Controlling Air Flow

Air passes through the doors, windows, walls, foundation, roof and floor of the facility your business occupies.

A certain amount of air movement is necessary for health purposes, but in many buildings excess ventilation accounts for a large percentage of total energy losses.

Simple and Inexpensive Projects

Which Way Does The Wind Blow?
Energy losses are more likely to occur on the windward or "weather" side of your building. (In the mid-Atlantic states, this is usually the west or northwest.)  When making structural improvements, be sure to pay attention to the specific wind patterns around your facility.

Seal Cracks
Cracks are a particular problem in older buildings. Even if they've been sealed, you should check to make sure the caulking has not shrunk or pulled away from the surfaces around it.  To find cracks, look for light shining through, or feel for drafts of incoming air.

Cracks are most likely to occur:

  • Around window or door frames
  • Where walls abut the foundation
  • In the foundation itself
  • Where walls join
  • Around equipment in the walls or roof (such as air conditioning units)
  • Where pipes or electric wires enter the building

You should caulk wherever necessary, and replace worn caulk, always following label directions. Large cracks may require a filler-like fiberglass insulation before caulk is applied. Cracks in brick or masonry may demand cement work.

Replace Broken Glass
Doors and windows with broken, cracked or missing glass should be repaired immediately.  If you can’t get to the job right away, seal the opening with heavy-duty transparent tape.

Adjust Automatic Door Closers
If your outside doors have closers, check to see if they close the doors as quickly as possible.  Install new closers where necessary, especially if the door is on the windward side of the building or is used frequently.

Cover Window Air Conditioners
Use heavy gauge plastic and duct tape to seal out air during the cold weather months.  Check to see that the space around the unit is well caulked.

Moderate Projects

Tighten Window and Door Frames; Check Weatherstripping
Frames that have pulled apart and show gaps can usually be tightened with nails or screws.
If you have double-hung windows - the type that open from both the top and bottom - make sure there’s weatherstripping between the upper and lower sashes. Refasten loose weatherstripping with nails, screws, staples or glue.

Consult a hardware store or building supply dealer if you need to install new weatherstripping. Certain applications, such as double-hung doors, require special products. Be sure to adjust or install doorsweeps at the bottoms of exterior doors where necessary.

For windows that aren’t designed to open, you may find it more economical to seal with caulk. (Always be sure to drill “weep holes” into the bottom of storm windows to allow condensed water to drain out.)

Fix Broken Doors and Windows
You should inspect all exterior windows and doors to make sure they fit tightly and close completely.
Interior doors that separate areas with different temperatures (where an office connects with unheated storage space, for example) should also be checked and repaired.

For many doors, planing or adjusting the striker plate will be sufficient. Major problems may call for having the door refitted and rehung.

Genuine Investments

Single pane glass is a very poor insulator, with an R value of only 0.9. To improve the energy efficiency of your windows:

  • Use window films
    Window films can be used to control/reduce heat gain (combined range from 40 to 80 percent of total), reduce radiant heat loss (up to 34 percent), help reduce fading by absorbing 95 to 99 percent of total ultraviolet radiation, and reduce glare. (AIMCAL, Energy Management Program Window Film Training Guide, 1993.) Low Emissivity (Low E) coatings help keep heat out or in depending on your needs. Low E also reduces ultraviolet penetration by 73 percent to help keep drapes, carpeting or furniture from fading.
  • Use movable awnings
    They block heat in the summer, and you can store them out of the way during winter.
  • Specify lattice grilles or recessed windows
    They are a good choice when you want to block sunlight only during certain parts of the day.
  • Plant shade trees
    Block summer sun by planting on the east, west and south sides of your building. Deciduous trees lose their leaves, letting the sun help heat your facility during the winter.

Add Building Insulation
Insulating materials have the greatest effect on your heating and cooling costs when you install them in locations with large surface areas.  The current recommendations for minimum R values are 30 for roofs and 16 for walls.

Remember that vapor diffusion retarders and adequate ventilation are vital to prevent mildew or rot. And you should never add a new vapor diffusion retarder to an existing one, which can create a buildup of moisture in the insulation or the building structure itself.

