A small space heater

Seven red flags you're wasting energy at work

Your workplace is full of clues about how efficiently you're using energy. Here are some things to watch – and listen – out for.

When it comes to saving energy, your powers of observation are, well, pretty powerful. Taking a look around your workspace, and the people in it, can tell you a lot about how you're using (or wasting) energy. Here are just a few potential red flags that you’re not being as efficient as you could be. 

 

1. Complaints

The simplest way to know if something's wrong? People are telling you. If your employees are vocal about their freezing cubicles, odd noises or unusual smells – which could all be a clue that equipment isn’t working properly – it's time to listen. 
 
"Your employees might not speak up, but your customers will," points out Adam Dixon, an energy consultant who helps businesses improve their efficiency. Be sure to ask your customers about their comfort level inside your business, and look at their body language. If customers who walk into your store immediately pull on their jackets, do some detective work to figure out why your space is colder than is comfortable.

 

2. Space heaters may spell inefficient heating

If you're spotting a lot of space heaters being used around the office this winter, it may be a sign that your heating isn't working as effectively as it should. 
 
Space heaters alone can waste energy, so addressing the issue can save on your bills, and boost employee comfort. If your thermostat is set to a reasonable level, you could still be losing air through drafty windows, doors, or because of poor insulation. 

Be sure to check out if space heater use is inconsistent across the office. If it's limited to one area, you'll know where to start looking for potential solutions. 

 

3. Unseasonable sweaters

Look out for shawls and sweaters that make appearances in the summer. They’re likely a sign that your air conditioner is set to cooler than it needs to be, Dixon says.

There’s also a chance you have equipment that’s too close to your thermostat, which could affect its temperature reading. If your thermostat is near equipment that lets off heat, like a printer, for example, it may kick on the air conditioner unnecessarily. If that’s the case, consider positioning equipment further away from your thermostat.

Likewise, if it’s near outside doors that open and close frequently, that may cause it to kick on heating too often during the colder months. 

Typing in a sweater


4. Increased sick time

Getting sick is a part of life, and for coworkers who share their space, it's easy to fall victim to colds from your neighbours. However, if it seems like your staff always has the sniffles, it may be time to look at your HVAC system and its impact on your indoor environmental quality. Indoor environmental quality is tied to things like temperature, humidity and dust, all of which have an impact on how the people using your space feel.

 

5. Condensation and cracks

Your windows can offer hints that your HVAC system, including ventilation, isn't running as smoothly as it could be. Condensation, for example, may be a sign that the temperature and humidity levels inside aren't optimal, or even that it may be time to replace your windows entirely. 
 
Excessive moisture in the air can also aggravate allergies and asthma, so addressing this potential issue is important for your employees' overall health and comfort levels. A lack of humidity in the winter can make the air dry, too, which can be aggravating to employees. Cracks in the seals around your windows can also contribute to inefficient heating and cooling and low humidity, so keep an eye out for those, too.

 

6. Missing lights (or too many)

If you’re noticing employees have removed the lightbulbs above their desks to make their workspace more comfortable, it may be worth taking a look at not only your lighting design, but also the bulbs you're using and their positioning relative to your staff’s workspaces.
 
If you haven't upgraded to more efficient LED lighting, consider doing so soon. Remember to think about the colour temperature you're using. Visual acuity, for example, is better with bulbs that have a cooler, bluish colour temperature, versus warmer yellow tones that you might want at home. 
 
An after-hours glimpse at your business can tell you a lot, too. Are lights on unnecessarily? Consider installing motion sensors to save energy and keep your workplace safe and secure after hours. 

Remember to also take advantage of natural light wherever possible. Saving energy may be as simple as moving a few desks closer to the windows.


7. Noises that don't belong

Spotting energy waste goes beyond sight, take into consideration what you hear too.  You wouldn't ignore weird sounds coming from your engine when driving, so don't ignore them in your workplace, either. 
 
"Rattles and bangs can be a sign that something isn't working correctly," says Kady Cowan, an energy efficiency expert with the Independent Electricity System Operator. Listen to what your building sounds like day-to-day and keep an ear out for unusual sounds. They might signal that fans and motors are running inefficiently.

So, what’s next?

If you're spotting potential energy waste around your workspace, consider taking a deeper dive into your energy use. Calling your local hydro company is a good first step. Some will offer free walkthroughs of your space to help identify opportunities to save on your monthly electricity bills, and potentially on ongoing maintenance costs as well. 

Together, you can figure out the best next step for your business, from getting a qualified HVAC contractor to do specific maintenance, to a recommissioning project, or an energy audit that can help prepare for a retrofit of your facility. 

But the best part is, you may just uncover new ways to make your workspace look better and employees and customers feel more comfortable. 

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