10 tips for energy efficiency when offices are empty – or nearly empty

Many questions arise: how to ensure that the building remains efficient even if it is empty or nearly empty? Which systems must be used to adapt management to the new situation? And how can I make sure that we can safely return to a normal level of use and operation in the future?

To answer these questions Schneider Electric has developed a list of 10 actions for energy efficiency, safety and reliability in buildings occupied by few people.

1) Establish the range of action. First, take note of the most important assets of HVAC and building automation systems – air conditioners, fans, boilers …: the key components that will consume energy and will serve to manage the environmental conditions in the building

2) Determine the system architecture precisely. Understanding which assets are connected to the building management system (BMS), which ones are not and therefore require manual control. Having a complete view, it is possible to be comprehensive and make the necessary adjustments efficiently

3) Record the changes made, so you don’t forget them – before making changes, it is essential to record both the expected settings in normal conditions and the new conditions. Losing this information could make it really difficult to return to normal, creating problems of well-being for people, performance problems of HVAC systems, security risks

4) Take climatic differences into account. For those who operate managing multiple facilities around the world, it is essential to realize that the settings for heating or air conditioning systems cannot be the same everywhere: it seems obvious, but in complex moments like this, it is possible that something is missing!

5) Take advantage of all the opportunities to act “in depth”: for example, increasing the difference between the typical settings of the days when the offices would normally have been empty (eg weekends) and the settings for normal use.

6) Maintain comfort for the staff who still remain on site: even in an empty office there will be people, such as security officers or staff who have to take care of maintenance. They will need ambient comfort, light, but they will not use certain areas of the building such as meeting rooms, canteens etc. It is therefore important to adjust these parameters carefully.

7) Also take into consideration the new BTU load levels: adapting HVAC systems is not simply a matter of lowering the temperature on the thermostats a few degrees. We must also take into account the lower BTU loads that occur in an empty or semi-empty building (for example the lower heat produced by people, their computers …) and the fact that the HVAC systems present will most likely be designed to manage higher loads.

8) Change the ventilation and economizer systems. When a building is used little or not at all, there is more flexibility in the temperature levels to be maintained; Therefore, for example, you can turn off the ventilation and rely instead on a cooling obtained with outside air, using economizers – this reduces the energy demand.

9) Keep humidity under control: if you change the temperature settings, don’t forget the humidity – mold, damp can become a problem if you don’t calibrate the dew points inside.

10) Adjust fans, hoods, fridge, freezer. Kitchens and workshops have fans and hoods that often run 24/7, but which may not be needed if the building is not in use. The same goes forfridge and freezer: if you don’t need to store food, turning them off is another way to save energy.