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Dental offices, like many commercial spaces, are big energy users. Computers, digital imaging, specialized equipment and water use in your practice can increase energy consumption—and by extension, operating costs—even further. The 5.6 million commercial buildings in the U.S.1 represent about one-fifth of U.S. energy consumption2, and as much as 30 percent of the energy they consume is used inefficiently or unnecessarily.3

Energy conservation offers a way for dentists to spend less on energy. Below are nine strategies to help your office cut energy consumption, reduce your carbon footprint and create a greener environment for patients and staff.

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 Study your current energy use

Gain a comprehensive understanding of your current energy use to help identify areas of inefficiency and prioritize the changes and investments you should make first.

Look over energy bills to understand how much energy your dental office typically uses, and how much it costs. You can compare these numbers to other dental offices with the ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager®, a free online tool from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that allows you to measure your energy and water use, and your facility's emissions.

Consider getting an energy audit to examine your office building and systems, including computers and dental equipment that may be running inefficiently. You also can install sensors, monitors and software to measure exactly how much energy your building uses at any point in time. 

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 Set goals and measure your progress

It’s important to approach energy conservation strategically, especially if you expect to make significant investments in more efficient equipment. Identify where you’ll focus first, set goals and measure progress against a baseline over time.

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 Uncover complex energy waste

Your hospital may waste energy in ways that aren’t obvious. What’s known as “supplemental load” increases your energy requirements without directly drawing electricity. For example, incandescent light bulbs generate heat, which can increase your need for air conditioning. Similarly, body heat and computers, which also generate heat, place demands on air conditioning systems in ways that are not immediately apparent. It’s important to carefully analyze these sources and their interactions with HVAC equipment. If you understand these interactions—and work to modify them—you may be able to save energy by reducing the size of your HVAC system. 

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 Turn off lights, computers and dental equipment when they're not in use

The simple habit of turning off lights when not in use can reduce lighting expenses by 10 percent to 40 percent, according to ENERGY STAR.4 Use energy-saving settings on your office’s equipment, including computers, monitors, intraoral cameras, televisions and displays, to save energy. If possible, shut these items down completely after hours and on weekends. Install occupancy sensors and light timers for an automated, hands-free option.

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 Switch to LED operatory lights

According to ENERGY STAR, lighting consumes 25 percent to 30 percent of the energy used in commercial buildings.5 Often described as the “low-hanging fruit” of energy conservation, installing energy-efficient lighting is an easy, often cost-effective way to save energy. It's especially important for dental offices, where lighting abounds.

Swapping out incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) throughout your office can cut lighting costs by as much as 50 percent, according to the Department of Energy.6 Some light emitting diodes (LEDs) offer even greater energy savings—as much as 75 percent, according to ENERGY STAR.7 Switching to LED operatory lights can reduce electricity use by 70 percent.8 On average, energy-efficient lighting saves dental offices $600 a year in energy expenses.9

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 Take advantage of natural light

Save energy and reduce costs with daylighting from windows and skylights. In addition to conserving energy, opening blinds gives patients a pleasant view. Allowing or blocking sunlight from windows and skylights also can help regulate room temperatures without having to touch the thermostat.

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 Check doors and windows for air leaks

Your dental office requires more energy for heating and cooling when leaks exist in crucial thermal barriers, such as doors and windows.

Examine your building and plug simple air leaks with weather stripping and caulking to prevent the loss of heating and air-conditioning. You might also consider window replacement, but have an energy efficiency expert help you determine if and where new, high-efficiency windows offer a return on investment. Window improvements can cut your lighting and HVAC costs by 10 to 40 percent, according to the National Institute of Building Sciences.10

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 Invest in energy-efficient dental equipment to save water

If your data reveals your dental equipment is an energy hog, invest in more efficient models designed to conserve energy and save water. Waterless vacuum systems can save between 350 and 500 gallons of water per day, per dentist office.11 Since heating and pumping water to your equipment, sinks and bathrooms requires gas or electricity, equipment that saves water can conserve energy and reduce your office’s costs.12 For further potential savings, install low-flow faucets and toilets, and set controls or timers to turn them off automatically.

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 Automate energy management

Take advantage of technology that automates energy conservation at your dental office. Add sensors and motion detectors to detect room occupancy, and automatically shut down equipment and lights when not in use. Smart energy management systems even learn the typical flow of people in and out of a room and adjust lighting, heating and cooling based on these expectations.

Remember to inspect these systems regularly for "operational stray" resulting from software bugs or workers making manual adjustments that overwrite settings.13  

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 Consider a renewable energy system

Incorporating alternative energy, such as solar power, demonstrates the commitment of your dental office to energy conservation and sustainability. In many cases, these systems require little or no upfront costs since alternative energy systems can be leased, and additional energy savings can be realized over the long-term. 

Dentist office

Energy-saving dentist offices have many opportunities to reduce operating costs while easing environmental impact. Direct Energy Business can guide you in evaluating alternative energy options, and other opportunities to conserve energy at your practice.

Direct Energy Business offers a Total Energy Management approach to lowering energy costs with data and analytics, energy efficiency and alternative energy solutions, including:

Get started today!

Download our free Total Energy Management Guide for Healthcare Facilities now!

  1. ENERGY STAR, “Facts and Stats," retrieved February 2016
  2. U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, Buildings Energy Data Book, Chapter 3: Commercial Sector 
  3. ENERGY STAR, “Facts and Stats," retrieved February 2016
  4. ENERGY STAR, "Low- and no-cost energy efficiency measures," retrieved February 2016
  5. ENERGY STAR, “Energy-saving tips for everyone,” retrieved February 2016
  6. U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, "Office Energy Checklist," retrieved February 2016
  7. ENERGY STAR, "Why Choose ENERGY STAR Qualified LED Lighting?" retrieved February 2016
  8. Pockrass, Ina; International Academy of Biological Dentistry & Medicine, “Be Part of Dentistry’s Green Future,” retrieved February 2016
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ander, Gregg D.; Whole Building Design Guide, “Windows and Glazing,” retrieved February 2016.
  11. Pockrass, Ina, International Academy of Biological Dentistry & Medicine, “Be Part of Dentistry’s Green Future,” retrieved February 2016
  12. Dykstra, Bradley; Dental Economics, Going Green Saves Green,” retrieved February 2016
  13. Spross, Jeff;, Climate Progress, “New Study Suggests Your Typical City Office Building Wastes Lots Of Energy,” retrieved February 2016 


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