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Active energy awareness

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With the price of utility power rising significantly in South Africa over the next three years, most organisations have stepped up their efforts to save energy and reduce costs.

Minimising energy usage also has an environmental impact. In today’s business climate having a ‘green strategy’ in place makes good business sense because in a typical office building, lighting, heating and cooling represent about 65% of total energy consumption.

The first step to take before launching an active energy efficiency campaign is to understand the dynamics of your company’s current energy consumption by taking regular meter readings.

Phase one should entail the elimination of energy wastage by the obvious methods of replacing non-energy efficient light bulbs, minimising heating and cooling in areas not permanently occupied by staff and isolating these areas from those that require climate control.

Industry experts report that, in winter, one degree dropped in the ambient office or workspace temperature can result in up to a 10% saving in heating costs in a medium sized company. The converse applies in summer.

Hot water geysers are massive consumers of energy, so their replacement by solar powered systems should be a priority. In the mean time, thermostats should be set to 60 deg C.

An obvious, but infrequently applied, energy saving solution is to switch off all energy consuming equipment when not in use. Many systems, including PCs, printers, scanners and TV sets default to a power consuming stand-by setting when ‘switched off’. Ideally these systems need to be isolated from the mains supply completely by switching off the wall socket.

Less obvious perhaps are the savings to be gained from changes to the office layout. For example, relocate air conditioning and heating systems to where they are the most effective and reduce the lighting in hallways and passages by 30% (the staff will hardly notice). In infrequently used areas (storerooms for example,) light only when necessary with the aid of movement sensitive light switches.

Be on the lookout for unused items of equipment, particularly in the corporate data centre, and disconnect them. A study by a leading vendor revealed that between 8 and 10% of all servers deployed are unused. One company reported a 14% drop in total electrical consumption after launching a similar programme.

When it comes time to repaint or refurbish the building, opt for white or a reflective colour to minimise the amount of absorbed heat. This simple change can often be responsible for a reduction in cooling energy consumption (and costs) of 10% or more.

Regular maintenance can also be responsible for energy efficiencies. Damaged insulation and draught excluders should be replaced regularly, while windows and blinds should be kept clean to boost natural light levels. Opt for angled blinds to direct sunlight towards work areas where possible.

Philip Hampton, chief technology officer at Powermode

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