How to Keep Energy Costs Low During the Holiday Rush
This time of year, kids who celebrate Christmas are on extra good behavior. Why? Because Santa is watching, and there are singing Elsa dolls and Bladebuilder Lightsabers at stake. There’s a lesson in here for energy managers who want better behavior, not from their kids, but from their buildings. Regardless of how closely you monitor facilities this time of year, the holiday rush can result in costly, inefficient energy usage.
But you better not pout; instead, take a cue from the man of the season himself and some of our friends across a variety of industries, on how to get ahead of naughty inefficiencies this season.
Make a [check] list.
“The holiday season is the time when companies are the most vulnerable to excessive energy costs, largely due to the rush of trying to complete orders and not paying attention to the normal day-to-day activities like shutting down compressors, HVAC, lights, etc.,” says Keith Nunley, Engineering/Energy Manager at Lodge Cast Iron, the iconic cookware brand. “Lodge is no exception to that rule. We have at times gotten too busy and have overlooked those simple things.”
In order to ensure your team isn’t overlooking the critical behaviors and activities that help keep costs down, develop a clear plan or checklist for those activities in advance, so your engineers don’t need to remember them when things get busy.
Need an example? This Thanksgiving one of our customers showed off their splendid holiday shutdown.
Check [the calendar] twice.
Because they often occur on weekdays or on different days each year, holidays are one of the most common causes of energy waste. Energy teams have to proactively make BMS adjustments to ensure lighting, HVAC, and other energy-hogging systems operate in unoccupied mode.
For example, when the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ courthouses reviewed their energy consumption against occupancy data, they discovered that one building wasn’t defaulting back to its holiday setback schedule on New Year’s Day. The following year, the courthouse dropped 500 kilowatts over the holiday, netting $10,000 in savings!
Be good [to your budget] for goodness' sake.
The holiday rush isn’t a time for panicking about skyrocketing energy usage, it’s a time for careful budgeting, the kind that allows for increased productivity.
“The key to managing our energy through our peak product seasons is staying in tune with the business and consumer needs, and then budgeting those utilities accordingly,” says Leslie Marshall, Energy Engineer at General Mills. “It is the energy team’s responsibility to encourage efficient energy use, not to prevent production departments from using it.”
Find out [what buildings] are naughty.
One 150-site defense contractor we work with learned this too late and lost $10,000 in two days, just by forgetting to shut down. A quick review of its energy profile highlighted that one facility ran on Christmas Eve as if it was a regular workday (red box in figure below). To further compound the waste, the company set its monthly peak demand charge on New Year’s Eve (green dot in figure below).
The team took this experience to heart. During their next holiday shutdown they walked through the naughty building conducting an unoccupied audit to determine which systems and processes could be adjusted to reduce consumption.
Energy managers may not have the same grasp on their buildings’ behavior as Santa does for every kid, but understanding the drivers of your energy costs will help keep them low this holiday season.