Earth Notes: On Office Comfort and Energy Efficiency
Keep a lid on sweats and chills outside the boardroom...
In winter don't be tempted to turn equipment on just to thaw the office. Using your building's dedicated heating system will be cheaper. It should work better too. Not everyone realises it, but electricity and heat are both forms of energy. Use the right one for the right job!
There are simple things that you can do to save money and keep your cool. Especially in summer, use equipment efficiently and turn off gadgets that you don't need. It will save the pennies and keep you comfortable.
Many of us will have seen passive-aggressive thermostat battles in the office. Someone wants to wear a level of clothing more appropriate for the beach, demands the heat be turned up, and forces the rest to swelter. Or comes in dressed for the Arctic, forcing the rest to shiver while the air-con is cranked to max. Everyone will be much more comfortable with seasonally appropriate clothing and a light hand on the air-con. That's the sort of battle management should resolve. Save money and tempers all round!
Stop your fingers freezing to the desk...
- Fix draughts around doors and windows. Cold draughts can lead to significant discomfort.
- Make sure that you are not heating a room with open windows and doors. You may be wasting half your building's energy and exposing yourself to air pollution from outside.
- There is no shame in thermal underwear. It can be sexy too! Keeping the body warm can be more effective and pleasant, and lower carbon, than trying to heat the room you're in.
You know what makes building managers cry? Electric space heaters plugged in under desks. For a start, they might overload circuits only meant for computers. Think of low-power 'UPS' circuits meant to stay running though a power cut. Yes, I've seen it happen. But they are also a fire-hazard and inefficient. Try and find another solution. Maybe as simple as a raised footrest if the floor is cold!
Some ideas to beat the office heat...
- Replace any lighting you have control over with the latest efficient LED lighting, with the right colour. High good efficiency will minimise unwanted waste heat. .(Preferably better than 100lm/W ie 100 lumens per watt)
- Whenever replacing equipment such as photocopiers, PCs, monitors, laptops, etc, go for the most efficient that you can afford. Also make sure that the new gear has good low-power automatic standby modes. Then you don't have to remember to manually things off when no one is using them.
- Try to fit reflective blinds or shades to keep excess sunshine and heat out. Especially on south- and west- facing windows. Once sunlight is absorbed by a dark surface it will turn to heat and add to any overheating.
- Make sure that you are not air-conditioning a room with open windows and doors. You may be wasting half your building's energy. And exposing yourself to air pollution from outside.
- Even without aircon, keeping blinds and windows closed during the heat of the day may help keep heat out and indoors cool.
- A small fan (and lighter clothing) may maximise comfort without boiling any penguins...
- Oh, and if your office heating is wonky in winter, campaign to fix it now while heating engineers are charging normal rates. Then you don't have to be bounced into an expensive instant fix!