Going Home for Christmas

At this time of year lots of buildings get effectively closed for the holiday season, however often the building owners don't respond properly and reduce the building to minimum energy consumption.

At this time of year lots of buildings get effectively closed for the holiday season, however often the building owners don’t respond properly and reduce the building to minimum energy consumption.

Too often heating systems are left on and not even reduced to frost protection levels –effectively increasing the usage by something like 70% over the level needed to protect the building and its contents from damage. (on the other hand a few years ago the Army closed a number of its barracks completely over the Christmas/New Year period as a cost saving measure and even drained down the heating and water systems so that the heating could be completely turned off – probably a bit excessive for most buildings).

Often lighting systems (and external lights especially) are left to turn on –with no-one present.

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I've often commented that one of my tests of how well a building is managed is to look for external lights on when not needed -especially in bright sunlight In the MOD the official policy was that all computer equipment should be turned off at the plug when not in use – not primarily an energy saving measure but intended to reduce the risk of “spies” hacking in and discovering “secrets”.

Now I know that was mostly ignored because people weren’t willing to crawl under desks to get to the plug each night but even a turned off (but plugged in) computer or printer will use some energy in the primary of its transformer. If you look around most buildings when empty you will see a lot of equipment that is normally left on, computers, printer, photocopiers, microwave ovens, hot water (tea) boilers, fans, phone chargers (1kg of carbon a week apparently even when not in use but plugged in) whiteboards, sound systems –a long list and nowhere near complete.

phone charger

Now I would always advocate turning them off but It’s probably not worth the effort to turn off every night (I’m not stopping the willing)but if a building is going to be empty and the equipment not in use for some time (often 14 days at this time of year) making the extra effort becomes sensible to reduce energy usage (it will also have a beneficial effect on the life of the transformer as there is no risk of it overheating under no load (which can happen)). Now one of my ex-colleagues (I know he reads this blog so we’ll see if he comments) was so effective and reducing this “baseload” usage over the Christmas period that the electricity supplier thought the meter had failed, “interpolated” extra consumption and arranged for the meter to be replaced!

Andy Clarke

Topics: Energy efficiency & low-carbon
Tags: | water
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