Feature Article - April 2011
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Maintenance Series: Eco-Friendly

Clean and Green
Eco-Friendlier Maintenance Practices

By Dawn Klingensmith


Power Down

Energy usage is an area where a few simple changes can result in major savings, and certain building upgrades and retrofits will reduce repair and maintenance costs, as well. Depending on how compliant employees are, energy costs can be pared down simply by encouraging them to do the same sorts of common-sense things they do at home to keep their utility bills in line, such as turning off lights when they leave a room. In addition, employees' computer monitors should be set to go into low-power "sleep mode" after a period of inactivity. A screen saver is not the same as sleep mode—monitors still use full power when the screen saver is active. There is software available that enables a local area network to automatically put to sleep monitors not actively being used.

At the end of the workday, computers and other equipment should be turned off and power strips unplugged, as power strips consume energy even when the equipment is off.

There are two things facilities can do right away that feel like baby steps but actually go a long way toward saving energy and money: using compact fluorescent or LED lighting, and installing motion sensors and programmable thermostats.

With motion sensors in place, the lights turn off automatically when a room is unoccupied. Their cost is relatively low, and they usually pay for themselves fairly quickly by lowering energy bills. Programmable thermostats automatically turn the heater and air conditioner on or off according to a predetermined schedule that takes into account hours of operation and occupancy levels.

Energy system upgrades reduce cooling and heating loads, at which point you can consider replacing existing HVAC systems with smaller equipment that uses less energy. Building simulation software is available to show how building systems affect one another.