By: Chris Green, Manager of Energy Efficiency and Sustainability
Operating multiple aging buildings can be a costly endeavor. For the city, delivering services requires places to store equipment, office space, gathering places for senior and youth activities, and in the case of our fire department even providing a place for our firefighters to stay overnight while on a 24-hour shift. Many of our buildings are not energy efficient. But thanks to BetterBuildings Northwest Ohio, we’re able to retrofit some of the facilities to ensure they remain useful to the community well into the future while cutting our energy costs to ensure we’re making the best use of public funds.
Energy efficiency doesn’t have to be limited to major capital improvements, or home improvements for that matter. Here’s a sample of some of the projects the city has undertaken and some similar suggestions for steps you can take at home to lower your energy costs.
HEATING AND COOLING: In many city buildings there is a need to replace boilers, HVAC or hot water heaters. Doing this gives the city the opportunity to schedule peak heating and cooling times for when the building is in use and also to regulate the climate and water to comfortable levels. Avoiding unnecessary heating or cooling saves on utility bills.
WHAT CAN I DO AT HOME? The largest monthly utility cost for a home is normally due to heating and cooling.
- Install a programmable thermostat and set the temperature to 68 degrees in the winter and 74 degrees in the summer rather than the same temperature year-round, such as 72 degrees.
- Make sure to replace furnace filters regularly to allow proper airflow and ensure your furnace or air conditioner doesn’t need to work so hard to heat or cool you home.
- You can also set the water heater to 120 degrees. Think how often the water is used compared to the heater working to hold that temperature all day, everyday.
- Seal gaps around doors and windows. Small gaps can add up to 100s of square inches throughout your home. – imagine the energy you’d lose if you left a window open.
LIGHTING: The city is working to implement simple changes to make lighting in our facilities more efficient. One simple change was to realign the lighting in the apparatus bays in some fire stations. Lights previously hung directly over fire trucks, rescue squads and ambulances, but the vehicles blocked any light from reaching the floor of the garage. By hanging lights between where the fire and rescue vehicles are parked the room is brighter. We’re also replacing costly incandescent and fluorescent lights with less costly compact fluorescent lights and adding motion sensors so that when no one is in the garage, the lights turn off.
WHAT CAN I DO AT HOME? You can reduce your electric bill by making a few simple changes and being sure to watch your power settings.
- By changing incandescent lamps to compact fluorescent (CFL) or light-emitting diodes (LED) you can realize energy savings of up to 75% for the same amount of light.
- Make sure to turn off computers and TVs or put them in standby mode to help lower your electric bill.
CONSERVING WATER: The city works on an ongoing basis to repair and maintain valves to minimize water use.
WHAT CAN I DO AT HOME? Most people try to conserve water by turning off the tap while you brush teeth or wash dishes, but there are other ways to minimize your use even when the tap is running.
- Install water aerators. No aerators mean twice as many gallons per minute of water are likely used and that means a higher water bill.
- Fix leaking faucets and running toilets. If that water is passing through your water meter, you’re paying for it, so make sure it’s going to good use.
These suggestions involve relatively low cost, if not no cost, investments for your home and can help achieve utility savings that will help cover the expense. Check with your local licensed tradesman or home improvement store for more information about implementing some of them in your home.