Earth Notes: A Note On Office Comfort and Energy Efficiency

Small business or home office: get comfortable, save money, cut carbon!
fan

Keep a lid on unnecessary sweats and chills outside the boardroom...

There are simple things that you can do to save money and keep your cool. Especially in summer, using equipment efficiently and turning off gadgets that you don't need will save the pennies and reduce overheating.

Even in winter, don't be tempted to turn stuff on just to thaw the office; using your building's dedicated heating system will be cheaper and should be more effective too.

Many of us will have experienced passive-aggressive battles in the office where someone wants to wear a level of clothing more appropriate for the beach, demands the heat be turned up, and forces the rest of us to swelter year round, or indeed always comes in dressed for Svalbard forcing the rest of us to shiver when the air-con is cranked to max. Everyone will be much more comfortable with seasonally approriate clothing and a light hand on the air-con. That's the sort of battle management should help resolve, while saving money and tempers...

Summer

Some ideas to beat the office heat...

  • Replace any lighting you have control over with the latest efficient LED lighting, with the right colour. A good efficiency (preferably better than 100lm/W ie 100 lumens per Watt) will minimise unwanted waste heat.
  • Whenever replacing equipment such as photocopiers, PCs, monitors, laptops, etc, go for the most efficient that you can afford, and make sure that the new gear has good low-power automatic standby modes so that 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 the light is absorbed by a dark surface it will turn to heat and contribute 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 unnecessary 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...

Winter

Avoid your fingers freezing to the desk...

  • Get unnecessary draughts around doors and windows fixed; cold draughts in particular 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 unnecessary air pollution from outside.
  • In the height of winter, there is no shame in thermal underwear to keep you warm to and from work, and even while you're there. Keeping the body warm can be more effective and pleasant, and lower carbon, than trying to heat the space you're in.

You know what makes building managers cry? Electric space heaters plugged in under desks. Not only might they overload circuits only meant for computers, especially those meant to stay running though a power cut (yes, I've seen it happen), but they are a fire-hazard and inefficient. Try and find another solution, maybe as simple as a raised footrest if the floor is cold!

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