Today, energy efficiency is part of every business model. Smaller margins are pushing companies to look for innovative ways to cut their overhead costs. And shrinking your monthly electric bill is a useful line item for finding real savings. It’s not just saving pennies either. Innovations in sustainable building materials, high-efficiency office equipment, and smart technology are making “greener” business practices a profitable endeavor. With the right investment, you can save thousands of dollars on yearly utility bills.
If you’re just getting your business off the ground, add “energy efficiency investment” to your small business start-up costs. Or, if you’re planning to expand, consider investing in newer, more energy-efficient equipment. You may even want to move into a high-efficiency office building.
But if you don’t have the capital to invest, don’t worry. You can still cut energy costs by making small adjustments to your workspace and your daily habits. Saving energy at work is as easy as saving energy in your home. So, get started saving today with these four energy-saving tips for small business.
Smarten Up Your Thermostat
For most small businesses, heating and cooling the office is a big chunk of their energy bill. Upgrading to a newer HVAC system or high-efficiency ENERGY STAR unit is worth the investment — saving you around 30% on energy costs. But if you don’t have the resources to invest, you can still save with your old system by adding a “smart” thermostat. These nifty temp detectors use artificial intelligence (AI) to learn your work routine and temperature preferences to maximize heating and cooling your workspace.
When no one’s at the office, there’s no need to keep the air temp at 72 °F. It’s wasted energy to keep a room full of office equipment “comfortable.” That’s why owners usually crank their thermostats up or down on the weekends and at the end of the day. That’s how a smart thermostat can help. It makes those off-hour adjustments for you. And, unlike humans, it never forgets.
And smart thermostats connect to your smartphone, which means you can control your heating and air system from anywhere. Leaving early on a Friday? Your thermostat can sense the location of your smartphone (i.e., outside the office) and cut the heat before the weekend starts. Coming in to work on a weekend? Just kick on the heat from home and arrive at a warm, cozy office. Smart thermostats are an inexpensive way to transform an old energy-hogging system into an efficient, money-saving machine.
Identify Wasted Lighting
Lighting is a common source of energy waste. Employees often leave lights on accidentally or use lighting that’s not needed. And even small businesses have many fixtures and bulbs. Added together, they burn expensive kilowatts. So, audit your lighting situation. Do a walk-through around your workspace during the day and at night. Note problem areas. Ask for ideas from employees about how they can use less light. Then make adjustments where it makes sense.
Start by replacing old incandescent bulbs with more efficient compact fluorescents (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LEDs). This switch alone will save you 25% to 80% off your lighting costs. Plus, these bulb types last much longer. So you’re also saving time and money on replacement.
Next, swap out artificial lighting with natural illumination. Can you replace half a dozen desk lamps by simply raising a window shade? If so, you’ll save money. Plus, introducing natural lighting helps ward off Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Finally, look into purchasing some smart lighting systems. Smart bulbs and switches can adjust their output based on your office needs and time of day — brighter in the mornings, dimmer at noon. And when paired with motion sensors, smart lighting can detect when someone enters and leaves a room, turning lights off and on for you.
Stop Vampire Energy Sources
Many office gadgets and digital devices waste small amounts of electricity during normal operation. For example, almost every electronic device emits a red or amber-colored LED power indicator light. Tiny lights like these never go off, even when the equipment isn’t used. And plugged-in laptops and smartphones still use energy even after they’re fully charged. Efficiency experts call these small energy users “vampire devices.” That’s because they slowly and secretly drain electricity from the grid and your wallet. And your typical office hosts dozens of vampire sources. Individually, vampire energy sources are harmless. But collectively, they account for 5% to 10% of your power consumption.
To stop vampire energy drains, first locate them by turning off the lights in your workspace or do a midnight walk-through. Then unplug any equipment you use less than once or twice a week. Pay attention to “remote-ready” devices such as computers, faxes, printers, cable boxes, and TVs. They stay in a standby or “sleep” state when turned on so they can start up quickly. Many devices use about the same amount of electricity when asleep as they do when fully-powered. So, unplugging them will save you more energy.
Of course, unplugging regularly used devices isn’t workable. For those, invest in some smart power strips. These inexpensive plugs detect when an electronic device is not in use and powers it down completely. It’s like “unplugging” a device without physically unplugging it. Smart stips are also handy for killing power to a group of related equipment (e.g., computer, monitor, and desk lamp) all at once.
Take Advantage of Government Programs
Investing in your small businesses to make it energy-efficient and sustainable is a good strategy for future growth. So, secure a small business loan for equipment financing from a reputable company. But also check out energy efficiency programs offered by the federal, state, and local governments. These programs provide free or low-cost technical help to conduct energy audits and install energy-efficient technology. You may be able to secure a rebate to replace an aging HVAC system or get advice on how to lower the carbon footprint of your workspace.
These four tips point out that saving energy for your small business takes a broad and narrow approach. Target specific low-hanging fruit, like antiquated equipment. But don’t overlook the power of making small changes to your daily routine. Effective energy savings comes down to setting the right attitude and expectations for your employees. Make energy savings a priority at work. Post signs reminding people to “turn the lights off” when they leave. Plan meetings and discuss strategies for saving power. And encourage your team to make energy conservation a part of their home life. Good habits at home will translate into good ones at work.
By: Hilary Thompson
Hilary is a freelance writer covering everything from business to tech, parenting and health. She is also a small fine art business owner, and does most of her writing late at night after her kids’ bedtime. She runs on coffee and pure grit.