Five Overlooked Building Improvements with Quick ROI that Increase Energy Efficiency


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Five Overlooked Building Improvements with Quick ROI that Increase Energy Efficiency

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For facility managers, there’s no question that enhancing a building’s energy efficiency is not only a green way to go but is also a smart way to reduce utilities and improve the bottom line.

Unfortunately, the most obvious ways to improve a building’s energy efficiency also require a high initial investment – from window replacement to installing more modern HVAC components, such as a new chiller or boiler, or installing a completely new HVAC system.

Luckily, there are several building improvements with proven energy efficiency that require modest initial investment and result in impressively quick ROI.

1.    Window Films
Perhaps the most often overlooked energy-efficiency solution provides a simple and fast installation. Adding a high-technology film to existing windows is a proven way to reduce the amount of energy lost through windows – and with quick, hassle free professional installation, tenants receive very minimal disruption.

A smart alternative to window replacement, window films help control overall operating costs and balance building temperatures, as well as reduce the load on HVAC systems, which in turn prolongs HVAC life.

Impressively, average payback on window films is often less than three years, which is quite an improvement over window replacement, which often takes longer than 15-20 years. As an added benefit, many utility companies offer rebates ( specific to window films that cover as much as 50% of installation costs, greatly increasing the speed of ROI. (If your utility company doesn’t list window films specifically, they may still be eligible for Custom Measures rebates which can offset installation costs by as much as 30%.)

Learn more about the latest technology in window films at or

2.    High Efficiency Lighting
Switching to high efficiency lighting is as smart as it is simple. Not only does it use less energy, but it also generates less heat, which reduces the load on cooling systems.

According to Energy Star, a lighting power reduction of 40% increases a building’s Energy Star rating by about 10 points. The Energy Star Building Upgrade Manual is a great place to start when planning lighting upgrades for a building ( 

3.    Energy Management Systems
An energy management system consists of a combination of building management systems and advanced software solutions that work together to control a building’s HVAC operations.

The system monitors and adjusts heating and cooling based on environmental conditions and usage (such as when the building or a particular area is empty). The system ensures optimal energy usage, resulting in greater efficiency and lower utility costs.

4.    Lighting Controls
Similar to energy management systems, lighting controls work to optimize lighting based on actual usage and environmental conditions.

Manual dimming switches, or sliders, are the simplest way to allow occupants to reduce the amount of light used, in turn reducing the amount of energy used.

Occupancy sensors detect lack of movement and turn off or dim lights when rooms are unoccupied.

Daylighting is an option for regions with year-round sunlight. Photosensors detect natural light and dim or turn off the lights, allowing the occupants to rely on the sunlight when possible. Drawbacks to this solution include solar heat gain and glare, but both can be reduced by pairing this improvement with window films.

5.    Weather Sealing
When you take measures to keep cool air in during the summer and warm air in during the winter, you naturally reduce the burden on HVAC equipment, which can save energy and money.

Weather sealing can be as simple as caulking and weatherstripping cracks, holes and leaks in your building envelope. With new construction, look to a drainage plane such as building paper or house wrap to do the job.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology estimates gas savings of greater than 40% and electrical savings greater than 25% when you improve the air barrier of your building envelope.

  • My company has had window film installed for over twenty years and has begun a program to replace it.  Our building is over fifty years old and was built when energy was cheap.  The window film has bee a good investment.  We have also switched from T-12 lamps to T-8 lamps, installed a lighting control system to shut down light after hours in the unoccupied spaces and upgraded our Energy Management System.

    All of these initiatives combined have helped us maintain utility usage at almost the same level for several years.  Our cost have not remained stable though because by reducing consumption the utility companies have increased their rates several times over the years to keep pace.

    There is another saving program that is available in some areas and it concerns water usage.  Any company with large evaporative cooling tower may be able to install water meters on the make-up water line to their cooling towers and petition their water company to reduce their sewer charges by the number of gallons used for the towers and lost through evaporation instead of going down the drain as sewer.  This has proven to be a big savings.  In some municipalities it is mandatory for water & sewer companies to give this discount but they will only do so if asked.

  • Thanks for the information on water conservation, Mike. That’s definitely an area that a lot of people overlook when it comes to cost savings. As your company looks to replace your window film, I’d like to recommend Enerlogic. This is a great new window film from Vista Window Films that helps your current windows perform like Low-E windows. Enerlogic saves energy by keeping heat in during the winter and out during the summer. Essentially, it turns single-pane windows into double-pane and double-pane windows into triple-pane. If you want to learn more about Enerlogic, visit

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