Saving Energy with Daylighting Design

Posted On: 
Mar 22, 2019
Saving Energy with Daylighting Design

In a previous five-part series, Climate Change: It’s All About the Straws, Isn’t it?, I explored the five main things that are effecting climate change, according to Bill Gates. He lists electricity (25%), agriculture (24%), manufacturing (21%), transportation (14%), and buildings (6%) with a final miscellaneous category contributing 10%. The categories on this list weren’t as surprising as the ways in which those categories contributed. Most of us know that transportation contributes to climate change, but often, people think the blame is only on cars and “commuter” transportation, when it’s not. Also, the assumption is that transportation is the biggest contributor, which is also false. I was surprised to learn that electricity and agriculture were neck and neck for the number one position, with manufacturing not too far behind and transportation barely eking out its fourth-place position. I had always understood that turning off the lights in my house when not in use was good for the environment, but I never understood that it is more than that. Generating electricity through the burning of fossil fuels that is the major player in climate change, as discussed in part 3 of my blog series, but this post also focuses on the larger scale “gloom and doom”—essentially, the WHY of this issue—making it hard to see HOW we can affect positive change daily. So, is turning off the lights the only way to conserve electricity?

Tips for Energy Conservation

Probably by now, most of us know the standard ways to conserve electricity: turning off appliances when not in use; upgrading from incandescent light bulbs to halogen incandescent, compact fluorescent, or LED bulbs; purchasing and installing energy-efficient appliances and energy efficient windows; adjusting the thermostat to be a bit cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer than used to; and weatherizing and insulating homes. If you’ve ever had an energy audit done by your local public utilities department, these are some of the first suggestions given. But there are many other ways to save energy, thus contributing less to the overall cycle of energy consumption/generating equaling greenhouse gas emission equaling climate change. Some of these tips are take from BC Hydro website, but your local utilities department web site probably has similar information.

1. Take shorter showers: Even cutting a minute off each shower reduces the energy it takes to heat water by a significant amount, as does reducing the temperature of the water while in the shower. Nobody minds a cool shower occasionally, right? Along with the time and temperature, you can also install a low-flow showerhead and choose showers over baths, which are both water saving options.

2. Unplug unused electronics: We know about turning off electronics, but did we know that unplugging them when off saves energy? Standby power, also called ‘vampire energy’ or ‘phantom load’ can account for about 10% of an average household’s yearly electricity use. So, unplug that toaster, microwave, blow dryer, or TV when not in use.

3. Use appliances and electronics strategically: Drying loads of laundry consecutively or baking/cooking dishes consecutively takes advantage of the dryer or oven already being warm, resulting in less energy being used to pre-heat. Placing your fridge or freezer away from a window or out of the sun helps it stay cool. If you’re making a meal, take all your items out of the fridge at one time, to avoid opening the door multiple times, resulting in a temperature rise and energy being used to chill it back down. Don’t leave your TV on if no one is watching it, even if the cats need company during the day. Turn the fan off if you leave the room or house, and don’t leave bathroom venting fans on for hours at a time.

4. Fix leaks: If you have a faucet leak anywhere in your house, or a running toilet, those small drips add up.

5. Turn water off when washing hands and brushing teeth: The water doesn’t need to run while we’re scrubbing our hands, teeth, face, or foaming up our face to shave. Turning it off while scrubbing, then turning it back on to rinse saves on the expense of heating up hot water as well as saving water in general.

6. Change your laundry habits: Run full loads to minimize the number of loads being washed; wash as much as you can in cold water; and hang dry clothes either outside or on an indoor rack.

7. Use window coverings and natural light: If you’re lucky to have windows in all the right places, then using natural light is easy. But even if you don’t, it’s still valuable to open the blinds and let the light in as much as possible. Natural light not only saves energy, but it brightens the ambiance and mood of the room. In contrast to that, using light blocking shades when it’s warm outside keeps the heat out (but also, sadly keeps out the upbeat emotional and mental aspect of natural light), and using heavy window coverings in the winter can block the cold from seeping through and heat from seeping out, although this isn’t as much of a concern if using energy efficient windows.

Using Daylighting in Design

These are all excellent tips, even if they seem nitpicky. But they don’t just save energy in regard to climate change. They also save the consumer money.

Saving Energy with Daylighting Design

Bringing it full circle, that last tip on the list refers back to the original statement that conserving energy is about more than just turning off lights when they’re not being used. In the AEC industry, using natural light is often referred to as ‘daylighting’—the use of windows and skylights to bring sunlight into a home and for temperature regulation. A fancier definition is that daylighting is a collection or series of components that gather, diffuse, and direct natural light into interior spaces, replacing artificial or electric light as much as possible. When an architect is designing a house, more than just the location of the windows needs to be considered, including type of window, placement in its location, and design controlling how sunlight comes in.

According to the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), daylighting has the potential to provide significant cost savings for the consumer, as well as reducing overall building energy use by as much as one-third. One of the main challenges in using daylighting is that it’s best to integrate it into the design from the get-go, rather than retroactively fitting it into an older building. Another challenge is that there are many aspects to using daylighting and integrating these can take some work. This means in order to be used cost-effectively, all facets of this design option need to be understood. The NIBS created a Whole Building Design Guide that details these challenges and the ways to work with them.

Also, LEED v4.1 offers a daylighting credit in many of their rating systems, so when designing a building, it is useful to consider how daylighting can contribute to LEED certification. We also offer free webinars throughout the year on daylighting, as well as provide three free CE courses: Dynamic Daylighting and Sun Control Systems, Translucent Daylighting Design Solutions – Building & Energy Code Compliance, and Daylighting Design and Large Opening Glass Walls.

Daylighting isn’t as simple as putting in lots of windows, but it’s not impossible to use as a legitimate energy conservation tactic along with other tips for conserving energy. How have you implemented daylighting into your designs or personal use?

For more information or to discuss the topic of this blog, please call Brad Blank at 360-727-3528.