7 Tips for Energy Efficiency Savings for Your Small Business

By Vernon Trollinger, February 19, 2015, Energy Efficiency, Green, Save Money, Small Biz

7 Tips for Energy Efficiency Savings for Your Small Business

With 23 million small businesses in America, most small business (SMB) owners want to find simple ways to cut costs. Every cent counts when you’re trying to reduce business expenses, including energy efficiency savings. Today’s information age depends so much on electricity, so this may seem more difficult than ever before. Help your SMB succeed with this handy list of energy efficiency tips.

1) Save Money with Newer LED Lighting

According to the EIA, businesses spend one-third of their electric bill on lighting. “Lighting consumes 38 percent of total site electricity.” That’s nearly three times more than cooling, ventilation, and refrigeration – and nearly six times what is used for space heating, computers, and water heating!

An average-sized business could spend over $200 on 2,000 kWH for lighting every month. In one year, that’s over $2,400. But you can cut that cost by selecting the right kind of lighting. Incandescent lights are less efficient because they only produce about 16 lumens of light output per watt, and most of their output is waste heat. Instead, opt for LED lamps that currently produce around 83 lumens per watt and very little heat.

A 60-watt incandescent bulb vs an 8-watt LED:

A 60-watt incandescent bulb uses

  • 60 watts x 12-16 hours (one work day)= .95 kWh/day or 10¢ (10.55 cents/kWh = the national average commercial rate)
  • .95 kWh x 30 days = 28.5 kWh/month or $3.00.
  • 28.5 kWh/month x 12 months = 342 kWh/year or $36.08.
  • Plus yearly replacement cost, as bulb lifespan is rated between 1,000 to 1,500 hours of use.

An 8 watt LED uses:

  • .128 kWh/day or 1 cent per day
  • One month uses 3.84 kWh/month or about 40 cents
  • 3.84kWh/month x 12 months = 46.08 kWh/year or $4.86
  • Plus yearly replacement cost. Bulb lifespan is rated in YEARS – not hours.

LED bulb prices are declining rapidly, becoming competitive against CFL bulbs. Using LED bulbs cost one quarter that of incandescent bulbs. That annual $2,400 cost for lighting an average-sized business can get chopped to just $600 by switching all your old incandescent bulbs over to LEDs.

2) Install Sensor Lighting Controls

Sensor-based lighting systems save energy by automatically turning off lights when no one is in the room. Occupancy and vacancy sensor light controls work in two different ways. Occupancy sensors turn lights on by detecting motion and infrared heat and then turn lights off when there’s no motion or a heat differential. Vacancy sensors, meanwhile, detect a person entering the room and turn off when no movement has been detected for a pre-set period of time.

Inexpensive retrofit kits for existing lighting circuits are currently available. Pricing for wall-mounted sensors run from $15 to $38, and installing one takes less than 15 minutes.

3) Manage Costs with a Smart Thermostat

Cooling and ventilation each consume 13% (26% total) of the average commercial electric bill. According to EnergySavers.gov,“You can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10° F for 8 hours a day from where you would normally set.”

While programmable thermostats are great for managing a predictable schedule, if your business keeps you on-the-go, a smart thermostat provides increased flexibility and convenient remote management control to help you maximize your business energy savings.

4) Lower Your IT Energy Costs

If you’ve got a computer network or LAN setup in your business, it’s probably on all the time — even when no one is using it. The International Energy Agency estimates that worldwide “networked devices consumed around 616 Terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity,” and of that amount, around 400 TWh was wasted by just being used to maintain a constant connection while in standby mode.

It’s like paying two people to sit in an empty room and ask each other, “Are you there?” and shake hands every three seconds. That’s what your router/network switch, network drive, and your modem are doing in the dead of night. Connecting them to simple outlet timers will reduce their usage and help cut your annual costs.

Still need access ‘round the clock to access important documents? Move some of that important work to free cloud-based storage, such as Google, DropBox, Amazon, or others.

Yes, sleep mode does save energy, but not all computers are configured to implement sleep or hibernate modes the same way. Energy Star qualifying computers follow specific power management and power supply efficiency requirements.

Although there are some myths surrounding newer power management systems, here’s some general practical rules to save energy for all computers with sleep mode:

  • Turn off the monitor if you leave your computer for more than 20 minutes
  • Turn off the monitor and activate the hibernate or deep sleep mode if you are going leave your computer for more than 1 hour
  • Turn off both the monitor and computer at the end of the day
7 Tips for Energy Efficiency Savings for Your Small Business

Printer image courtesy of jdurham at morguefile.com

5) Reduce Peripheral Energy Consumption

Computer peripherals and other office equipment such as printers, copiers, scanners, and more might not each use much electricity. But when they are all turned on and ready for work, the collective amount of energy they use can add up fast.

You can save on energy by replacing multiple single printers with one or two newer networked printers. Connect miscellaneous loads to smart power strips. These will turn off when electricity to the devices current draw falls to standby mode for a predetermined amount of time. Remember to turn peripherals off at night.

Placement also makes a difference over time. Keep computers, printers, routers, switches, modems, and drives away from heating vents in the winter. All electronic devices must work to dissipate a certain amount of waste heat from their circuit boards. Subjecting them to extra heat will slow down performance, use more power, and shorten their lifespan. Also remember to keep them out of the sun in summer.

6) Improve Your Vehicular Efficiency

If your business depends on having a working vehicle (or three), keep it up to date on regular maintenance and inspections (if any). Make sure the vehicle runs efficiently, saves on gas, and reduces emissions.

Also, driving the speed limit and not driving aggressively can reduce your fuel consumption. Afterall, you won’t be able to take care of business if you can’t conveniently get around to your customers.

7) Get a Grant!

Many federal and state initiatives and programs exist to help pay for energy efficient upgrades to building and facilities, finance innovative environmental products and technologies, and even support environmentally friendly businesses. The Department of Energy also supports a number of grant, loan, and financing programs, and the US Department of Agriculture has recently begun a program to help farmers, ranchers, and other small agricultural business owners save money on their energy bills through renewable energy systems or energy efficiency improvements.

If taking care of all seven tips at once might seem daunting, try a couple at a time. You’ll enjoy the benefits of lower usage and utility bills. After all, energy efficiency just makes more cents.

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