Energy walk-through Part 2: why maintenance matters

Last month we started an "energy walk-through" for small businesses, with advice from our energy experts on how to be your own energy analyst.

We've  visited over 2,000 small and medium-sized businesses, so our walk-through specialists know a thing or two about the needs of small businesses, and the potential savings they can enjoy.

In Part 1, we provided tips to "Check Your Energy Assumptions" and "Turn it Off Automatically." This month, we continue the walk, with a look at keeping up with maintenance...

Step 3: Clean Lights, Better Lighting

Walking through a business, energy experts take a look at the lighting fixtures, or luminaires, which house your lighting, including things like the metal casing that holds fluorescent tubes.

These casings are designed with a maintenance schedule in mind. Whether it's two years or five years, they're designed to be cleaned on a regular basis. There's not much to the maintenance other than to make sure dust isn't covering the lens or covering the reflectors, so it's not that hard – but it is a step that people often neglect to do.

Lighting maintenance gets neglected because it doesn't have to be done too often.It may get forgotten entirely, or because lights are high on the ceiling and hard to access. But maintenance makes a difference to lighting quality – and costs.

You need to make sure that maintenance is being done, so that your lighting performance isn't being diminished – you can see a significant decrease in performance just because of missed maintenance schedules. Keeping clean won't necessarily save you energy, but it'll save you the cost of going out and adding desk lamps to compensate because people feel the lighting isn't sufficient.

Failure to keep lenses on all lighting fixtures clean can reduce lighting output by 10%, and failing to replace lenses that have become dirtied or discoloured with age can affect lighting output by another 20%. See Light Output Decreases Over Time.

Other tips for maintaining lighting savings include training someone on staff to take care of lighting maintenance, and focusing responsibility for lighting maintenance on one person instead of diffusing it among several different individuals.

Step 4: Tune up your HVAC

The importance of maintenance also applies to any HVAC [heating, ventilation, air conditioning] equipment. Power Smart engineer Steve Cao recommends tune-ups on heating or cooling equipment be done every 2 to 4 years. That's the only way to ensure it's operating at its most efficient, the way it was designed to be operated.

Does this improve comfort for your staff and customers? Absolutely. If you're finding your heating equipment isn't working properly in the winter and it's always cold, it might be a simple fix, just an adjustment required on the equipment.

Ditto for the summer. If you have air conditioning, and it's not cooling appropriately, there could be a few things going on.  It's a good idea to start with a look at the equipment – see if it's as simple as getting an hour of service done on it.

For most small business owners, asking a landlord for regular maintenance, or calling in an HVAC technician for specialized help is the way to go. But if you're keen to know more, check out these helpful guides to optimizing HVAC and refrigeration efficiency and performance:

  • Adjusting belts
  • Cleaning condensor coils
  • Cleaning evaporator coils
  • Cleaning filters
  • Fixing refrigerant leaks
  • Maintaining cabinet integrity

Part 3: Holding the line between hot and cold.