Small businesses use energy mostly for heating and cooling, lighting, office equipment, and any specialized machinery required for the business. Outlined below are six basic steps which a small business can take to reduce energy consumption and lower energy bills.
1. Track your energy costs.
Take time to review your energy usage and understand how your business consumes energy.
2. Pay attention to how you use energy.
You and your employees can do a lot to save money simply by turning things off when they are not in use. Keep up on routine maintenance. By maintaining and cleaning equipment, you can ensure the safe and efficient operation of your energy consuming systems and appliances.
3. Troubleshoot problem areas.
If you suspect equipment is malfunctioning, running too long, or not operating properly, get it fixed quickly. Install more efficient equipment.
4. Invest in systems or appliances with high energy efficiency ratings.
New equipment and appliances offer opportunities for improved energy efficiency. If there is an added cost for high efficiency equipment, be sure to factor in savings from lower energy operation costs over the life of the appliance. Here are some suggestions that provide a good return on your investment:
- Install automatic, programmable, set-back thermostats to control both heating and cooling. Most offer flexible options that enable you to change settings for different days of the week, weekends and holidays.
- Install occupancy sensors in hallways, bathrooms, meeting rooms, kitchens, storage rooms, and other areas where lights can be shut off for blocks of time.
- Install photocells in outdoor entry, and security lighting to automatically sense outdoor lighting levels which turn on and off automatically.
- Install light emitting diode (L.E.D.) exit signs in place of incandescent signs. L.E.D. signs last up to 15 times longer, and use much less energy.
- When changing interior lighting, use energy efficient fluorescent T-8 lamps with electronic ballasts.
- If you lease equipment, insist on energy efficient models to lower your operating costs. Check out our $mart Business lighting rebate program for small businesses. You may qualify for rebates on some of the above items.
5. Change Energy Usage Behavior
Significant energy savings can be achieved by simply changing how you and your employees use energy. Some of the fastest and easiest ways to save money typically cost little or nothing. If all of these simple suggestions are implemented, you could reduce your energy costs considerably.
- Turn off lights, computers, and other office equipment when they are not in use. Have a procedure to ensure these items are switched off overnight and on weekends. Consider installing reminder labels.
- Lower your heater thermostat to the lowest comfortable setting when your business is occupied. Set the temperature back further when the business is unoccupied.
- In warmer months, raise your air conditioner thermostat to the highest comfortable setting. There should be at least five degrees F between heating and cooling set points.
- Set back or turn off heating or air conditioning, a little while before the end of your operating hours. (Remember to maintain some heating in winter to prevent pipes from freezing.)
- Let the sunshine warm your office during colder months by opening drapes or blinds. Close them at night to retain heat.
- Remember to turn off outside safety and security lighting at the start of each day.
- Keep doors and windows closed to prevent heat loss during winter or loss of cool air in summer. However, you may wish to keep doors and windows open to provide ventilation, instead of using air conditioning in summer.
6. Routine Maintenance
Maintenance of energy-consuming equipment is critical to ensuring optimum energy efficiency. Many maintenance items do not require specialized training and can be done yourself. Here are some key items to incorporate into your business maintenance routine.
- Check to be sure all automatic controls are set and operating correctly.
- Clean all filters in your heating and cooling system monthly.
- Check and regularly clean filters if you use exhaust fans.
- Caulk or weatherstrip any drafty doors or windows.
- Remove unneeded light bulbs or use lower wattage bulbs.
- Replace incandescent light bulbs with screw-in energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs as appropriate.
- Lower your water heater thermostat. Washington State law requires all new water heaters to be preset at 120 degrees F for safety.
- Adjust outdoor lighting timer controls to accommodate daylight savings time changes, or install photocells to adjust automatically to changes in the season.
- T-8 fluorescent tubes (1-inch diameter) last longer than the older T-12 lamps. You do not need to replace them as frequently as T-12’s. When you do replace them, be sure to buy case-lots from lighting supply companies to save money.
- Regularly clean and maintain food refrigeration equipment where applicable.