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Winterizing your Building with Sustainable Style

"Winter is coming", and not just in the HBO TV show Game of Thrones, but it is just around the corner in central Illinois. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, building account for 40 percent of all energy usage, being the biggest sector of energy consumers in the country. A majority of energy use in this sector includes HVAC (heat and air conditioning), lighting and ventilation. However, the building envelope, or overall sealing of a building, presents a great opportunity for easy, low to no cost energy savings. A study from Yale University found that reducing drafts in a residential home can cut energy use by 5-30 percent - imagine the savings in buildings, especially those with large windows!

There are many steps building managers, maintenance staff, and owners can take to prepare their energy bill for the coming colder months. Here are some suggestions:

- Inspect HVAC ductwork - about 20% of air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks in this system. It's always smart to get an HVAC tune-up each year as well to ensure your system is running efficiently.

- Use programmable thermostats - according to the EPA, you can reduce heating costs by about 30 percent by just setting it a few degrees (2-3 degrees) lower during low-occupancy hours.

- Check door and window seals - reduce air leaks by placing your hand near door and window seals to reduce drafts and increase HVAC efficiency. A good sign of a leak or gap is if you can see outdoor light inside the room when it is dark from under or on the side of a door, for example.

Many of these practices and principles can translate into our homes as well, decreasing our own personal energy bills in the winter months as well. To know whether your efforts have paid off, be sure to benchmark your usage before you implement these changes.

For more information and assistance, please contact IGBA, the Smart Energy Design Assistance Center (SEDAC.org) or Ameren Illinois for general information, an assessment or available rebates and incentives.

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