Cold Comfort: Preparing Your Facility for Winter

Cold weather is coming, and you want to ensure a comfortable indoor environment for your staff, visitors and customers. At the same time, space heating, cooling and ventilation can take up a lot of room on your operating budget, accounting for about 35% of total commercial building energy costs. The following measures will help ensure comfort, while the lower energy bills will keep you feeling warm all winter long.

Inspect your heating system

Have a qualified professional inspect and clean your heating system. An inspection will spot any problems and ensure your system is running efficiently.

Keep filters clean

Change throughout your facility at the start of the heating season and each month thereafter according to manufacturer’s recommendations. Dirty filters make your heating system work harder, wasting energy and reducing indoor air quality.

Adjust building controls

Adjust building controls or your building automation/energy management system settings to accommodate the changing season. Poorly calibrated sensors, thermostats and other controls can increase heating system load and reduce comfort. By ensuring that building controls are properly integrated, you can save energy and improve the comfort and productivity of your staff.

Ensure airflow

Keep the air fresh by making sure registers aren’t blocked by furniture or equipment and partitions or other barriers are positioned so that they don’t restrict airflow. Locate air supply and return air vents at a reasonable distance to ensure balanced air distribution. Poor ventilation reduces comfort and indoor air quality.

Seal and insulate ducts

Inspect accessible ductwork for leaks and seal with mastic tape. Heat radiating through ductwork can result in significant energy loss, even when ducts are properly sealed. Ductwork insulation keeps thermal energy from escaping, increasing heating system efficiency.

Weatherize your building envelope

Check for and seal gaps and cracks in your building envelope (windows, doors, exterior walls and roofs) with caulk or weatherstripping. Air leaks reduce heating system performance, making your building less comfortable.

Check building insulation

Proper insulation is critical for building comfort. Hire a qualified insulation contractor to inspect your building and ensure that insulation levels meet or exceed those recommended in ASHRAE 90.1 Energy Standard for Buildings. Add insulation if needed.

Take energy performance to the next level

You’ve made the right moves, but now is the perfect time to go further and hire a qualified professional to perform an energy audit of your facility. Your auditor can provide targeted cost- saving recommendations, laying the groundwork for a sound energy-management plan.

Energy audits are provided by consultants and engineering firms, as well as energy service companies (ESCOs), which also provide financing and implementation. See ASHRAE and the Association of Energy Engineers to find certified auditors. To locate an ESCO in your area, go to the National Association of Energy Service Companies’ preferred partners search.

By taking these steps, you’ll reach a point where you can enjoy energy savings and comfort this winter and all year round. If your facility needs an HVAC upgrade, your local electric cooperative offers Power Moves® rebates for qualifying energy efficiency improvement. Contact your cooperative’s energy advisor for more information and to start the application process.