Hey there, building owners! Tony here, your FPL business expert and member of the Watt’s Team. For this month’s post, I invited a special guest to join me to tackle some specific questions about how commercial real estate (CRE) owners can save on their energy bill. CRE covers a wide range of building types, including multifamily, office, industrial, retail, hotels and mixed-use space. I asked my colleague Andy Marin, major & governmental account director at FPL, to answer a few of your top questions. Read on to learn more.
Q: Andy, most business owners know the largest portion of their energy bill is typically coming from the HVAC system; basically, their heating and cooling. What can owners of commercial real estate do to bring this cost down?
A: Well, the most obvious answer to this question is to raise the thermostat by a few degrees, but there are other tips when that either isn’t cutting it or isn’t possible due to the type of business. One great option is to install programmable thermostats, which can help reduce A/C usage during unoccupied hours. Also, if your building is shutdown or unoccupied, you may be able to reduce your outside air intake system and turn off or reduce exhaust air systems. Remember to always check local codes for minimums.
Q: That covers empty buildings. Can business owners save if their buildings are at partial occupancy?
A: There are several simple steps to take to help save on a building’s energy bill when it’s not operating at full capacity. First, be sure to unplug or turn off unnecessary appliances, such as breakroom equipment, computers, copy machines, water coolers, etc. Also, if only parts of the building are being used, consider consolidating and turning off unused refrigeration equipment, including vending machines and ice makers. Finally, turn off lights if they’re not needed for safety or emergency lighting purposes and adjust them where practical in parking lots and garages.
Q: While this all sounds great on paper, do you have any examples of a building owner who has successfully followed these steps and saved?
A: Of course! One great example would be Codina Partners, a real estate development, management and investment firm. At their 2020 Salzedo building, they saved from $1,000 to $1,500 a month on their energy bill between March and June of this past year by increasing the A/C temperature and turning off lights in unoccupied spaces.
Q: If the building owner is on board with energy efficiency, how can they help get the rest of their team involved?
A: Great question, and I’d recommend making it a team effort. Consider engaging your employees to be part of an energy team committed to meeting energy-efficiency goals. Hold a companywide meeting and establish an energy awareness program. Having an owner or manager take a public pledge to improve energy efficiency can also make a big impact. We saw this work recently when a large food retailer and distributor with more than 300 stores implemented an ENERGY STAR® employee communication strategy and then saw a 3.2% reduction in energy use.
Q: Is there any specific information about how energy works that would be helpful for building owners, and really business owners in general, to understand to help save?
A: While it does get a little technical, I’d say one of the most important things for business owners to understand when it comes to their energy usage is demand. Demand is a term that describes how much electricity is used at any given moment. Most businesses have a meter that tracks and records the highest 30-minute level of electricity demand for each billing period. Using large bursts of energy over a few hours per day, versus using a steady amount across the entire billing period, puts more demand on the system and costs more.
Q: Thank you, Andy. For our last question, can you share any tips or tools that business owners can use to learn more about their energy usage and continue to save?
A: I’m glad you asked. FPL offers two different free tools for that exact purpose. The first is the free Business Expert Evaluation. Expert will audit your business’ energy use and deliver a free customized report with saving solutions tailored to your unique energy needs. Another great tool is the Business Energy Manager, which lets business owners take control of their energy usage and provides customized recommendations that can lead to savings of up to $500 a year.
As many buildings remain closed or functioning at limited capacity, we hope you can implement some of these tips to help keep your energy bills low. As always, you can find additional savings tips on the Watt’s Happening blog, with new articles posting each month.