As a long time corporate employee and small business owner, I am often amazed at how much energy, and ultimately money, is wasted everyday in this country. Small retailers and businesses with a few employees can rack up $800 to $1,000 in energy costs each month, larger operations can get into five and six figures, depending on the industries. If you own a small business, cutting your energy costs permanently can save you thousands each year. If you don’t own the business but are an employee, implementing some of these energy efficiency tips for small businesses can mean a big difference come bonus or raise time as well, so do your part to save energy.
Lighting is usually the largest expense in terms of energy consumption for small businesses; it is also an indispensable component of a good business. Retailers can use lighting to make a splash on products and displays, while traditional offices need to supply proper lighting for employees comfort and productivity. In our home energy tips article about CFL bulbs we discussed the benefits of replacing incandescent bulbs with CFLs. For office settings, using the newer T5 and T8 fluorescent tubes can save you money by lasting up to 16 years; they also don’t have the annoying hum of T12 lamps and have a more attractive lighting color. You can also save nearly 40% on your lighting costs by installing occupancy sensors and dimmers in less used room like conference rooms, restrooms and break rooms. The upfront costs of sensors, dimmers and new T5 and T8 fluorescent tubes will easily be recouped in a few months’ savings.
Computers are a common piece of equipment at nearly every small business operation, therefore choosing the right computer can help reduce energy costs. For example, laptops are more energy efficient than desktop computers and make sure you purchase Energy Star compliant computers for the most savings. There are some urban myths about electronics such as computers lasting longer by staying on rather than powering down and up as needed. This is 100% false and has not been true since the days of mainframes and punch cards, which most of you likely don’t recall (before my time as well). Remember the laptop’s AC adapter draws power when plugged in, even if the laptop is off, this is called a phantom load. Unplugging or using a smart power strip that turns off based on timers or sensing when not in use can reduce energy consumption as well.
Heating and cooling are also important areas to focus, whether you own or lease the premises. Utilize an Energy Star rated programmable thermostat to automatically control temperature. This not only helps save 10% – 70% on heating and cooling, it keeps the temperature consistent for employee comfort. When the office is not in use, lower the usage of the HVAC system as much as possible, this will vary by each business or home office. Keep in mind that every degree of cooling increases energy costs by 4% to 5%, so the difference between 73° and 76° can mean a 15% increase in costs. Lastly if you are planning on being at the location for more than 2-3 years, replacing your current HVAC system with an energy efficient unit can save nearly 20% on energy costs each year. These tips can also help you save money on home heating bills as well.
Whether you are a small business owner, home office user or a concerned employee, there are many ways you can help save energy and lower energy costs. Simple tasks of turning off monitors, flipping the light switch off in your office or following the tips noted above can make a big difference.