Electrical contractors (ECs) know their clients have an increasing desire for buildings that are more energy efficient. For ECs looking to get into energy efficiency, there are several good places to begin.
1. Install copper wiring one size larger than required
According to the Copper Development Association (CDA), installing copper wiring in a building that is one size larger than National Electrical Code minimums could save energy. That cabling setup generates less heat than one with smaller-diameter wiring. According to the CDA, opting for copper wiring that is one size larger than required could save more than 1,000 kilowatt-hours per year.
The payoff is especially quick for applications with smaller loads. Even in larger applications, the expenses associated with the larger wire tend to pay for themselves over time due to the energy savings achieved.
2. Exchange incandescent and halogen lamps for LEDs
When clients want simple but effective energy-efficiency improvements, swapping out incandescent and halogen lamps for LED options is the way to go. LEDs have substantially longer lifespans than other kinds of lamps, which makes them more convenient to use. From an energy-efficiency perspective, LEDs use less energy and often have a brighter output than older lamps.
They are more expensive than other options, but the lifespan and brightness aspects make them worthwhile, especially to a building owner who also cares about saving energy. It's also worth noting that some LED lamps are smart and connect to Wi-Fi networks and smartphone apps, enabling owners to control the lights remotely. That's advantageous in cases where an individual forgets to turn the lights off after locking the main door of a building, for example.
3. Look into lighting controls
Lighting controls boost efficiency because they reduce dependence on overhead lighting. For example, some of them have daylight harvesting capabilities that sense the amount of ambient light in a room. They can switch indoor lamps off or dim during times of sufficient natural light. Occupancy sensors can turn off or dim lights when a room is vacant.
Many lighting control brands offer highly scalable solutions. For example, Legrand has a Wattstopper product line that helps building owners choose the lighting controls that work best for their needs and budgets.
If a client is hesitant about making substantial investments in energy efficiency, you may want to point out that buildings with ENERGY STAR ratings use an average of 35 percent less energy than ordinary ones. It's not hard to imagine how those cost savings could add up over the long term. Moreover, ENERGY STAR helped Americans save more than $30 billion in energy costs in 2016
Research also shows energy efficiency makes a notable dent in carbon emissions, mainly since the building sector accounts for about one-third of overall emissions. According to ENERGY STAR, the 2016 energy savings accounted for approximately a 320-metric-ton reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
4. Install a ceiling fan
If a building owner wants to save energy in an area such as a warehouse or commercial kitchen, a ceiling fan could help. For example, an air-conditioning unit uses 3,500 watts of energy during operation whereas a ceiling fan on the highest setting uses only 60 watts. After you install a ceiling fan for the client, consider going over a few things that could save even more energy.
Ceiling fans are most effective in the summer when they create air movement in the center of the room, usually accomplished by making the fan blades move in a counterclockwise direction. Also, it doesn't cost much more to get a ceiling fan with built-in lighting. If your building owner decides to do that, remember to recommend using energy-efficient lighting technology, such as LEDs.
5. Take advantage of IoT technologies and automation
The internet of things (IoT) is the umbrella term for Wi-Fi-enabled devices that often collect data or listen for voice commands. According to a report from Navigant Research, the global market for energy-efficient building technologies will grow to $360.6 billion by 2026. It's not possible to lump all of those technologies into one category, but many of them arguably relate to the IoT.
Smart LED lamps are examples of how IoT technology can save energy and money. Other technologies relate to energy efficiency, too. One of the most accessible options—and one that's probably familiar to many building owners—is a smart thermostat. Users can set it to specific temperatures and look at app data that shows changes in energy usage. They can also program the thermostat so it turns on or off at certain times, such as periods of peak or reduced occupancy.
Moreover, like the lighting controls mentioned above, IoT tech is scalable. Building owners can decide which IoT gadgets meet their energy-efficiency needs immediately, then ramp up from there. Thanks to products like smart plugs, it's also possible to integrate some IoT tech into legacy items, thereby enjoying the money-saving capabilities of automation without doing a complete overhaul of the building.
Options are expanding
This list shows how ECs can practically and simply implement effective methods to increase energy efficiency in an owner's building. The suggestions here can become jumping-off points during consultations with your clients.