Utility Efficiency: Energy Usage + Lighting

The adoption of smart utilities and energy efficiency measures frequently represent the largest investment that a company will make in the process of getting the green|light. However, because of reduced operating costs due to energy savings, the measures in this section typically have a short return on investment.

See our Energy Preferred Providers here.


  • HVAC

Performing regular maintenance on HVAC can help save on energy cost and unexpected maintenance and repair cost. It may only be necessary to have your HVAC checked annually. Make sure to change filters according to manufacturer recommendations as well.



If your business has been in operation in the same building for at least one calendar year you are required to create an Energy Use Base Line and a Water Use Base Line for the most recent 1 – 3 years of operation. This entails obtaining the applicable year(s) worth of energy and water bills and using one of several tools to calculate your energy use intensity (EUI) and annual gallons of water used per square foot per utility meter in place. Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager is a useful tool for determining both baselines. If you have bills for one or more years, you can compare your actual water and energy consumption to the estimated guidelines for a similar facility to gauge your building’s performance. If you do not have metered data you can use energy modeling software such as EnergyStar’s Target Finder. For water usage consider utilizing Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager or Mazzetti’s WaterMark! Programs.


  • Energy Audit 

An audit can help you assess how much energy your facility uses and evaluate what measures you can take to improve efficiency. But remember, audits alone don't save energy; the audit’s recommendations must be implemented to experience any energy savings. EPB will conduct an energy audit of your facility for free provided that you have service with them. Call William Young at EPB (423) 648-3250 or click here to schedule your audit.  Participants who lease or rent are required by EPB to obtain permission from their building owner for the audit to be conducted. There are other local energy auditing companies that may be sourced, but their fee structures may vary.  EES is a green|light preferred provider for energy audits and can provide implementation strategies beyond the free audit from EPB. Compass Commissioning & Design is a green|light preferred provider for energy audits and can provide implementation strategies beyond the free audit from EPB.


Complete six more tasks either from the options below or custom solutions for your business.


  • Enable Sleep Mode on Electronics

At minimum, this should be done to all computers, printers, and copiers. Use signage provided in tool kit.


  • Lighting Retrofits

Replace all conventional incandescent bulbs and/or fixtures with CFLs or LEDs. These bulbs cost slightly more up front but result in substantial energy savings and last significantly longer than incandescents. For facilities larger than 100,000 square feet, replacement of incandescents can be in phases. Replace all old T-12 fluorescent light fixtures or retrofit them to accommodate more efficient T-5 or T-8 lamps. Talk to your supplier about rebate programs that may be in place to help offset initial costs for this credit. Furthermore, make sure your installer will recycle your old light bulbs and ballasts. 

Preferred Providers that can help you achieve this credit:

Maintenance EngineeringTennessee Solar SolutionsEES, and Compass Commissioning & Design


  • Install Timers on Lights

Utilize a timer device where lights plug in and/or replace standard switches with timer-enabled switches. This does not need to be done for lights that have occupancy sensors or are part of a zone that is on a sensor. Verify this is done through the online certification application.

Preferred Providers that can help you achieve this credit:

Maintenance EngineeringEES, and Compass Commissioning & Design


  • Automated Plug-Load Management

Plug loads are one of the fastest growing sources of energy use in commercial buildings today.  In offices, they account for 15-20% of office electricity use according to www.advancedbuildings.net. Adding a power strip with a timer or occupancy sensor in high plug load areas allows all the power to be cut off to all devices in one easy step. Automating the power supply to receptacles prevents ongoing plug loads. Click here for a timed power strip example.

Preferred Providers that can help you achieve this: EES, or Compass Commissioning & Design


  • Purchase RENEWABLE ENERGY Certificates, CARBON OFFSETS, OR Green Power from TVA's Green Power Switch

Renewable Energy Certificates (REC) represents the property rights to the environmental, social, and other nonpower qualities of renewable electricity generation. A REC, is generated when someone produces renewable energy and feeds it into the grid. This flexibility allows organizations to support renewable energy development and protect the environment when green power products are not locally available and are often substantially less expensive than installing renewable energy. RECs can be specific to certain renewable energy types, like solar or wind, or can be purchased generically. 

Carbon offsets are similar to RECs in that they are credits generated by the actions of another individual in potentially a different geographic area to offset the generation of carbon by an organization. Rather than only renewable energy generation, which is still one way to generate carbon offsets, projects can also generate credits through capturing or destroying carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases with projects like replanting a forest or a methane gas capture project at a landfill. Carbon offsets can be used to offset an organizations entire carbon footprint including the energy use of their building and the energy use from travel and other carbon intensive activities where RECs are usually used to simply offset energy use from buildings. 

