Smart Power Use Can Recharge Bottom Lines

Energy efficiency is often overlooked in station operations, but a smarter physical layout, multiviewers, LED and flourescent lighting and an updated UPS can cut the electric bill and improve earnings With some planning, and often for a surprisingly low investment, you can significantly improve the energy efficiency and improve the workplace.

When it’s budget time, everyone thinks about how much money they have to spend and how much everything they want is going to cost. I challenge you to approach budgeting in a different way: How much can I save by better utilizing the space in our broadcast facility? Energy efficiency is an area often overlooked, but a smarter layout can save significantly on operating costs.

Space is always at a premium at broadcast facilities. Sometimes, it’s best to isolate people from the technology because you can make both spaces more efficient. Equipment, for example, can be loud and produce a lot of heat. Better to have a dedicated space for equipment, such as a closet, complete with its own climate control (machines tend to like it cooler than humans).

Edit suites are an ideal place for this type of separation, particularly if you’ve adopted a file-based workflow. It’s almost impossible to maintain proper environmental balance in an edit suite. You have to keep the thermostat low for the benefit of the equipment, but you also tend to have a great deal of human traffic.

With the major processing power isolated in a cooler room, your air conditioning system does not have to work as hard — and you’ve eliminated clutter as a bonus. Now, all you really need in each edit suite is a keyboard, mouse, monitor, audio mixer, speakers and a small ingest device to import data from media cards. You may even find you can compress work areas and add more edit bays without making your employees feel cramped.

Traditionally, construction costs are highest for mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) modifications. If you plan to renovate your facility, it’s more economical to move things like equipment than it is to move air conditioning units. If you can be flexible in your layout plans, you can save a great deal of time, money, and headaches.

For example, last year, we worked with KSTW, a CBS O&O that also serves as the CW affiliate for the Seattle-Tacoma market (DMA 13), to move its master control to its transmitter site on Capitol Hill in Seattle. After we surveyed the site, we redesigned the space to make it more energy efficient. As a result, we were able to save the station more than $80,000 during build out in air conditioning costs alone.


Here are a few suggestions that may help improve energy efficiency in your broadcast facility.

  • Evaluate your HVAC system. Electricity represents a significant ongoing cost within a broadcast operation, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are big contributors to the bill. Sometimes, the key to efficiency is simply distributing power better, as well as balancing your use of air conditioning throughout the facility. Consistency is also key; in the long run, it’s less expensive to maintain your studio at a specific temperature than it is to shut down the air conditioning after your last evening newscast and try to re-cool the area the next morning.
  • Adopt LED or fluorescent lighting systems in your studio. It’s time to move away from incandescent and tungsten-based lighting instruments. Yes, it’s a capital expense, but the ROI is easy to justify. LED and fluorescent lighting grids require far less power than older lights and generate very little heat, which means your studio thermostat can be set much higher.
  • Invest in a multi-viewer system for your control room. This should be another easy ROI sell. A multi-viewer system, combined with a handful of LCD displays, is a quick, easy, and relatively inexpensive upgrade for a control room. You’ll eliminate maintenance costs of dozens of CRTs, plus you’ll use less power and generally substantially less heat.
  • Upgrade your UPS. Today’s flywheel-based uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and generator technologies offer very efficient alternatives to older models that rely on lead acid batteries or diesel fuel. You could find lower operating costs in a more environmentally friendly backup power system.
  • Work with your local utility companies. Sure, they’re in the business of selling you power, but they’d like to help you conserve it, too. Ask your power provider come by and help identify ways to save. Remember, it’s not just about turning up the thermostat in your studio. At our own facility, for example, we shaved off considerable energy usage each month by replacing all our office lighting, a project that cost us less than $400.
  • With some planning, and often for a surprisingly low investment, you can significantly improve the energy efficiency of your facility — and improve the workplace for your employees in the process. Of course, to sell your argument to management, it’s often best to make a case by bringing in qualified people from outside your organization who have both the expertise and an objective view.

 Mark Siegel is the president of Advanced Broadcast Solutions, a systems integration firm based in SeaTac, Wash. Contact him at (206) 870-0244 or [email protected].

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