How Much Does Air Conditioning an Office Cost?

Who hasn’t spent some time in an office that was too cold in the summer?  And how much does it cost for all that air conditioning?

The cost can be thought of in two ways.  One is with dollar signs, which most business owners can relate too.  The other is in terms of carbon emissions, the concept of which most people understand, but don’t really quantify.

To make it simple, let’s say there’s an office that’s about 4000 square feet.  Let’s say that office hovers around 70 degrees.  If we figure in the average ambient daytime temperature (U.S.), you pay about $750/ summer for air conditioning.  That also equates to about 8,100 pounds of CO2 created from the power plant supplying that electricity (assuming coal)!

OK, so it costs money to cool an office, and it’s harmful to the environment.  What’s the solution?  Like anything with energy conservation, it’s all about small changes.  If you raise the temperature of that office by 3 degrees, the cost savings are $45/ summer.  The reduction in carbon dioxide is about 488 pounds/ summer.

Here’s a chart that helps explain the cost/ emissions savings that go along with different settings on your office thermostat.

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If you’re in charge of the office thermostat, or you can see how this can equate to your home, think about dialing it up a bit in the summer.  You’d be a champion for sustainable energy, and save money at the same time.

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Are Incandescent Light Bulbs Illegal Now?

There’s some hype about if and how congress is making older light bulbs illegal.  Energy efficient bulbs are being given attention now that our government has stepped in.  We’ve attempted to summarize what the new rules are and what it means for households.

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  1.  The formal name for the government acts which deal with light bulbs is “Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007”.
  2. The law (Public Law Number 110-140) does NOT outlaw incandescent light bulbs.
  3. The law DOES require a 25% increase in efficiency for light bulbs, to be phased in from 2012 through 2014.  This efficiency requirement basically prohibits the manufacture and importing of incandescent light bulbs, since their method of providing light is inherently inefficient.
  4. The law DOES give exemptions for specialty bulbs – like oven bulbs, reflector lights, and plant lights.
  5. The law IS forward thinking, in that by 2020 they require 200% better efficiency.

This law doesn’t make it illegal to own an incandescent bulb.  You can keep using any incandescent bulbs as long as they work.  It does, however, prohibit manufacturing or importing light bulbs that don’t meet the efficiency requirements.

So basically, in a few months you’ll notice you can’t find 100 watt incandescent bulbs.  In 2013 you’ll be hard-pressed to find 75 watt bulbs.  And starting in 2014, 60 watt incandescent bulbs will be out.

Trees Save you Money on Utilities

Planting a few leafy trees on the west side of your home can save you between 25-50% on air conditioning costs.  Considering the average U.S. home pays about $285 on AC each year, that means you can save between $71-143 every year!

Here’s how it works:

Deciduous trees (maples, oaks, etc) grow lots of leaves during the summer.  Those leaves absorb the sun’s heat and keep your home from heating up.  This is especially true if you’ve got trees on the west side, where the afternoon rays shine the brightest.  Since your home stays cooler with those trees absorbing the heat, your AC doesn’t run as much, and you end up saving electricity.

In the winter, those leafy trees lose their leaves.  Afternoon sun rays can then reach your home, and you get some free solar heating.

The kicker is that leafy trees also block wind.  If you rely on natural ventilation to cool your home in the summer, you’ll be better off with some strategically placed trees that block the sun, but allow some breeze to pass under.

Considering the rising cost of utilities, it’s not a bad idea.  Think about it, do your research, and remember that a programmable thermostat is a great first step to saving money on your heating and cooling costs!

What is Sustainable Energy?

Think of energy like a jar of cookies.  Now think of how many cookies you’re eating, and how often you bake them.  If you conserve the cookies you have and find efficient ways to bake more, you’re a sustainable cookie eater.  If you gorge yourself and eat all of your cookies, now you have to go out and find some more cookies.  Maybe you go with store-bought (I prefer peanut butter chocolate chip), maybe you hit up your neighbor.  Either way, you’re consuming more cookies than you can consistently make.   Now you’re paying more money for cookies and depleting the overall supply of cookies in the world!

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Sustainable energy works the same way.  If we (a collective, global “we”) are mindful of how much energy we consume, and find new ways to make energy, then we won’t run out of it.  So how do we do that?

