It’s still debatable as to whether we’ll enjoy the same hot summer we had last year. But you never can tell when we might hit a heatwave. So, it’s worth making some preparations to make your working environments more comfortable and energy efficient.
When it gets hot outside, it’s tempting to reach straight for the air conditioning controls and turn down the temperature. However, there are many ways to cool things down and by minimising overheating and maximising efficient cooling methods, you can keep your energy use to a minimum.
Here are our top ten energy-saving, smart cooling tips:
Minimise internal and external heat gains
The first step in any energy efficiency drive is to reduce the amount of energy required overall. Therefore, the first step to efficient cooling is to reduce the heat gained internally from unwanted sources.
Every unnecessary light, PC and electronic piece of equipment produces heat – adding to the inside temperature. Make sure these are switched off when not needed and set to go into an energy saving mode automatically during periods of low use.
It can be beautiful when the sun beams through the windows, but it’ll cost you. Keeping the shades or blinds drawn on sun-facing windows is essential to keeping the workplace cool and at a regular temperature. Consider using window films as they can cut off solar heat gains by 85-90%. For a longer-term solution, external overhangs can be applied (but this is an optional investment).
Changing your lighting to LEDs not only saves energy, but also produces less heat. This therefore reduces the heat gains within the workspace and the need for cooling.
Maximise use of natural or mechanical ventilation options
The next step is to make the most of naturally available or ‘free’ cooling for your building.
If you are opening windows make sure these are opened on opposite sides of the office, if possible, to establish an air flow through the space which will increase the effectiveness of the cooling. If the temperature outside is only 20-23⁰C this will make the workspace less stuffy and a more comfortable temperature.
If your space has mechanical ventilation it can be worth increasing the use of fans overnight to increase the amount of cooler night-time air entering the building. This can then reduce the cooling load during the day.
Make your air conditioning as efficient as possible
If you do have to resort to switching on the air conditioning, make sure it is the only system working and it’s as efficient as it can be.
Air conditioning relies on having a relatively sealed space to work on, but if the air is constantly changing due to incoming air from outside, it will have to work harder. Therefore, when the air conditioning does get switched on make sure windows and doors are closed to allow effective cooling. And make sure staff are aware of the changeover so they don’t inadvertently open them up again. Similarly, try to keep external doors closed. If you have external doors that are operated by motion sensors, try and change the setting to limit the time they are open.
Local controls in open plan offices also cause issues where one part of an office is heated to one temperature and another part of the building to a different temperature. This means both split units try to compensate each other to reach the temperature set locally. If temperature controls are set to a recommended level of 20°C in the heating season and to 23⁰C or 24⁰C in the summer, there will be a dead band of 3-4⁰C when conditioning is not required and the building will automatically be heated/cooled to a comfortable level. This prevents over-heating or cooling and conflict between units. Temperatures can be adjusted around the setpoint by +/- 2°C, but only allow authorised personnel to do so.
Get your air conditioning system tuned up. Ideally, a system maintenance, clean and check should take place once a year. Check the validity of your TM44 certificate. An air conditioning inspection will provide a more detailed oversight and provide a report with detailed recommendations to greatly improve the efficiency of the system.
While you might want to limit the amount of access individuals have to the overall cooling system controls, a level of personal adjustment to allow for individual comfort is worthwhile. We are all individuals and the same temperature doesn’t always feel the same for everyone, just as different locations within buildings can also have a different feel. Allow staff to have control through these simple measures, without seriously affecting energy use.
Many organisations have relaxed their dress codes over the years. Ensuring that clothing such as ties and formal suits are not a requirement in many work situations allows greater flexibility for individuals to dress for their own comfort. In addition, you can introduce a temporary dress code change during periods of unusually hot weather to give even greater flexibility.
Fans can take the pressure off the requirement for air conditioning, but they are a consumer of energy and need to be used wisely. If an individual is struggling in a particular location, where others are not experiencing any problem, then the provision of a personal fan may be the best option rather than adjusting the overall cooling strategy. But make sure they are not left running unnecessarily.
Fingers crossed we have another memorable summer. But with these energy-saving tips for cooling your workplace, you’ll beat the heat without costing your company.
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