Your Energy Bill: Lowering Peak Demand

Your electrical costs consist of two parts — consumption and demand. High electrical loads strain the grid and demand charges help pay for the cost of providing more power when needed. Demand is measured in short increments; one energy-intensive, 15-minute period can result in a high demand charge for an entire monthly billing period.

Demand charges can become a real issue in the summer due to the increased use of air conditioning. It’s not unusual for demand charges to make up half of a facility’s electric bill. Fortunately, there are operational strategies and upgrades that can help you reduce peak demand.

Operational changes

  • Adjust work schedules to reduce energy use during peak periods, generally in the afternoon.
  • Turn off printers, fax machines and other office equipment when not in use. Use energy-saving sleep mode on computers and office equipment.
  • Make sure lights are turned off in unoccupied spaces, such as restrooms and conference rooms. Use an air economizer to pre-cool your facility at night and early in the morning.
  • Lower freezer temperatures slightly during off-peak periods and turn them off during peak periods.

Equipment and building systems

  • Install an energy management system (EMS) to schedule equipment and building system operations to reduce demand.
  • Install automatic sequencers on high-energy-use machines to prevent them from all starting at the same time.
  • Consider installing a thermal energy storage system, which creates chilled water at night for cooling during the day when peak demand is at its highest. There is also a variation of this technology for walk-in coolers and freezers that stabilizes the temperature and reduces the incidence of short cycling, extending the life of chiller equipment.
  • Use backup generators to handle large electrical loads that must operate during peak periods. Reduce lighting demand through the use of occupancy sensors and daylighting strategies.
  • Install window films, solar screens or awnings on south- and west-facing windows to reduce the need for cooling.
  • Reduce heat gain (and the need for cooling) with lightly colored, reflective, cool roofing materials.

Establish a profile

Each facility has a unique energy-use pattern. Start by establishing your load profile. A load profile is a timed set of energy-use data taken over a 24-hour period. This data helps you better understand how your facility uses energy. Once you know the key elements affecting your energy bill, you can take steps to reduce your peak demand.

If your facility is in need of an upgrade, consider energy efficient systems to help save on long-term energy costs. Your local electric co-op also offers Power Moves® rebates for qualifying energy efficiency upgrades. Your cooperative can even work with you on custom rebates to ensure that you can reach your energy goals. Contact your energy advisor to start the conversation.