Small businesses are slaves to the bottom line. It doesn’t take much for the profit margin to shrink or expand, which is why paying attention to energy consumption – and energy efficiency – can be vital to a business. Looking for ways to save on energy costs in your business can start with very simple observations, corrections, and modifications. These savings will become evident as monthly utility bills continue to decrease over time. In fact, the majority of the suggested modifications will end up paying for themselves within the first year or two, meaning those savings will be actualized in the business account before you know it.
10 Ways to Save on Energy Costs in Your Business
- Perform an Energy Audit. Energy audits are a great way to take annual assessment of where the energy is going in your business. Many local utility companies offer energy audits for free, or for a small fee. A representative can meet you at your place of business to do a walk-thru and asses the building structure, and day-to-day energy consumption, to make recommendations on how you can benefit from energy savings in your business. You can also do online energy audits, such as this energy audit provided by PG&E, by answering a series of questions.
- Turn on the right kind of lights. What kind of lighting is your business using? If you are using any amount of incandescent lighting you are throwing money right out the proverbial window. By switching all of your business’ interior and exterior lighting from incandescent to compact florescent (CFL) or LEDs, you can save more than 75% on lighting costs. That can really add up, especially for businesses with multiple offices or large industrial warehouses. Also, install motion sensitive light switches in bathrooms, storage closets, or other areas where people may forget to turn off the lights. These energy savings will quickly add up as well.
- Install Commercial Window Film. One way to quickly gain energy savings in your business is to install commercial window film, especially on windows that have western or southern exposure. By blocking UV rays, you can save as much as 10% on monthly utility bills. In addition to energy savings, window film can also protect interior furnishings from fading, and cut down on frustrating computer glare.
- Look for the Energy Star Label. The government created the Energy Star label in order to highlight products that met strict energy efficiency standards as per the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of energy. One qualification to meet Energy Star guidelines is that the cost difference between a product with the Energy Star label and a standard version will be made up in a reasonable amount of time. Owners and/or managers should always purchase electronics, appliances for office kitchens, and even smaller devices – such as exit signs – with the Energy Star label to reap additional energy savings in your business.
- Fix Water Leaks. Any water leaks should be fixed immediately. Not only will it save you money on your water bill, it will also save you in terms of repairs. Water leaks can erode concrete, cause mold and mildew damage, and can creep into interior wall spaces where further damage can go sight unseen. In the case of faucet leaks, hot water leaks can cost extra since the company’s hot water tank will be working unnecessarily.
- Increase access to natural light. We started with lighting in Part 1 and we will begin there again. If your business is in a large warehouse or in in a single-story building you’re able to modify, it makes sense to look into solar tubes and/or skylights. These are simple and affordable to install and will add a tremendous amount of natural light to your warehouse or office even on a cloudy day. Seek out skylights with the Energy Star label to ensure they are rated for maximum energy efficiency in terms of insulation. You can also contact a local commercial window film installer to add window film to skylights for added protection from UV rays and to prevent glare.
- Assess your air leaks. Poorly sealed doors and windows, leaky HVAC duct work, and gaps in exterior construction materials can waste a tremendous amount of energy. Do an annual air leak inspection and replace weathered or damaged weather stripping, caulk cracks or obvious gaps in window seals and on exterior walls where different construction materials meet. Also,inspect areas where electrical outlets, cables, and plumbing enter your building to ensure the holes and gaps are properly sealed as well. Energy savings in your business can be gained by keeping your interior temperature comfortable without overworking your HVAC.
- Consider an insulation overhaul. If your business is located in an older building that hasn’t been renovated in a while, it is probably worth it to hire a local licensed contractor to do an inspection. A poorly insulated building wastes a surprising amount of money in heating and cooling costs. If the bid comes in higher than you would like, consider upgrading your roof insulation. Simply modifying the roof insulation to a higher R-value can save about 15% in HVAC energy costs alone. If your building is so old that existing insulation values are lower than R-12, you may be eligible for incentives which will further the energy savings in your business.
- Install a programmable thermostat. If you are in a newer building, you probably already have a programmable thermostat. However, older buildings don’t usually have them and the difference can cause a larger company hundreds of dollars per year on monthly utility bills.Talk to your HVAC contractor about installing one. If you already have one, check the programming fairly regularly to make sure nothing has been changed. This is especially true around daylight savings time changes, seasonal changes, and during certain times of the year – such as holidays and summertime – when the office might be less inhabited.
- Go Solar. Many business owners are stuck in an old way of thinking: “I’d love to go solar but it’s just too expensive.” However, technology has continued to advance, making solar energy more efficient and affordable than ever before. Government tax incentives have continued when other energy efficiency tax incentives have fallen by the wayside. Now could be the best time to overhaul your company’s energy paradigm and make the change to solar. Between tax incentives, competitive sales rebates, and affordable financing, it might cost you much less than you imagined.
Finding ways to gain energy savings in your business can become a game. These five steps will get you started. Now it’s your turn to think of additional energy saving techniques. Additionally, here are some more ways for you to cut energy costs.
Making small changes, such as increasing natural lighting or using a programmable thermostat, and large changes, like beefing up insulation or going solar, you can take energy savings in your business and transform them into significant dollar savings.