Go back to cookies and think of them like your AC in the summer.  Some people like to keep that AC turned on all day to come home to a nice, cool abode.  Those are the people that grab cookies 5 at a time.  Some people install a programmable thermostat to automatically turn off the AC when they go to work and turn it back on a few minutes before they get home. Those are the people that will eat one cookie at a time, and only when they really want one.

The AC – cookies analogy is just one example.  In the grand scheme of things, if you are mindful of how much energy you use and find ways to reduce your consumption, you’re helping the world move towards a sustainable energy state!  And keep in mind, striving for sustainable energy helps you save money on utilities, reduce your carbon emissions, and sometimes live off the grid.  Blog ID 9S7AYG7RKQSA

Energy Costs vs Home Age

If you’ve ever been to New England, you might have noticed how gorgeous some of the architecture is.  Historic sites, famous Revolutionary War memorials, and buildings built before 1800.  Those older buildings, while beautiful and full of character, can leak like sieves!  We were curious about the statistical relationship between a home’s age and its overall energy efficiency.  We found the best way to estimate this was to use the household energy usage, in BTUs, to represent the LACK of energy efficiency.  The graph below shows the relationship between home age and energy usage.  We normalized for area (1500 sf) and relatively modern appliances that most homes run.  FYI – “normalized” means we’re comparing apples to apples in every category except for home age.Energy Usage by Home Age

So yeah, there’re columns in a graph.  So what?  If we convert the BTUs to actual dollars, using a national average utility cost of $0.10/ kWh, the data get interesting.  See below.

Energy Costs of Older Homes

So what now?  That’s up to you.  You could invest in energy efficiency items, rethink your next home purchase, or sit in glee if you’re living in modern home!  This is just an interesting way to look at the “operating costs” of homes when you compare the ages.

CFLs and Lumens

It’s not like they’re re-inventing the light bulb.  Or are they???  Any time the technology behind a product type changes, the way we think of those products has to change.  Place yourself 100 years ago – the automobile was a radical departure from horse transportation.  And yet, we’ve adapted and embraced the automobile to a HUGE degree.

Light bulbs are undergoing a similar sort of shift.  The technology is changing, and therefore the way we think about lighting has to change.

In years past it was all about the watts.  A watt is essentially the product of 1) amperage that’s “pulled” by the light, and 2) the voltage (think 0.5 amp light bulb x 120 volts = 60 watts).  With the historical incandescent bulbs, the higher the wattage the bulb, the more light that was produced.

Switch gears to CFLs.  They don’t have tungsten filaments (the curly wire inside incandescent bulbs).  They use a combination of inert gas, phosphor coating, and electricity to create light.  This new way of creating light is more efficient than the older incandescent bulbs.  So how do you figure out which type of CFL is equivalent to your old incandescents?  LUMENS!!!

A lumen is a measure of the brightness of a light bulb.  That 60 watt incandescent gives off about 800 lumens.  A new 13 watt CFL gives off about 800 lumens.  And that is how CFLs get their rep for energy efficiency.  They give a similar amount of light with less wattage.  Or, in homeowner terms, CFLs use less electricity.

So, in summary, this is the enginerd way to think about CFLs (and LEDs for that matter):  It’s all about how many lumens you get for the wattage.  It’s all about how much light you get for the electricity you pay for.  It’s all about how much juice you get for the squeeze!

How Much do you Pay for Utilities?

The average U.S. Home spends about $1900/yr in utility bills. Where does all that energy go?  The majority, about $1050, goes to heating and cooling.  That’s a chunk of change for any household.

So how do you reduce your energy consumption and lower those power bills?  The ways to do this fall into two main categories – energy efficiency and energy conservation.

Energy Efficiency:  The goal here is to get the most out of the energy you’re paying for.  The best way to do that is to make sure when you heat or cool your home, you’re not heating or cooling the outside world.  DIY home insulation, programmable thermostats, energy efficient light bulbs, and low-flow showerheads are great examples of energy efficiency in your home.

Energy Conservation:  The goal here is to use less energy.  Have you ever heard of “ghost loads” or “power vampires”?  These are things that use electricity when they’re not even being used.  How much these things cost you depends on how much stuff you have, but the average home spends about $90/ yr on electricity wasted on ghost loads.  Luckily, there are products available that automatically detect and turn off power vampires.

Saving energy is fairly easy to do if you know what you’re up against and you know where to find ways to make your home more efficient.

Live Efficiently Ever After…