TVA’s Green Power Switch program provides renewable energy to the regional utility grid reducing emissions and other negative environmental impacts associated with conventional energy production. Participants are required to buy blocks of green power with a minimum of five blocks. You can buy green power in 150-kilowatt-hour blocks. Each block you buy will add $4 to your monthly power bill. The green power you pay for will be added to TVA’s electric system as part of the region’s total power mix. By choosing Green Power Switch, you help advance the technology and increase the amount of electricity generated from cleaner sources. 

Log on here to set up an auto draft on your monthly electricity bill. 


  • Reduce Solar Heat Gain from Windows

Apply window film or other treatments, plant trees, or install exterior shading devices to help keep the air cooler in your workspaces by reducing the solar heat gain in the building. Cooler air means you can use the air conditioning less and save both energy and money. For companies that rent or lease their space, it may be possible to collaborate with the building owner to contribute to this upgrade.

Preferred Providers that can help you achieve this credit: All Star Tint & Alarms 423-899-8468, EES, and Compass Commissioning & Design


  • Use Task Lighting

It’s important to provide the necessary amount of light for the specific task at hand but the general light level in these areas may not need to be as high. Task lighting allows for general overhead lights to be dimmed or turned off while still proving needed light levels. Offices with access to daylight and windows are good candidates for task lighting. Here are some LED task lighting options.


  • Maximize Daylighting

Examine workspaces and retail areas to determine an arrangement so that they receive maximum indirect daylight, but minimum direct sunlight. Direct sunlight can result in overheated, uncomfortable spaces and can strain the cooling system. Daylighting controls, such as view-preserving shades, daylight harvesting louvers, and light shelves can be installed and adjusted to admit daylight while avoiding direct heat gain and excessive glare. Occupants should turn off general overhead lights if natural lighting provides sufficient ambient light levels required. Daylight sensors can be installed to automate dimming or turning off of lights when optimal daylight levels are present. 


  • Install Occupancy Sensors

Occupancy sensors ensure that when no electricity is wasted in rooms no one is occupying. Analyze your space usages and determine if an occupancy sensor could be beneficial. The California Energy Commission estimates that occupancy sensors savings typically range from 35% to 45% for the space they cover, and pay for themselves in less than five years. 


  • Renewable Energy Production

New installations of renewable energy systems, such as photovoltaic panels or solar thermal, on your building or property should be designed to produce 3% of the buildings annual energy consumption by cost.

Preferred Provider that can help you: Tennessee Solar Solutions


  •  Install Programmable or Smart Thermostats

A programmable thermostat can automatically adjust temperature settings on a time schedule. By programing your thermostat to reflect your typical workday and adequately heat and cool only when spaces are in use, you can save a significant amount on your annual heating and cooling bills. Visit www.energystar.gov to use the programmable thermostat calculator to see what you can save with pre determined set-back temperatures as well as how to install a programmable thermostat and when to call a professional for installation. Smart thermostats offer additional features such as remote access via internet and thermostats that can “learn” your behaviors and program themselves.

Preferred Providers that can help you achieve this: EES, and Compass Commissioning & Design


  • Weatherization

Applying caulk, weather stripping, or some other gap-filling insulation around old and drafty windows and doors will not only help reduce air infiltration, but it also deters bugs from entering your space. Doors and windows are obvious places to look for gaps, but you should also examine areas where different materials come together: between brick and wood siding, between foundation and walls, and between the chimney and siding. Cracks and gaps that cause air leaks can also be found around: mail chutes, electrical and gas service entrances, cable TV and phone lines, where dryer vents pass through walls, air conditioners and surrounding vents and fans. 

Preferred Providers that can help you achieve this: EES

  • Commissioning/Retro-commissioning

Commissioning for new construction, or retro-commissioning for existing buildings, aims to verify that the building’s equipment, systems, and controls are functioning consistently with the owner’s performance requirements and expectations. Errors in construction and maintenance can be identified and remedied through the commissioning process to improve performance and efficiency. Often times an Energy Audit is part of the commissioning process and can be provided by the same consulting company. Participants are required to hire a commissioning agent to perform this service and must submit the commissioning/retro-commissioning report and indicate which recommended improvements or repairs have been or will be completed and the anticipated time frame for doing so.

Note that retro-commissioning is sometimes referred to as a "facility audit."

 Compass Commissioning & Design is a Preferred Provider that can help you achieve this credit.


  • Use Natural Ventilation

When the weather permits, using ceiling and/or personal fans is a good way keep comfortable while using less electricity. Open doors and windows for cross ventilation. When opening exterior windows, keep in mind that sunny and paved portions of the property will generate warmer air than shaded and grassy areas. If desired, control systems can be installed to alert occupants when it’s a good time to open or close windows and doors.