As the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day approaches, consumers and businesses everywhere are thinking about ways to reduce energy consumption and lower their energy bills. Affordable alternative energy sources are years away and utility-driven conservation measures like the Smart Grid won’t help SMBs in the short term, if at all.
While we await advances in energy creation and conservation, consumers and businesses are faced with skyrocketing energy costs. Businesses are particularly hard hit as they are forced to pay higher rates due to their higher peak energy usage.
SMBs looking to reduce energy use and costs quickly and affordably would be wise to look at the following biggest energy wasters and tips for controlling energy use and costs for each:
One of the biggest areas of energy waste is a business’ heating/cooling (HVAC) system. Often outdated, these systems are largely ignored as long as they appear to be working. Fortunately, there are simple, inexpensive tips businesses can implement that will help ensure more efficient performance from their HVAC systems, and will reduce overall energy consumption and costs:
- Automated Internet thermostats provide remote access, visibility and control of a business’ HVAC usage. A typical installation can achieve a 20% reduction in energy costs, not to mention reduced maintenance and repair costs.
- Replace air filters regularly (at least every 3-4 months) for optimum performance.
- Seal and insulate air ducts. This can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20% or more.
Did you know that interior lighting may account for up to 60% of a business’ energy bill? Simple, low-cost tips for cutting lighting costs, include:
- Replace outdated T12 fluorescent bulbs with T8 fluorescent lights, which use as much as 35% less energy.
- Install occupancy sensors in seldom-used rooms and motion sensors on exterior lights to reduce energy use.
- Install lighting control solutions with automatic scheduling and remote access to monitor and control usage. These add tremendous savings where motion- or occupancy sensing is impractical.
- Make the most of natural light wherever possible. Not only will natural light reduce your reliance on electric lighting, but it also has a positive impact on employees’ moods and productivity.
- Converting Exit-signs to operate with LED lights greatly increases efficiency. With several Exit-signs in every building, which require always-on operation, an LED conversion can show a significant savings quickly.
U.S. organizations waste $2.8 billion a year in energy costs by leaving computers on over night. Whether it is computers, printers, coolers/refrigerators or specialty equipment, businesses tend to leave equipment on and running at full capacity nearly 24×7. Here are some simple solutions to make this practice more efficient and affordable:
- Use power strips – equipment still draws electricity from a power outlet even when not in use. Instead, plug everything into a power strip to reduce wasted energy, and easily power down all equipment at the end of the day.
- Consider buying ENERGY STAR certified office equipment, which uses about half the energy of standard models.
- PCs and monitors with energy saving sleep or power down modes reduce electricity use by up to 70% more than computers without this feature.
- Look into Lighting & Equipment Control solutions, which are designed to control lighting and other process equipment. These web-based solutions provide remote access and scheduling capabilities to better control usage and costs.
Water consumption, especially in bathrooms, costs businesses far more than they realize. In addition to the cost of the electricity or gas used to heat water, businesses also pay for the energy to purify and pump water to their location, and don’t forget sewer treatment. Fortunately, the same water saving strategies consumers use in their homes can work in business settings too:
- Reduce water consumption in bathrooms with low-flow toilets and faucets.
- You can reduce water-heating costs by simply lowering the thermostat setting on your water heater. For each 10 ºF reduction in water temperature, you can save between three and five percent in energy costs.
- You might also consider an on-demand or tankless water heater.
- Special water-heater blankets wrap an extra layer of insulation around tanks making them more efficient. This simple solution is inexpensive and provides immediate savings.
These simple, affordable changes can be implemented by almost any business. By applying just a few of these tips, small businesses can make a positive impact on their energy bill and the planet.
About The Guest Author: Walter Dray is co-founder and President of Proliphix, Inc. Dray co-founded Proliphix to help businesses and residential consumers monitor and control their energy consumption and reduce costs.