A common method for controlling vapor diffusion is to use a combination of interior vapor diffusion retarders and exterior sheathings. This can be accomplished with either permeable or impermeable sheathings of either an insulating or non-insulating variety. (Exemplary Home, Builder’s Field Guide, North Carolina Alternative Energy Corporation, 1994.)

Windows and Doors
Generally, opaque sections of the building envelope provide better thermal performance than windows and doors. Careful consideration needs to be given to placement, orientation and quantity of windows, a relationship known as the window-wall-ratio (WWR).

High-Velocity Air Doors
Overhead air doors are designed for comfort and convenience.  From an energy standpoint, they are extremely inefficient, and should usually be replaced with conventional overhead doors or dock seals.

Loading and Service Doors
Because of their size, loading and service doors can be some of the worst offenders in driving up energy costs.  Consider taking the following steps.

For loading doors:

  • Close them when not in use.
  • Make sure vehicles back in straight and maneuver as close to the opening as possible.
  • Make openings smaller if you can.
  • Install a curtain of heavyweight plastic strips or a flexible dock seal around all entrances, especially if they face the wind.
  • If there are doors between the loading area and interior offices, keep them closed as much as possible. (You should probably add such doors if you don’t have them.)

For auto service entrances:

  • Install automatic openers that raise doors only when vehicles approach.
  • Build a standard-sized door into the overhead door for employee and customer traffic.
  • Vent exhaust fumes to the outside with fans and hoses.
  • Wire heating and cooling equipment so it turns off whenever overhead doors are open.
  • Install molding or weatherstripping to improve energy retention when doors are closed.

New Construction and Additions
Many changes that are too expensive for an existing building should be considered if you’re starting from scratch or adding on. In general, you'll want to carefully review the construction specifications, design, site orientation, layout, lighting and equipment of any new construction. The extra time you spend in the planning stages could cut your future energy bills by as much as 30 to 50 percent. [Reference CABO Model Energy Code -- (MEC) & ASHRAE 90.1.]

Also, be aware that many local building codes require certain energy saving techniques and equipment. You should:

  • Insulate the roof (R30 minimum) and walls (R16 minimum).
  • Build a multi-story structure if possible.
  • Recess the building into a slope if possible.
  • Specify light colors inside and out.
  • Protect the building from wind with trees or shrubs.
  • Use overhangs to shield windows from the summer sun.
  • Consider adjustable shades, blinds or reflective film.
  • Specify windows that can be opened.
  • Caulk and weatherstrip.
  • Build a thick north wall with few windows and a long south wall to exploit the winter sun.
  • Create vestibules with revolving or double doors.
  • Size heating and air conditioning equipment to properly serve the size of your building.
  • Install a high-efficiency, multi-zone heating and air conditioning system.
  • Consider a high-efficiency heat pump with a programmable thermostat.
  • Install controls in all zones.
  • Use thermostats with timers. Install thermostats that can be set as low as 50°F.
  • Insulate all pipes and ducts.
  • Make sure all vents are fully adjustable.
  • Wire bathroom exhaust fans so they turn on and off with lights.
  • Make sure your wiring can handle area heaters in remote locations.
  • Place water tanks near their points of use.
  • Insulate hot water pipes.
  • Use low-flow showerheads.
  • Consider a waste heat recovery unit.
  • Capitalize on daylight in your building design.
  • Use task lights to minimize general lighting.
  • Specify fluorescent lights instead of incandescents where practical.
  • Install sodium vapor parking or area lights.
  • Use photoelectric sensing devices or automatic timers for outside lighting.
  • Consider occupancy sensors to control interior lighting.

Adhere to the Energy Policy Act enacted into law on October 24, 1992, that recognizes ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-1989 -- Energy Efficiency Design of New Buildings as the national standard for energy efficiency in commercial buildings. The Standard contains requirements for building envelope (walls, windows and roofs), HVAC equipment and distribution systems, lighting, motors and drives, and service water heating. Alternative methods to demonstrate compliance must be as stringent as the Standard. One such path is a new section incorporated into the MEC.

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