system (VAV) supplies a varying airflow at a constant temperature. The airflow constantly changes based on the temperature, eliminating the on/off cycling of CAV systems. They’re more expensive to install, but will conserve far more energy, thus lowering monthly bills as well.

Mind your rooftop

In the summer, the rooftops of commercial buildings are the main culprits of overheating. When your rooftop is made of dark materials, this skyrockets your air conditioning usage also. One solution is to implement a cool roof.

Cool roofs are made with either reflective shingles/tiles, or with a reflective paint coating. As a result, they forego heat absorption, allowing them to stay about 50 degrees cooler than traditional roof types.

Regular, dark roofs can hit temperatures of 150 degrees or higher in the summer. You can either retrofit your existing roof or replace it. Either way, this is probably one of the more expensive and involved upgrades on this list, so you may want to save it as last priority.

If you’re up for a more extensive project, you could create an urban garden rooftop. By using storm water, you can create a rooftop garden that is sure to be appreciated by the building’s tenants and makes use of the ample sunlight in the summers.

Check insulation & ductwork

This is commonly overlooked. Usually, when a building is not heating or cooling properly, we’re quick to attribute it to an issue with the HVAC system. However, sometimes it can be an issue with the ductwork. Leaky ductwork causes the air flowing from your HVAC system to escape, thus lowering the effectiveness of your HVAC system.

It’s important to ensure your commercial building is properly insulated, and to assess the ductwork for any holes or leaks if there do appear to be issues with heating and cooling. In a residence, leaky ductwork can lead to temperature imbalance in certain spots, but in a commercial building, it can lead to a temperature imbalance on entire floors.

Get tankless water heaters

In general, commercial office buildings don’t require hot water as much as homes do. You need it to wash your hands, but that’s generally about it. Therefore, you don’t need a standard water heater or boiler that’s heating water at a constant rate.

Tankless water heaters are fairly easy to install, and they heat the water on-demand. This makes them far more energy efficient than regular water heaters. While more costly to install, they also lower monthly heating and water bills.

Keep in mind that tankless water heaters don’t quite have the same capacity as standard ones, so you may need to install multiple in larger commercial buildings. Still, they can have a significant impact on your commercial building’s energy usage.

Clay Miller
the authorClay Miller
I am the creator/writer of and I'm an advocate for oceans, beaches, state parks. I enjoy all things outdoors (e.g. running, golf, gardening, hiking, etc.) I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky (Go Wildcats!!). I'm also a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky.

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