Energy SavingsBig energy-saving upgrades are exciting – and expensive. New HVAC systems, solar panels and LED lighting can definitely help reduce your long-term energy use and your organization’s carbon footprint.

But you don’t need a major upgrade to save energy. Routine maintenance also plays a big part in keeping energy costs low. In fact, it’s not unusual for a retailer or restaurant to lose thousands of dollars each year simply because no one bothers to schedule and perform routine maintenance.

Here are some of the key areas where regularly scheduled maintenance can make a big difference in the amount of energy you use.

Dirt. Most equipment requires some type of regular cleaning to maintain maximum efficiency. For example, when refrigerator coils become clogged with dust and dirt, they can gobble up 50 to 100 percent more energy. Equipment that’s not cleaned regularly may also have a shorter lifespan.

Heating and cooling systems. A building’s HVAC system is often its biggest energy user, and it may take 15 to 20 percent more energy to operate a poorly maintained system than to operate one that gets regular maintenance. Maintenance means more than just servicing the major components. Other equipment such as outside air dampers must be regularly maintained or they can malfunction, causing the system to use even more energy.

Hot water systems. Hot water pipes with missing or damaged insulation allow heat to escape, leading to higher cooling and water heating costs. Many water heaters and booster heaters are equipped with a pressure release valve, but a leaky valve in a restaurant can increase energy costs by hundreds of dollars per year.

Air leaks. Cracks around windows and doors, damaged ceiling tiles and damaged insulation can all allow air to escape. In refrigerator cases and ovens, worn or damaged seals and gaskets prevent efficient heating and cooling. When left unrepaired, these air leaks lead to higher energy expenses.

Poor Calibration. Heating, cooling and refrigeration systems all rely on accurate calibration of temperature controls. Without proper maintenance and inspection, temperature controls may be off by several degrees, causing you to waste valuable electricity.

Many businesses operate on a reactive maintenance plan: they only fix things when they are broken. That’s the most expensive way to maintain a commercial building. A better plan is to establish a routine maintenance schedule and make sure it’s carried out. Then you’ll enjoy both energy savings and a longer equipment life. After all, who’s not in favor of savings and longer life?