How much energy do vacant buildings typically use? What can be done to reduce consumption?
Vacant buildings use an average of about 13,000 British thermal units (Btu) per square foot annually, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. This is far below the average annual usage of 80,000 Btu per square foot for all commercial buildings. Space heating and lighting, as well as office and electronic equipment, are the largest energy users in vacant spaces.
The average annual electricity consumption of vacant buildings is 2.4 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per square foot, compared to 15 kWh per square foot for all buildings. Lighting is the largest user of electricity in vacant buildings, at about 30 percent.
The following tips will help you reduce energy use in vacant spaces:
- Turn off all lights in unoccupied spaces, except necessary security lighting. Install timers on security lights, and light sensors on outdoor lighting, so they operate only when needed.
- Ventilate vacant buildings when weather allows. Maintain building temperatures between 50°F and 85°F and keep humidity levels below 70 percent for building preservation.
- In cases of partial vacancy, zone the building so that only occupied spaces are conditioned to comfortable levels. In unoccupied zones, set thermostats to 55°F during the winter and 85°F during the summer. Keeping unoccupied zones at reasonable temperatures reduces the impact on occupied areas, while minimizing energy use.
- Unplug all unnecessary or unused appliances and electronic equipment; many of these devices continue to draw power even when they are turned off.
- Turn off water heaters if water supplies are shut down.
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