Every small business owner is constantly on the look out for ways to trim costs, especially these days. Rather than look to cut back on things like staff and technology, though, perhaps there is a better way to save money: cut your energy bill. Sure, most small businesses don’t have the resources to install photovoltaic cells or even a windmill to power their operations—though if you can afford these investments, they can pay off big time in the long run. But saving energy doesn’t have to mean making lots of expensive investments; there are multitudes of ways to make both minor and major changes to the challenge while reaping a healthy ROI at the same time.
Probably the first step any business should take is to conduct a comprehensive energy audit that should uncover ways to save money year-round. Many such audits are available free or at a discount from utilities and other energy professionals. Hiring a professional could also help you understand what kinds of tax credits or financial incentives might be available to invest in energy-saving technology and materials. “If you are in a state where energy is deregulated, you should also shop around for your utility providers, as many retail energy providers offer better pricing than the default provider,” says Liz Robinson, president of the nonprofit Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance.
What follows next are some additional energy-saving tips from business owners that will help you save at least a few dollars on your next energy bill.
Ian Aronovich, CEO of GovernmentAuctions.org, a site that compiles and provides information about government auctions of seized and surplus merchandise from all over the country:
“With higher energy costs coming down the docket, we have already started to implement a few new money and energy saving techniques. First, we switched all of our office light bulbs to fluorescent ones. These great bulbs are long-lasting, and they don't use up as much energy when powered on. To that affect, we also shut off every light in the office when the workday is complete. There is no point to have these lights blaring when nobody is here to utilize them. Finally, we have set all of our computer monitors to revert to sleep mode after 10 minutes of inactivity. Just with these three strategies of energy saving, we have already seen our monthly energy bill dip a little. The savings aren't overwhelming, but in this type of economy, every penny counts.”
Shel Horowitz, the author of Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green: Winning Strategies to Improve Your Profits and Your Planet as well as a consumer e-book, "Painless Green: 111 Tips to Help the Environment, Lower Your Carbon Footprint, Cut Your Budget, and Improve Your Quality of Life-With No Negative Impact on Your Lifestyle":
“The good news is that there are lots and lots of ways to cut energy costs, as well as related expenses like paper, water, etc. For starters:
Insulate outside-wall outlets and switch plates. Use baby outlet protectors and foam insulating pads to plug air leaks around outlets and switch plates on exterior walls. This will only take you a few minutes.
Plug computers and appliances into power strips, and power the strips down when you close the office for the night.
Encourage washable ceramic mugs instead of paper or foam cups in the coffee room.
You can even switch to duplexing printers and knock 40 percent off your paper costs."
Daniel J. Woolford, mechanical engineer at Baskervill, a full-service architectural, engineering, interior design and sustainable design firm in Richmond, Va.:
“At Baskervill, we strive daily to reduce our carbon footprint by focusing on sustainability, both in our projects and in our own offices. We've brainstormed the following measures to cut our energy costs.
Adjusting the thermostat set point. One degree on a thermostat can save 2 percent on every energy bill.
Change our air filters on a monthly basis. Fans work harder the dirtier the filters are, thus consuming more electricity. Cleaner filters also result in better air quality.
Closing windows so that energy doesn't escape.
Saving energy by relying on natural sunlight during peak hours of operation.
Insulating the attic results in 1 percent savings per bill.
Unplug computers when not in use, as PCs can still draw electricity when off but not plugged in.
Variable Speed Cooling Towers are a measure to be considered for large commercial or industrial projects to save energy and money—up to an estimated $5,000 to $10,000.
We've also researched a Building Automation System in which the heating system is staggered to come on at different times. This avoids huge demand peaks and amounts to thousands of dollars in savings per year.”
Kenneth C. Wisnefski, founder and CEO of WebiMax, a search engine optimization firm based in Mount Laurel, NJ:
“In the winter, you're certainly going to have an increase in expenses, given the expense to heat the building. However, we've found it is cheaper to heat the building than run the air conditioning throughout the summer and into the fall. What we have done, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., we turn off all of the lights that are around the exterior of the building along the windows. We have seen a drop in the energy bill and this helps offset the heating expense. If you're a small business owner who has a lot of windows and natural light, use it! Not only are you saving money for your business, you're also doing your part in helping the environment."
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