With all the costs associated with running a small business, it is important to save money whenever possible. Most costs are unavoidable, but can be significantly decreased with a little research. A good place to start is discovering ways to make your building energy efficient.
Sounds like a lot of work, right? Not to worry, there are great resources out there that help you get the ball rolling. For starters, the EPA’s Energy Star program provides an action workbook that is easy to follow, and outlines steps to take to enhance your small business’ energy performance. From initiating an Energy Policy to making a full commitment in your small business and everything in between, this workbook is a wonderful source to reference.
Additionally, there are federal, state, and local tax credits and deductions available to those who have energy efficient buildings. Check out this article that outlines five tax incentives available and see if you qualify.
Without further ado, allow us to provide you with ways you can turn your small business into an energy efficient one.
1. Conduct an Energy Audit
This is a professional audit that is performed by your utility company or other outside consultant to determine energy saving opportunities for your building. Since every building is unique, it is important to have an audit to assess your own unique needs.
An energy audit will begin with an inspection of lighting, air conditioning, heating and ventilation, refrigeration, water-consuming equipment, controls, and anything else that uses energy. You will then be provided with an energy report providing the existing energy-consuming equipment and the energy balance. You’ll also receive a presentation of energy conservation measures (ECM), which outlines the expected annual savings, the expected cost to implement the ECM, and the return on investment for your business.
2. Proper Maintenance of Heating and Cooling Equipment
Just like a car, your building’s heating and cooling equipment require proper maintenance in order to run effectively and efficiently. These systems are big investments, but with proper care, can last at least 10 years, if not more.
Small, easy maintenance tasks can be done to ensure your equipment runs as smoothly as possible. Changing filters regularly allows air to flow easily so your unit won’t have to work as hard. Another easy fix is to ensure there is nothing blocking the vents throughout your building so that heat and cool air can travel to all the places it needs to. Refer to your system’s maintenance checklist for monthly and annual recommendations for maximum efficiency.
3. Control Direct Sunlight
Controlling direct sunlight in your building can eliminate the amount of energy used to heat or cool your work space. Warm, sunny temperatures provide an excessive amount of solar presence which can result in high cooling energy consumption as your air conditioning unit works even harder to combat additional sunlight that enters the building.
In cold temperatures, sunlight can have a positive impact on passive solar heating. Utilizing daytime sunlight as a heat source can contribute to your small business energy efficiency.
4. Utilize CFL Lighting
Compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) save a great deal of energy, using about 1/4 as much energy as incandescent bulbs. Therefore, lighting a 75 watt fixture can be done with 19 watts of electricity. Lighting accounts for about 23% of commercial consumption, so switching to CFL lights will make a huge impact on your business’s energy consumption.
5. Unplug at the End of the Day
A power strip can easily cut power to big, energy-sucking devices in your office at the end of the day. The Department of Energy reported that 5%-10% of electricity is drained by devices that are plugged in to electrical outlets 24 hours a day. This is especially the case for electronics like TVs and computers that consume a considerable amount of power.
6. Turn to Energy Star Products
Energy Star appliances are well-known for their energy-saving technologies. Usage and costs can be cut by as much as 50%. Specific savings vary based on the building, but small business owners can expect to save at least 10% on energy costs.
Not only do Energy Star appliances save you money, but they are also environmentally friendly. Greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, and reliance on fossil fuel resources are reduced.
7. Choose Laptops Over Desktops
Laptop computers require much less power than desktops. In fact, laptops consume a whopping 80% less electricity than their desktop counterparts. Also, laptops are energy efficient even when plugged in, due to their battery-powered design. Your business will enjoy a lower power bill by making the switch.
8. Invest in a Programmable Thermostat
Every business is different, meaning different work days and work hours. This is why a run-of-the-mill thermostat is not efficient. By utilizing a programmable thermostat, you can adjust the settings according to your business’s unique schedule. For every degree raised on your thermostat in the summer months and lowered in the winter months, your business can save 2% on your monthly energy bill.
9. Install Dimmers and Motion Sensors
This is another way to save on electricity in your building. It’s not uncommon for lights to be turned on in work spaces that are not in use for hours at a time. Motion sensors will keep lights off when no one is around, potentially saving hundreds on your utility bill over the course of a year. Using the dim feature of dimmer switches not only saves on your annual utility bill, but also provides less wear on lighting, increasing the life of your light bulbs.
10. Educate Your Employees
This is a crucial piece to the puzzle. Once you have an energy-savings plan in place for your small business, educate your employees. Take time to explain why these changes are important to the success of your business and provide guidelines for them to follow.
Have you made your small business less energy-dependent? What steps helped you achieve energy efficiency?
photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/86530412