Prepare for Natural Gas Price Hikes

November 30, 2004

Federal facilities are already facing high energy costs for buildings and vehicles. Here are a few recommendations that may alleviate the budget crunch when natural gas (and other fuel) prices soar.

  • Become more aggressive in natural gas conservation and efficiency.
  • Evaluate modifications to the work week that allow for lower energy use without affecting productivity (for example, 4-day work weeks).
  • Lower overall building temperatures and substitute with temporary personal electric space heating where needed.
  • Evaluate air flow losses of heat and adjust where possible without affecting worker health.
  • In cafeterias, install low-flow pre-rinse valves to save water and energy.
  • Where possible, shut off heated space that is unoccupied or otherwise not needed for mission critical activities.
  • Implement heating season dress code changes to allow use of warmer functional clothing in the workplace.
  • Emphasize improving the efficiency of natural gas-fueled equipment. Boiler efficiency can improve with routine cleaning, tube replacements, burner tests, etc.
  • Adjust water heating to lower temperatures during off-peak hours. Water heaters can be checked for burner and overall efficiency.
  • Refresh your skills and techniques with training offered by manufacturers and natural gas utilities.
  • Seek the latest low-cost technology to improve the product from natural gas-fueled equipment—that is, for steam or hot water heating.
  • Contact the local natural gas distribution utility and start a dialogue and working relationship toward more efficient use of natural gas.
  • Let us know how we may assist. FEMP regional offices can help your facilities implement demand-side efficiencies where possible. Check our Web site for added information.

These are a few ideas, plans, and goals FEMP believes will help federal agencies with rising natural gas prices. In further brainstorming with your colleagues, expand and refine the above ideas and perhaps develop others. Hopefully, the benefits will show up on agency natural gas bills this winter.

High Gas Prices Change the Calculation

While natural gas prices have receded from their 2001 price peak, they are still more than 40 percent higher than the average price to federal customers just 4 years ago. What's more, natural gas prices are likely to remain higher for some time to come. The market has changed dramatically.

To reflect this new market environment, FEMP is revising the Product Energy Efficiency Recommendations. The gas prices in the cost-effectiveness examples will be increased from $0.40 per therm to $0.60 per therm. If you're buying new products, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the additional savings available from the recommended products. For example, buying the best-available commercial water boiler will now save more than $62,000 over the life of the product compared to a standard model.

High fuel prices make the purchase of new energy-efficient technologies even more cost-effective, and the increased savings available also provide a stronger incentive for early replacement of inefficient products. If you've been putting off replacing an older natural gas system, now may be a good time to make the move to a new high-efficiency unit.

FEMP is adjusting to the new market—you can, too. Visit the Buying Energy Efficient Products Web site. Don't wait to save—buy an energy-efficient product today.