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The Woes of Winter Energy Consumption

As winter weather blankets the landscape, businesses face the unique challenge of managing seasonal energy consumption. The plummeting temperatures and shorter daylight hours impact crucial building systems, causing energy use and operational expenses to spike. Thankfully, implementing energy-saving practices and prioritizing seasonal maintenance can help business owners navigate the high energy demands of winter more successfully, ensuring that utility costs stay manageable while keeping customer and employee comfort in mind. By following our seasonal energy-saving tips, your business will keep energy costs low while preparing for extreme winter weather.

The El Niño Impact 

Winter 2023-2024 is unique due to the present El Niño weather patterns, but how can this affect seasonal energy use? El Niño is a weather pattern that nudges the odds in favor of certain climate patterns, but never ensures them. During an El Niño winter, the Pacific Jet Stream of air current moves south and spreads further east. This leads to wetter and colder conditions in the southern states whereas the northwest states and areas around the Great Lakes typically experience a warmer, drier winter. The Polar Jet Stream, which typically brings frigid temperatures, is limited only to the New England region.

Sudden cold snaps in the southern states can put a severe strain on electrical grids that aren’t accustomed to the high energy demand of cold weather. Unexpected extreme weather conditions paired with a less reliable energy grid is the unfortunate combination of factors that made Winter Storm Uri so devastating to Texas in 2021. Making preparations and reducing your business’s energy demand is vital, not only to cut operational costs, but also to be a role model of responsible energy consumption in your community.

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Energy-Saving Tips for Winter Wealth and Warmth

Winter brings frigid temperatures and darker hours that put a lot of strain on your business’s building systems. With your heating system working at peak capacity to keep the atmosphere comfortable and overhead lights that put in overtime due to limited daylight, it’s no surprise that energy expenses soar. By implementing some of the suggestions below, your high energy bills will melt away while you improve the coziness of your establishment.

Heating System Efficiency

  • Maintenance is Key: Schedule seasonal maintenance before the winter storms hit. Your technician will give your system a thorough inspection, cleaning, and tune-up, catching any minor problems before they become expensive repairs.
  • Replace Air Filters: Filters should be replaced quarterly at a minimum. Clogged filters reduce system efficiency, leading to higher energy consumption.
  • Inspect Ductwork and Vents: Examine your ductwork and vents for blockages, debris, and air leaks. Keeping ducts clean and removing obstructive furniture, rugs, or decor improves airflow and efficiency.
  • Set Your Thermostat: Don’t let your temperature exceed 70 degrees during operational hours and reduce the temperature to 60-62 degrees after closing time to keep your building comfortable while limiting energy waste.
  • Replace Outdated, Inefficient Systems: When your heating system is worse for wear, consider replacing it with a smart, Energy Star certified model that meets the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) strict energy efficiency guidelines. 

Lighting System Solutions

  • Upgrade to LEDs: Light emitting diode (LED) technology uses up to 90% less energy than incandescent or fluorescent lights and has a significantly longer lifespan, improving illumination while reducing operational and maintenance costs.
  • Install Motion Sensors: Add motion sensors to areas of your business with lower foot traffic, like hallways and break rooms, to ensure lights are only used when the space is occupied.
  • Install Timers or Smart Controls: In addition to motion sensors, timers and smart controls give business owners more control over lighting systems, enabling customized scheduling and remote lighting controls.
  • Prioritize Natural Light: Take advantage of natural sunlight during the day to reduce your reliance on overhead lighting and benefit from the sun’s passive heat. Additionally, close blinds or curtains during the evening to reduce energy waste.

Winterization and Insulation

  • Inspect Insulation: Ensure that the building is well-insulated, including walls, floors, and the roof. Adequate insulation minimizes heat transfer, reducing the need for excessive heating during winter.
  • Find and Seal Leaks: Identify and seal any air leaks in the building envelope, including gaps around windows and doors, as well as cracks in walls and foundations. Weatherstripping helps maintain a consistent indoor temperature, reducing the energy demand on your heating system.
  • Consider a Temporary Vestibule: A vestibule provides an extra layer of insulation, serving as a buffer between the outdoors and indoors. This helps to prevent cold air from directly entering the building every time the door is opened, reducing the workload on your heating system while creating a more comfortable workspace.
  • Don’t Forget about Roofing: Regularly inspect and maintain the roof to ensure it is in good condition. A well-maintained roof with proper insulation prevents heat loss and potential water damage from winter snowstorms.
  • Set Ceiling Fans to Clockwise Rotation: Change your ceiling fan direction to clockwise, so its blades push the warm air trapped by the ceiling down towards the floor. Use the lowest circulation speed to evenly distribute heat and reduce chilly drafts.

