As summer blends into autumn, which quickly turns to winter, property owners face the same impending battle. With colder, shorter days comes an increased need for energy – including gas and electricity for heat and light. But how do you know if you are using more energy than is necessary? And how much is too much?
For commercial buildings, the issue of energy wastage is especially important. If a property is not retaining heat, the financial outlay during winter can be huge. Energy bills are certainly expensive enough, without the added problem of energy loss.
Commercial property comes in all shapes and sizes – from tall office blocks to converted Victorian properties or slick new-build warehouses to name but a few. No matter what the type of building you occupy, you cannot afford to be complacent about energy wastage. It should be on your radar. And by acting now, you could save a great deal of money down the line, all while ensuring the comfort of your staff and customers in ambient surroundings.
To start, you need to find out if (and how) your commercial building is wasting energy.
Understanding Energy Wastage with Thermal Imaging
Some businesses rely on common sense to understand the scale of their energy wastage. Do energy bills seem too high? Is there an energy-saving culture among staff? Are people shutting doors, switching off lights and turning down radiators? While these observations can equip you with a general sense of energy usage, it is far from accurate. This ‘finger in the air’ approach is not fool proof. However, there isa way you can be certain.
The most accurate way to get a snapshot of your building’s energy efficiency is to use infrared thermography – otherwise known as thermal imaging. This is essentially a photograph of the heat generated by your property, showing hot spots, cold spots and everything in between. Here is the thermal image of heat loss in an oil refinery:
Infrared thermography is an accurate diagnostic tool for energy wastage. It shows exactly where warm air is escaping and where it is retained – allowing you to spot problem areas and fix faults. Obviously, it’s no good arranging a thermal image of your commercial building if you don’t know how to interpret the findings.
Interpreting Your Thermal Image
Once you are armed with a thermographic snapshot of your building, you can spot problem areas (if you know what you’re looking for) and set about fixing them. Thermal imaging can show a whole range of heat, from red or white hot spots right through the colour spectrum – oranges, yellows, greens, blues – and eventually purple, the coldest colour. This may show:
- Areas of heat loss
- Infiltration of cool air
- Ventilation issues
- Insulation problems – including wet insulation and missing panels
- Moisture and water infiltration
- Problem plumbing such as blocked radiators and underfloor heating faults
While you may be able to make a best guess at the problems yourself, it is always best to involve a professional to get a true diagnosis. An experienced eye understands not only the common energy wastage issues, but also the niche of commercial buildings.
Thermal imaging for commercial is a totally different kettle of fish to residential. Homes are usually relatively small, while offices, shops and other commercial buildings often stretch across several floors – each of which may have a large surface area. Other considerations also come into play. For example, how old is the building? What is it used for? And are there plans for further construction work?
The Next Steps
Depending on the outcome of your building’s thermal imaging, the next steps may vary. Recommendations to reduce energy wastage could include:
- Repair to damaged insulation panels
- Fixing air vent blockages
- Rearranging furniture to allow air circulation
- Calibration of thermostats
- Increasing the frequency of maintenance for air filters
- Cleaning coils on heat pumps
- Introducing solar screens
- New double-glazed windows
- Advice on how to use your heating and cooling systems efficiently
- Reviewing the use of lights
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, but it does give an idea of the scale of changes you may need to make. Some recommendations, like the correct use of heating and air conditioning, are entirely behavioural. On the other end of the spectrum, you may need to budget for structural changes to the building, whether that’s new roof insulation or windows that will retain heat and exclude draughts.
One thing’s for sure – a little time and effort now could save you a great deal of hassle in the months and years to come.
- Thermal Imaging Guidebook for Building and Renewable Energy Applications via www.flir.com
- An Introduction to Thermal Imaging via www.greenbuildingadvisor.com