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What Causes Energy Waste?

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Is energy really used efficiently?

Total energy use in America doubles every 20 years, but in reality not that much more energy is needed compared to the past. Overall American energy use is inefficient, meaning too much energy that is consumed and paid for is wasted. The United States has only 5% of the world’s population but uses 23% of the world’s energy[1], and this is because energy waste worldwide is growing and the U.S. is contributing significantly to that growth; more energy is being wasted than ever. Commercial buildings, which use about 20% of the total US energy consumed, spend a total of $400 billion on energy annually[2], of which approximately 30% is wasted.[3] Overall in the whole country the waste is even more, it is estimated that 61-86% of energy is wasted[4] which adds up to hundreds of billions of dollars wasted annually.

What causes so much energy waste?

Lighting is a large contributor to energy waste, globally 25% of electricity is used for lighting[5], much of this usage however is not needed and often times especially in commercial properties lighting is left on even when spaces are vacant. Using traditional light bulbs rather than LED is another significant source of energy waste, traditional light bulbs only run with 20% efficiency so 80% of the energy is used for heat and only 20% goes to light while LED bulbs run with 80% efficiency.[6] Overlighting is also a common mistake in commercial properties because of both the use of lighting with higher wattage than needed and the use of more lighting than needed when natural light could be utilized.

In commercial properties, a huge source of wasted energy is HVAC related. Office buildings tend to overcool, which itself is wasteful, but this problem occurs even to the point that people tend to run space heaters under their desks, in turn wasting that much more energy and money. Overlighting also causes buildings to need to run the air conditioning more to compensate for the heat given off by lighting. Running HVAC systems in spaces which are vacant is also a significant waste of energy and spending for commercial properties, especially hotels. In hotels 40-80% of energy spending are in guest rooms[7] and 60% of energy spending is on space heating and cooling[8]. EMS thermostats allow for the reduction of heating and cooling in empty rooms because they sense when guests are not present in rooms and turndown cooling and heating until the guests return. A 40% reduction in HVAC run time could save hotel 20% of their energy spending.

What can be done to reduce energy waste?

Some steps to energy waste reduction are simple while others are larger investments. To begin reducing energy waste in your building:

● Unplug devices when not in use

● Install timers to automatically turn off devices daily

● Turn off lights when rooms are empty and do not light spaces more than needed

● Stop overcooling buildings

To really make a difference in the amount of energy wasted in your building larger investments may be needed:

● Install LED lighting

● Install EMS thermostats

Rebates or other incentives may be offered in for these which could lower the cost of energy efficiency in your building.

These steps will allow you to reduce the energy consumption in your building by simply decreasing the amount of energy you spend on but do not even need. Not only will this save your building money on wasted energy costs but it will allow for increased sustainability and a contribution to decreasing the huge yet unnecessary amount of energy wasted globally every day.


[1] “Seven Shocking Facts About Energy Waste.” Electro Industries, 7 June 2017, electroind.com/seven-shocking-facts-about-energy-waste/.

[2] “Facts You Should Know about Commercial Energy Waste in 2019.” Electro Industries, 19 Mar. 2019, electroind.com/facts-you-should-know-about-commercial-energy-waste-in-2019/.

[3] “Energy Waste in Commercial Buildings.” Mid-Atlantic Controls, 5 Mar. 2019, info.midatlanticcontrols.com/blog/energy-waste-in-commercial-buildings.

[4] “Spooky Statistics About Energy And Water Waste.” Www.erc-Co.org/, 13 July 2016, www.erc-co.org/spooky-statistics-about-energy-and-water-waste/.

[5] “5 Biggest Causes of Wasted Energy.” Electro Industries, 5 Jan. 2016, electroind.com/5-biggest-causes-of-wasted-energy/.

[6] “LED Lighting Benefits.” IUP, iup.edu/energymanagement/howto/led-lighting-benefits/.

[7] “Hotel HVAC Systems - What Are My Options? Part 1.” Hotelsuniversity.com, 16 Aug. 2017, www.hotelsuniversity.com/hotel-hvac-systems-what-are-my-options-part-1/.

[8] “New Wireless Hotel HVAC Energy Management Solution.” Founten, www.founten.com/news/hotel-energy-management/