Christmas is a time for celebration, a time for family, a time for festive cheer, and a time for wasting energy and water. Many organisations are so excited about breaking off for a festive holiday that the building is often left to run as though we are operating at full capacity.
When I analyse data, I always include Christmas Day in my review. Typically, a pattern on Christmas day should be lower than any other day of the year as there is reduced occupancy, limited energy consumption, and no taps running. Perfect to review baselines figures.
The graph below is what I would expect to see on Christmas Day comparing a typical working day.
So, what can we do to reduce consumption over the festive period?
There are some simple techniques and guidance that won’t take long to administer and probably only required a few days before we can break off for some fun and relaxation.
- Walk around the building and identify items that can be switched off. Things like PC’s, monitors, printers, and photocopiers can be a great starting point although double-check with IT first.
- Check plant rooms and make sure the lights are all off. How often have we had engineers on-site to maintain equipment and they have forgotten to switch off the lights? When would the next visit be to that remote plant room, and would these lights have been on for weeks if not months if we hadn’t checked?
- Whilst in the plant rooms, check that all the control panels are on “Auto”. A controller left on hand can be running 24/7 and wasting energy. Reverting this to “Auto” means that the BeMS is working for you and following an efficient strategy for the site.
I remember years ago when I was working in the public sector that we had a boiler fault over Christmas. The engineer arrived on-site and placed the controls in hand whilst testing the supply. The control was not changed back to Auto, and it was 3 months before someone checked the settings and realised the issue. The concern was that the boilers had been running for 3 months at full capacity costing the organisation thousands of pounds, increasing carbon emissions, and placing a strain on the equipment over this time. Something so simple can save you a lot of time, energy, and money.
- Check washrooms for dripping taps, leaking toilets and review the controls for any urinals. Water is an area that can continually flow when nobody is in the building which can lead to an unwanted expense should there be a leak or flood during the festive break.
- Good communication can help you to reduce this workload for yourself. Send an email to all staff asking them to check what they can switch off ahead of the break and anything they would like you to check during your final walk around. Engaging the wider teams will help this to become an annual event and maybe something that can be automatically done at other times of the year too. What about a weekend shutdown with similar savings to that achieved at Christmas?
- Appoint Energy & Water Champions. Should your organisations have multiple sites then clearly you would not be able to visit all sites on your own. Appointing utility champions at each site can replicate the process and reduce costs across the estate.
- During your final walk around and checks, switch off all unnecessary lights on the way out the door.
- Do you have any monitoring and targeting real-time solutions? Set alarms that can be automatically emailed to the on-call team should energy or water consumption fall out with standard parameters.
- If you have a security team on over the festive period, then during their security walk rounds ask them to report anything that is still left on and if they have the authority switch them off.
- Do you have a kitchen or canteen? If yes, then check the display refrigerators have been emptied, switched off and food moved to a larger more central refrigeration solution. Check for extractor fans being left on, vending machines with non-perishables can also be switched off saving energy cost and emissions.
- Stop and listen. I often survey sites out with normal working hours and just stand and listen. Do I hear a rattle of airflow, a high-pitched sound from a variable speed drive or water flowing through the building? This is often a good sign that something is still on.
- BeMS Optimisation will be the main energy saver for your organisation. Change set-points, time clocks, and ensure the building is running to maintain heating levels and protect the building when you are not there but try to do this in the most efficient manner. Even better create a seasonal control on the BeMS so that at a touch of a button you can change your settings to suit winter, summer, spring, and autumn. Don’t forget to change the settings back when you arrive back from your break.
Energy efficiency will already be part of your Net-Zero goals and targets and will play a large role in understanding your baselines and strengthening procedures towards achieving a greener future. Seasonal strategies such as at Christmas have a part to play with more emphasis on energy waste and where simple practices can eliminate such unnecessary costs. Take time to plan shut-downs and walk around your building regularly to engage and educate others of the impact of leaving a laptop plugged in over a festive period, not just for energy reduction but as a health and safety concern. Don’t forget to review your energy costs on return from your festive break and remember to tell everyone about how much carbon was saved by taking small steps towards reducing waste on-site.