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Energy Efficient Government Toolkit

According to ENERGY STAR, government agencies in the U.S. spend some $10 billion each year on energy costs and, more notably, as much as one-third of this consumption is wasted. However, there are also many energy-savings opportunities for government buildings, and this toolkit offers some ideas to help you get started.

A variety of conservation projects can be found in the following areas:

  • HVAC
  • Cooling & Heating
  • Fans, Ventilation & Ductwork
  • Lighting
  • Water Heating
  • Building Envelope
  • Equipment & Plug Load

When deciding where to start, consider a whole-building assessment, a walk-through of every room in the building to evaluate energy usage patterns and needs. Gathering this information will help you understand how your building consumes energy and where you can prioritize projects.

Your energy bills are an important tool, too. Obtaining a full year of energy consumption data and combining it with a building assessment can help create a complete ‘energy’ map of your buildings.

Energy tracking programs are widely available and serve as a great tool in energy-reduction efforts. The online resource, Energy Management Software, identifies hundreds of options to choose from, helping you integrate new energy-conservation strategies with existing technologies for continued success. The information you gather will help you set realistic and achievable energy efficiency goals to implement in every part of your building.

Once you have achievable strategies in place, the next step is to implement specific measures. The opportunities listed here are not all-inclusive, but instead serve as a general guideline to help you get started.

Heating, Ventilation, and Air-Conditioning

Cooling & Heating

Heating and cooling  typically account for the highest energy use in the majority of government buildings, making it a great target for energy-conservation efforts. Scheduling routine maintenance for HVAC units, such as cleaning burners and air-conditioner coils, replacing and cleaning air filters, and checking ducts and pipe insulation for damage, can extend the life of your HVAC equipment. Regular maintenance provides optimal performance, saves energy, and provides a comfortable and healthy environment.

Generally accepted engineering methods of calculating HVAC loads can accurately identify the best configuration for your building and help in selecting properly sized equipment. Improve HVAC controls that reduce energy by separating the building in ‘thermal zones,’ areas with similar heating and cooling requirements. Installing controls for time-of-day scheduling, temperature setback and set up, and variable frequency drives (VFDs) will significantly reduce energy waste.

Check out our ­HVAC Toolkit for a more in-depth information.

Fans, Ventilation & Ductwork

A variable frequency drive (VFD) or variable speed drive (VSD) works by converting the incoming electrical supply from a fixed frequency to a vacillating frequency. This variation allows the drive to control how the motor operates. Finding the drive that fits your needs will help with operating costs and energy efficiency, reducing future energy bills. For a detailed look on MREP’s VFD information and how these drives can aid in conservation efforts check out our Motors Toolkits.

Efficient ventilation flow, which can result in lower energy costs, can be achieved by understanding the volume of air flow necessary for a room’s size, occupancy, and usage. To improve ventilation, use controls for air dampers and demand-controlled ventilation when appropriate. In addition, shut off outdoor air and exhaust dampers when a section, such as a convention hall, is not in use.

Ductwork represents an easy opportunity for conservation. A good first step is to seal all duct joints, seams, and any leakages. Next steps, which require a little capital, include reducing pumping energy by utilizing shut-off valves and VSDs, and reducing heat gain or loss from ventilation exhaust air by utilizing energy recovery of preconditioned outdoor air. Finally, reduce heat gain or loss in ductworks by insulting the ducts and not allowing ductwork outside the buildings’ conditioned space.

Montana state capitol rotunda domeLighting

Lighting is among the largest end users of electricity in most government buildings. There are a variety of requirements for different areas, such as open offices, private offices, conference rooms, elevator and stairs, shops and maintenance facilities, restrooms and break rooms and exterior lighting.

Lighting systems include a number of components, including lamps, ballasts, fixtures, and controls, that help provide proper illumination levels throughout the building. Lighting strategies represent the easiest opportunities to reduce energy consumption without any major expense. Simple and inexpensive strategies include switching off lights when not in use; de-lamping; and cleaning lamps, diffusers, and fixtures. Government buildings can also benefit from automatic controls such as occupancy sensors, time controls, and dimmers.

Exterior lighting should utilize automatic controls that employ a photo-sensor, shutting off when enough natural light is present. Another option is to install an astronomical time switch, which can be programmed for power outages. Visit our Lighting Toolkit to learn more about lighting efficiencies.

Exterior lighting should utilize automatic controls that employ a photo-sensor, shutting off when enough light is present. Another consideration, astronomical time switch, which can be programmed for power outages. In addition, the Outdoor Lighting section in our toolkits will explain the best lights for different spaces.

Water Heating

Service water heating in government facilities can be a significant energy expense but these costs can be reduced through inexpensive measures such as reducing hot water use overall, using sensor activators with low-flow faucets and toilets, and installing water-conserving, high-efficiency dishwashers in break-rooms.

Because of the layout of large government buildings, hot water heaters are not always placed adjacent to their end-use location. Positioning them closer can eliminate much of the energy lost in transportation. In addition, pipe insulation can minimize distribution losses for non-adjacent hot water heater.

Building Envelopes

The envelope of an existing building is difficult to alter. However, there are simple, cost-effective ways to control solar gain and reduce the cooling loads that can result from this gain. Strategic use of coniferous or deciduous vegetation on south, west, and east sides of your buildings can help shade surfaces and reduce solar heat gain. Increasing insulation in roof, walls, and floors can also reduce heat gain or loss.  Consider new ENERGY STA- rated doors and windows when replacements are warranted. Learn more in our Energy Efficient Building Envelope Toolkit.

Equipment & Plug Loads

Installing more energy-efficient equipment and appliances is a good step toward reducing energy consumption. It’s equally important to educate employees in proper operation and use of these appliances. Utilize controls to minimize usage and waste. Additionally, invest in ENERGY STAR computers, printers, copiers, fax machines, vending machines, refrigerators, water coolers, which use significant less energy than their non-ENERGY STAR counterparts.

To minimize plug loads, install power strips and timers on this equipment.

Tax Incentives

Don’t overlook the importance of investigating rebates and tax incentives that might be available, as this can impact what projects you can undertake. In addition to state and federal incentives, local utilities often offer incentives that can make your project more financially viable. Check with your utility for more information.

The following links can help get you started: