Talk to any small business owner, and they’ll agree: utility costs can be some of the biggest expenses you can incur. Worse yet, it can often be difficult to predict your most energy expensive months. According to the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), energy ranks among the top three expenses for small businesses. Independent businesses across the country spend about $60 billion on energy every year. Short of running a zero-energy operation, though, many business owners feel ready to throw in the towel.
Luckily, there are a few solutions to help your business become more sustainable. If you’re looking to run the most successful small business possible, you’ll want to track your spending on things like lighting, heating, cooling, and electricity. Whether you’re a mom-and-pop shop, a restaurant, or an office, getting your energy expenses down will not only save you money in the short term—it’ll save you big bucks in the long run.
Beware of Phantom Energy.
There’s one thing that’s likely haunting your office hallways, and its phantom energy. This is the energy which appliances, equipment, and computers use up. These energy consumers are plugged in, but not currently being used. These appliances can easily siphon energy, even over the weekend, or on days your business is closed. You can start energy saving with a simple fix. Simply connect essential electronics and devices to a power strip or surge protector. You can then shut off devices with the flip of a switch.
Track your energy usage or have an energy audit.
First of all, you’ll want to get an idea of just how much energy you’re using every month. Track changes in energy costs over the next several months. This will help you to get an idea of what your major expenses might be. Consider, also, having an energy audit. Many electric utility companies offer free audits and inspections for businesses and individuals alike. These are great to identify leaks and potential energy saving measures. A professional can easily guide you towards the most cost-effective solutions for your particular business.
Set savings goals.
Once you’ve got an idea of your business’s everyday expenses, you can start setting attainable goals for your monthly costs. Though energy expenses can fluctuate, you can identify the most expensive of your energy needs, be it electricity, heating, or otherwise. Targeting your business’s largest expenses will help you set easy benchmarks for your business to meet. This process takes time. It can be done whilst you begin to implement changes in the everyday operation of your business.
Update your office equipment.
It never hurts to invest. Consider upgrading your office or business’s equipment to be more efficient. This can go a long way towards energy saving. You can buy or lease efficient copiers, computers, and appliances to meet your business’s needs. Just make sure you read the labels and do your research carefully. Your new equipment should be ENERGY STAR-rated, tested and approved as energy efficient.
Get your employees in on energy-efficient initiatives.
You’d be surprised what you can achieve with a little teamwork. Start an office-wide contest or competition to improve your employee’s day-to-day energy costs or solicit ideas from your employees on how you can save more. Create a task force or a team project focused on energy saving or consider adding energy efficient initiatives to existing employee-of-the-month and bonus programs.
Change your lightbulbs.
This might sound simple enough. Changing out your standard incandescent light bulbs with LED bulbs is an easy and relatively cheap way to save on electricity, regardless of your trade. You can save even more by limiting the use of overhead lighting. Encourage employees to use task lights when possible. You might even encourage letting in a little natural light.
Consider alternative heating and cooling methods.
You can heat or cool an office or business in a variety of ways. Something as simple as taking advantage of the brightest hours of the day and turning off your lights, to installing solar panels for an added energy boost. Even if you do not wish to invest in solar power, opening a few windows and blinds can certainly save you a few bucks.
Give your HVAC a tune-up.
When’s the last time you checked in on your heating, ventilation and air condition systems? Consider calling a technician and getting your HVAC tuned up or changing out your HVAC system entirely for a more updated version. Don’t forget to change your air filters frequently. If it looks a little worse for wear, it’s time to swap it out.
Locate and seal leaks.
If you choose to get an energy audit, most professionals will point out potential leaks and cracks where heating and air conditioning might be escaping. A weekend of caulking your doors and windows can reduce your bills, and it’ll prevent pesky drafts during the workday. Even if you don’t choose to get an energy audit, there’s plenty of ways you can look for leaks and prevent drafts.