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7 simple ways to improve energy efficiency in your building

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Your building’s energy efficiency not only affects your utility bill, but can also have an impact on your property’s value and your workers’ performance.

Here are some tips to consider as you improve the energy efficiency of your commercial building.

Measure your energy consumption

Most businesses don’t have the luxury of building a brand new building or retrofitting from the ground up. However, whether you own or rent, you can boost your energy efficiency and the first step is to measure your consumption.

Benchmarking is a great way to start seeing where you can make the greatest improvements in energy efficiency. The Energy Star Portfolio Manager is a free web-based tool you can use to compare your buildings to other commercial buildings in North America.

Focus on insulation

The outside envelop of your building should be designed to lower heating and cooling needs. Your insulation should make your building as airtight as possible.

In new buildings, this can be achieved by using high-performance insulation and non-traditional wall systems that offer additional insulation. Replacing doors and windows to avoid air leaks in existing buildings can be a great investment.

Choose the right ventilation system

Because your building will be as airtight as you can possibly make it, you will want to use a ventilation system to maintain good air quality and prevent the buildup of moisture.

Heat recovery ventilators are systems that use the outgoing air from your building to heat incoming air. In the summer, air from your building can cool air coming from outside.

Buy certified equipment

Keep your eye on the market for high-performance, energy-efficient systems and equipment. Energy Star certified products, for example, will tend to be in the top 15 to 30% of their class for energy performance.

An Energy Star certified computer, for example, will use 30% to 65% less energy than a typical non-certified model, depending on its use. These products evolve quickly, so it's important to stay informed about new developments.

Use LED lights

Upgrading to LED lighting can help you reduce your energy use by 75% compared to incandescent lighting.

You can also use sensors in infrequently used spaces such as conference rooms and restrooms to cut down on energy use.

Consider upgrading to LEED

Many buildings in Canada are now being built or retrofitted to the green standard known as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). It aims to improve the sustainability of buildings in such areas as site planning, water efficiency, energy use, materials selection, indoor air quality and design features.

LEED buildings typically cost about 2% more to build than conventional buildings, but improved energy and water efficiency and a higher occupancy rate means that this additional cost is typically recouped in just a few years.

Calculate your return on investment

Despite substantial up-front costs, energy efficiency investments are among the surest outlays you can make.

Retrofitting a building for example can generate energy savings of 5 to 15% and typically pay for itself in less than three years, according to Natural Resources Canada.

This is on top of support provided by the government and local utilities. A list of all grants and financial incentives for energy efficiency by province is available on the Natural Resources Canada website.

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