Here are some proven ways to reduce energy use at your company that not only save money but help preserve the environment as well:
- Conduct an energy audit: This will help you identify and prioritize the best energy-saving opportunities for your business. Local utility companies may provide this service at no cost. Otherwise find a company that specializes in conducting energy audits for a fee.
- Establish benchmarks: Once you evaluate your current energy use through an audit, establish goals for cutting costs and monitor them. Several online tools can help, including Portfolio Manager from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program.
- Shut down at night: Leaving equipment, computers, and lights turned on overnight uses more energy than you think, not only from the equipment itself but also from the heat it emits, which raises air conditioning costs.
- Change lights simultaneously: Light bulbs start operating inefficiently once they reach 80 percent of their rated life. So instead of changing bulbs one at a time when they burn out, change all of the bulbs in your office at the same time on a uniform schedule. Replacing fluorescent lights with T8 tubes and upgrading to electric ballasts can reduce your electrical load by up to 40 percent.
- Keep the sun out: Unshaded windows are a huge energy waster. Fixing this problem is as easy as installing window shades, blinds, or curtains or tinting windows with film that’s designed to keep the heat out and the cool in.
- Retrofit your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system: Newer, more energy-efficient heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems can reduce a building’s overall energy consumption by as much as 40 percent. You can receive a federal tax credit equal to 30 percent of the cost (up to $1,500) of a new HVAC system if it is purchased and installed before December 31, 2010. A number of other energy-efficiency upgrades also qualify for this credit, including new windows, doors, insulation, roofs, and renewable energy systems.
- Install a cool roof or solar panels: Using highly reflective materials, a cool roof can drastically lower surface temperatures, which can significantly reduce the workload of your HVAC system. Perform your own cost-benefit analysis to determine the potential breakeven point and whether the upfront expense is feasible for your company. Solar panels may also require a large upfront expense and a potentially long-term breakeven point. However, you may be able to cushion this by “renting to own” the panels. These programs allow businesses to pay no upfront or maintenance costs but purchase their electricity from the panel provider, often at a discounted rate.
- Start a telecommuting program: Telecommuting has become more common in recent years as more companies recognize that employees don’t have to be onsite to do their jobs. With fewer employees present in your building, your company will use less energy. You’ll also be doing your part to reduce carbon emissions by lowering the number of commuters on the road.
For more business energy saving tips, visit Energy Star online.
Don Sadler is a freelance writer and editor specializing in business and finance.