10 Tips to Lower Your Energy Consumption and Save Money
Small businesses throughout the U.S. spend more than $60 billion a year on energy, according to a report by Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. Most of the energy consumption can be attributed to lighting, air conditioning and heating systems, computers, office equipment, refrigerators and freezers. By implementing energy conservation measures, you can cut your energy costs by 10% to 30% without sacrificing service, quality or comfort.
Improving the energy efficiency of your place of business is easier than you think. Chances are you don’t realize how much energy is wasted in your office, store or commercial space, so there’s a lot of room for improvement.
Here are 10 things you can do to reduce your business’ energy consumption and save money on energy bills.
1. Do an Energy Audit
An energy audit involves an energy professional doing a full inspection of your business, assessing your energy consumption and providing options on how to reduce it. Many utility companies offer energy audits for free or for reasonable fee.
You can also conduct your own after-hours audit after your business closes for the day. Allow an hour for equipment on timers to power down and computers to go into power-saving mode, then walk around the premises and take note of the lights and equipment that stay on. You should be able to identify areas where you can save energy. For example, you could install timers to turn lights on and off and ask employees to turn off their devices before they leave work.
2. Turn the Lights off
Remind your employees to turn off the lights when they leave an office, break room, copy room, bathroom, conference room, storage room and other areas where lights regularly stay on even though no one is using the room. Consider installing motion sensor lights for these rooms.
3. Replace Light Bulbs
One of the biggest energy expenses for businesses is lighting. Yet, it’s the easiest to address. Replace old, incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient CFL (compact fluorescent lamps) and LED (light emitting diode) light bulbs. CFLs and LEDs use about 75% less energy than regular light bulbs and last about 25 times longer. That’s a considerable reduction in energy consumption, which has a significant impact on your electricity bills.
4. Use Natural Light
Take advantage of natural light by installing adjustable or translucent shades to block sunlight while allowing in light. On sunny days, ask employees near windows to use natural light instead of artificial lights.
5. Invest in Energy Efficient Equipment
One of the best ways to cut down energy costs is to use equipment that consumes less energy (about 10% to 50% less). When buying or leasing office equipment and appliances, make sure they’re energy efficient or Energy Star-rated.
Typically, energy efficient equipment and appliances cost more than regular, less efficient models, but the energy savings make it worth the higher price tag.
There are other things you can do to lower the energy consumption of your office equipment:
- Buy laptops instead of desktop computers. Laptops use less power when idle than desktops, and tablets use even less energy.
- Use power save modes (battery saver, sleep, hibernation) in computers, monitors and other electronic devices whenever possible.
- Require your employees to shut down their computers and other office equipment at the end of the work day.
- Minimize “phantom energy” by using power strips to plug various devices that you can then turn off with a single switch.
- Reduce the number of printers by linking several computers to the same printer.
- Switch to cloud computing. Storing files on a server requires having a computer room, and computer rooms consume a lot of energy, not only to run the computers but also to keep the room extra cool to protect the computers from overheating.
6. Program Your Thermostats
Use a programmable thermostat to control cooling and heating temperatures during off hours, when there’s no reason to keep comfortable temperatures. You can program the thermostat to reach those temperatures at the beginning of the work day. Install thermostats with locking features or locked plastic covers over old thermostats to keep employees from adjusting the temperature. Adding a degree in the summer (one degree hotter) and subtracting a degree in the winter (one-degree cooler) can save you about 3% in cooling and heating costs.
7. Reduce Peak Demand
Another way to lower your business’ energy bills is to reduce peak demand, that is, decrease the number of hours that energy consumption is at its highest. In an office, peak demand times usually fall between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. You can reduce peak demand by staggering working hours or start times to have fewer people working at any one time and by letting employees work from home, which lowers energy consumption at the workplace.
8. Maintain Your HVAC System
The heating, venting and air conditioning (HVAC) system at your place of business consumes a lot of energy, raising your utility bills.
To make your HVAC system more efficient, change or clean filters once a month, leave vents open to maximize airflow, and clean refrigerant, water coils, condensers, evaporators and heat exchange surfaces on a regular basis.
To decrease energy consumption and protect your HVAC system from overworking, make sure your business is properly insulated, fix leaks around doors and windows, and keep the spaces in front of your vents clear. Close entry doors and loading dock doors, as leaving them open make your climate control system work extra hard and use up more energy.
9. Install Energy Efficient Windows
While your HVAC system works hard to maintain optimal indoor temperatures, regular windows work against it by allowing heat transference and letting conditioned air to leak out of the building and exterior air to leak into the building. Energy-efficient windows minimize heat transference and stop air leaks, consequently reducing the amount of energy you need to cool and heat your business.
10. Use Fans
Give your HVAC system a break with the use of ceiling fans. While you may not be able to replace air conditioning with fans, you can use them alongside the AC to reduce the unit’s energy consumption and lower your electricity bill. When there’s only one person or two in the office, it’s more economical to use ceiling or personal fans than running the AC.