Even if your steel building wasn’t built to green standards, there’s no reason you can’t make it more eco-friendly now. Almost any structure can be modified for more efficient energy generation and use.
Besides the building itself, you can enhance the surrounding area with plants and prevent water run-off. From the roof to the ground, here are some ways to make your current metal building more eco-friendly.
Before doing anything else, create a baseline for your current energy use, so you know how much you are saving after the improvements are implemented.
- You can hire a professional auditor or certified building inspector who specializes in energy efficient construction.
- The inspection includes the ventilation, furnace, ductwork, appliances and light fixtures as well as check for leaks.
- You will learn what is costing you the most each month.
- You will receive a detailed list of recommended improvements.
For a home or small building, you can do it yourself by collecting data from utility bills, measuring the interior temperature at various times of day and inspecting the building for moisture and leaks.
Install a Cool Roof
A dark roof can absorb a lot of heat that is then transferred to the top floor or attic. The added heat increases the burden on the air conditioning system.
Replace the dark roof panels with white, specially pigmented panels designed to reflect and re-emit solar radiation and heat away from the building. Underneath the roof, install a radiant barrier to reflect heat back into the building in winter instead of allowing it to escape to the outside.
Install insulation under the roof panels, within the walls and under the floor to maintain a comfortable indoor environment without overworking your heating and air conditioning system. The right amount of insulation can save hundreds on utility bills.
As great as steel buildings are, metal has a high rate of heat transfer. Insulation prevents the escape of heat and keeps the interior temperature stable. Since the air conditioner is the primary energy consumer for any building, anything that helps it run less will put money back in your pocket.
Opt for the highest R-value insulation you can afford to maximize savings. Replace any insulation that has become wet after water leaks are repaired; wet insulation is no insulation at all.
During your energy audit, you may have found your windows and doors are leaking air around the edges. Install appropriate weather stripping, refit doors to their openings and seal against air leaks. Don’t let your nice cool air escape to the outside. Alternatively, don’t allow Jack Frost to sneak in during the colder months.
Inspect the exterior for gaps between the foundation and the building or between the roof and the walls. Check for gaps and spaces where utilities and plumbing enter the building. Seal everything properly to decrease energy consumption.
Solar energy is available to be harvested and used to supplement or supplant the energy you purchase. Reduce your electric and gas bills by installing solar panels on your cool roof, where you will find they fit perfectly between the seams of your standing seam panels. You may generate enough to sell back to the grid for a little extra money.
- Wind turbines and geothermal heating systems further reduce your reliance on electricity generated by coal-powered energy plants.
- Geothermal solutions harness the temperatures below ground to warm homes or businesses.
- Underground pipes lead to a heat pump to warm or cool the building.
Another way to save resources is by harvesting rainwater and switching to tankless water heaters. Collect rainwater from the roof or through special porous concrete that absorbs the water and channels it to a recovery system instead of running off into the sewer.
Use the water for planting and keeping the grass and trees alive during times of little to no rain. You can also filter the water for other uses.
Switching to alternative energy sources reduces utility bills and pollution.
Install Low-E Windows
Windows with a low-e glaze are designed to make windows more resistant to heat transfer. Low-e windows help keep the warm air inside in winter and prevent heat transfer to the interior in summer.
Look for the Energy Star
Appliances, as well as heating and air conditioning systems, can earn an Energy Star rating from the US Environmental Protection Program.
An Energy Star rated HVAC system adheres to stringent energy efficiency guidelines. Also, check the SEER rating and purchase a system with the highest rating you can afford. A modern 14 to 16 SEER unit has increased efficiency over units just a few years old.
Install a programmable thermostat to automatically reduce energy use during off hours or when the building is empty. Limit access to the thermostat to prevent employees from making unauthorized changes to the heating or cooling system.
Check the ductwork for all ventilation, heating and air conditioning air flow. Make sure the connections and joints are tightly sealed and the ducts protected from condensation that could corrode the walls.
Appliances can also be Energy Star rated, indicating they run efficiently and on less electricity than competing models. Washers, dryers, dishwashers and other appliances are available from most well-known vendors. An Energy Star washer often uses less water and can effectively clean with colder water than a less efficient machine.
Check Your Light Bulbs
The incandescent bulb that has been in use for decades is swiftly being supplanted by CFLs and LEDs. The new bulbs burn cooler and consume a fraction of the electricity of incandescents. They also last much longer. CFLs, unfortunately, contain mercury, so if a bulb is broken, a hazardous substance is released. This is not an issue with LEDs.
Making your current metal building more eco-friendly is not difficult and, in most instances, is not expensive. Remember, your investment will return itself in lower utility bills and cleaner air. Solar panels, insulation, a cool roof and energy efficient appliances and lighting will cut your energy usage in half while maintaining a comfortable environment.