Owning a small business comes with enough challenges without having to worry about your profits going out the door (or through the window) each winter. But making some minor changes and taking proactive steps to save energy can help keep your business’s energy costs low – and that makes all the difference for your bottom line.
1. Check the furnace
Without an efficiently running furnace, your energy costs can skyrocket. Making sure your furnace is working properly before the colder weather months can save you a bundle. Troubleshooting a furnace that isn’t working can be a relatively easy task, and if all else fails, there are professionals who you can call in to save the day. Don’t ignore the obvious – check your thermostat settings, the furnace switch, pilot light, or your breakers and keep your furnace user guide handy to work through any simple fixes. Make sure vents are open to provide the most efficient heating throughout your building or office. Consider investing in a smart thermostat to help automatically keep energy consumption low when nobody’s at work.
2. Check the windows
The last thing you want to do is upgrade your furnace only to make it work extra hard to keep up with warming a drafty office building. Replacing old windows with Energy Star certified windows can save homeowners up to 15 percent on energy costs – if your building is larger than a home, your savings can be even more. If a window replacement isn’t in your budget this year, make sure to caulk and add weather stripping around windows. Additionally, adding window treatments like draperies or cellular or honeycomb shades can improve energy efficiency by blocking heat loss in the winter and shading the interior from sun in the summer.
3. Check the lighting
If you’re upgrading or building new, consider skylights and other natural lighting options such as southern exposure windows to take advantage of daylight in your office space. Even simply changing the light bulb, however, can improve your energy savings. Smart LED light bulbs can be managed through your smartphone, letting you change settings remotely. These bulbs can be programmed to dim or reduce blue light later in the day, and they can be set to automatically turn on and off depending on whether your workers or clients are in the room. They use far less energy than incandescent bulbs, and they last for more than 20 years.
4. Check the water
Lowering the temperature on your water heater can save you a bunch. If your business doesn’t need hot water for anything but the bathrooms, there’s no sense in keeping temperatures hot. Energy Star recommends setting water heaters at 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Wrap your water heater in an insulating jacket to keep heat from escaping. Businesses that rely on hot water – such as restaurants, bakeries, and some small manufacturers – can consider an energy-efficient model of water heater. Commercial models come in a variety of energy-efficient versions, including solar, gas, or electric heat pump. Businesses can even integrate hot water heaters with boilers to achieve maximum efficiency. Seek advice from a professional if you’re not sure what you need. Additionally, smart water sensors can help detect leaks long before they become a disaster for you and your business, notifying you wherever you are when there’s a problem.
5. Check your tech
Upgrading to energy-efficient computers and other technology, such as printers and copiers, can help save you a bundle. While it’s tempting for a small business owner to turn to less expensive office equipment to stock the office, older computers run slower and hotter, draining energy and time. Better, faster tech not only increases productivity but saves money and impact on the environment in the long run. Older printers might need more ink to function as well as a newer model, for example, meaning more cartridges end up spent. Newer equipment comes in more efficient designs as well, freeing up more space to add chairs for clients, or decorative plants, which also help clean the air.
6. Check into energy-saving tax credits
If you’re planning to make upgrades to your building to make it more energy-efficient, look into small business energy tax credits. The U.S. Small Business Administration offers local and statewide options that can include assistance for energy efficiency, moisture protection, air leakage, ventilation, renewable energy upgrades, solar technology, and more. Check what’s available in your state or city. The IRS offers some credits and deductions to businesses for renewable energy or energy efficiency. It’s worth looking into some additional assistance if you’d like to make changes but aren’t sure about weathering the expense.
7. Check with other businesses
Learning from what other small businesses have done to save energy can be incredibly valuable. Connect with business owner organizations in your area and ask them about how they save on energy costs, and consider hiring an energy auditor to help pinpoint all the best ways for you to save energy in your building. Check this database of state incentives to find out about matching grants for hiring energy auditors for your business.
8. Check your habits
Sometimes saving energy doesn’t take much money at all – it can come down to a matter of how we behave. No smart sensors to turn down the thermostat automatically? Make it an office rule to keep the heat at 68 degrees during work hours and less when you go home for the day. Encourage sweaters or offer up company sweatshirts or jackets to keep people comfortable. Make sure people know to turn off lights in the bathrooms, storage rooms, and other places that don’t see frequent traffic. Tell employees to turn off their computers at the end of the day instead of letting them drop to sleep mode. Keep a water jug in the company fridge or have a water dispenser to keep people from running the tap. There are lots of ways you can make a difference simply by being aware of your energy use and making small changes to your daily habits.
Hilary Thompson is a freelance writer, small business owner, and mother of two. With a background in content strategy, journalism, and business management, she loves to explore solutions for success, in all areas: health, business, parenting, life.