Energy-Saving Employee Engagement 

  • Update Daily Operations: Implement energy conservation practices into daily operations such as turning off all electronic devices and lowering the thermostat at the end of the day to encourage simple energy-saving habits among staff.
  • Education and Training: Bring awareness to the importance of energy efficiency and environmental conservation through employee education and training. This fosters a supportive and energy-conscious workplace culture.
  • Create a Green Team: For those passionate about sustainability, consider creating a Green Team where employees and leadership can collaborate on energy efficiency goals to create a more sustainable and bright future for your business.
  • Recognition and Incentives: Create competitions that align with your sustainability goals, and celebrate staff members who are leaders in energy conservation. Friendly competition is a great way to encourage employee participation.

Get Smart with Energy Management

  • Use Smart Powerstrips: These devices allow businesses to manage energy consumption more efficiently – turning off or scheduling power to connected equipment, and reducing standby energy consumption. 
  • Lighting Controls and Sensors: Installing a smart lighting system puts the power in your hands. Control lighting, create a schedule that matches operating hours, and only illuminate occupied spaces with the use of an app or computer.
  • Install a Smart Thermostat: Set temperature schedules, create heat zoning, and monitor your building’s temperature and ventilation remotely by installing a smart thermostat.
  • Implement an Energy Management System: Create a universal energy management system (EMS) that integrates all of your business’s building systems into a single interface that allows you to control, manage, track, and analyze your energy consumption.

Financing Energy Efficiency Upgrades

Some energy efficiency practices and upgrades are no-to-low cost, but every business will encounter a necessary upgrade with an incredibly high price tag. Thankfully, there are many grants, tax credits, and financial incentives available for businesses in pursuit of energy conservation. Improving your business’s energy performance is as beneficial for your bottom line as it is for the environment, so the government is dedicated to supporting energy saving endeavors. By applying for these incentives, improving your building’s efficiency and reducing your operational costs is a much more achievable reality. 

Keep Cozy While Cutting Costs this Winter

There are many challenges businesses face when it comes to winter energy consumption. Between frigid winter weather and limited daylight hours, businesses have to balance comfort and energy demand to create an inviting workplace. From HVAC efficiency and lighting solutions to winterization and employee engagement, these energy-saving tips offer a wealth of opportunities for businesses trying to reduce energy costs while preparing for extreme winter weather. Embracing energy conservation not only contributes to financial savings, but it also establishes a commitment to responsible energy consumption and sustainability.

Don’t let high energy costs give you the winter blues this season! As one of the largest commercial energy brokers in the nation, Integrity Energy is dedicated to helping businesses find the most cost-effective energy plans available. To reduce your energy expenses further, contact an Integrity Energy Representative today!

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I determine if my heating system is operating efficiently, and what steps can I take to improve its performance?

Businesses can assess their heating system’s efficiency by checking for uneven heating, unusually high energy bills, or strange noises. To enhance performance, regular maintenance, such as cleaning and replacing air filters, inspecting ductwork, and scheduling professional tune-ups, is crucial for identifying and addressing potential issues.

Are there specific industries that can benefit more from winter energy-saving measures, and how can they tailor these tips to suit their unique needs?

Industries with high energy demand, such as manufacturing or hospitality, benefit significantly from energy-saving practices. You can tailor these tips by incorporating energy-efficient equipment, implementing robust insulation for specialized environments, and customizing daily operations to align with your industry’s specific demands.

Are there any government incentives or grants available to assist businesses in implementing energy-efficient measures?

Yes, there are various government incentives and grants available to support businesses in implementing energy-efficient measures. The programs offered by federal and state agencies encourage sustainability practices and help offset the costs of energy efficiency upgrades for businesses.

How can I improve employee engagement to ensure the success of energy-saving initiatives in the workplace?

Businesses can encourage employee participation by providing educational training programs, creating a Green Team to create sustainability goals, integrating conservation practices into daily operations, and by rewarding employees who demonstrate a commitment to saving energy. 

Are there any emerging technologies that businesses should keep an eye on to further enhance their winter energy-saving efforts?

Businesses should stay up to date on emerging technologies for advanced energy management systems as well as smart HVAC and lighting systems to further enhance energy-saving efforts. By investing in these technologies, businesses benefit from increased automation tools, real-time energy monitoring, and data-driven insights to improve energy efficiency and keep operational costs low.

For additional answers about how to save energy and cut costs, please visit our FAQ page.