If you’re like most small business owners, profit margins are never quite as wide as you wish they were. While your business may be doing well, there’s always some level of unpredictability that can have a dramatic impact on your bottom line.
In order to handle these challenges and help your business continue to grow, you need to do everything in your power to try and control the costs that can quickly consume your profits.
One of the most effective ways to protect your bottom line is to control your energy costs. Your utility bills can vary wildly from month to month, depending on factors like heating and cooling, equipment malfunctions, and even the cost of energy itself.
The question then becomes: What steps can you take to keep your energy costs as low as possible without impacting your business? After all, you could just shut off the air conditioning during the summer, but those savings aren’t going to be worth the business you might lose (not to mention the misery of your employees).
With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of some of the ways that you can take control of your small business’s energy usage by reducing waste and increasing efficiency.
Steps for Lowering Your Energy Usage
While many of these suggestions are common sense ways that you can implement best practices for energy usage, several of the items are specifically targeted at how you heat and cool your business, an area in which you can find huge savings every month.
Pay Attention to Equipment Efficiency
Since 1992, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified products that are energy-efficient, labeling them with ENERGY STAR stickers.
This program allows consumers to choose equipment that offers them the biggest bang for their utility bucks! Check the ENERGY STAR website before making a purchase to ensure that you’re choosing a model that won’t waste energy.
Install Energy Efficient Bulbs…
Some businesses have unique lighting needs, but with advances in illumination technology, it’s easier than ever to save electricity with your light bulbs. Get rid of old incandescent bulbs and opt instead for either LED or CFL bulbs. LED bulbs are especially efficient and long-lasting.
…And Turn the Lights Off
Do you remember when your parents used to keep telling you to turn the lights off when you left a room? Well, nothing’s changed since then. Instead of keeping your entire business illuminated all day long, consider adding motion sensors to turn off lights in areas that are only occasionally used, like conference rooms or bathrooms.
Natural Light is Free
Windows provide free light all year long — try to take advantage of it whenever possible. Of course, it’s not always convenient to rely on windows for illumination, but whenever you have the opportunity, you should let the sunshine in. Want an added bonus? During the winter, sunlight can help to keep your business warm if you use solar heating!
Turn Your Equipment Off When You’re Done
Sometime in the late 1990s, people became convinced that it was better to leave their computers on around the clock. After all, they could save time when the device was booting up, and the startup process was supposed to shorten the lifespan of the computer.
Of course, these days technology is better—and we’re a little savvier. Turning off your computer at the end of the day will save you a bundle.
Avoid Energy “Vampires”
Even after turning off your equipment at the end of the day, these electronics can still continue to draw power. These “vampires” sip electricity for a number of reasons, from powering clocks to staying in a “standby” mode that most people don’t really need.
Try connecting these vampires (including printers, coffeemakers, and anything else that has a light) to a power strip, so you can easily switch it off at the end of the day.
Stay Aware of Peak Demand
In most areas, the cost of power doesn’t stay the same all day long. During peak hours, energy prices rise, which means that it will cost you more to use the same amount of electricity that you’d use during off-peak times.
While peak times are generally between 9 am and 5 pm, you can adjust your business functions somewhat to avoid peak demand, especially if you’re running industrial equipment.
Energy Savings Extends Outside of Your Door
If you own your building (or have control over the exterior), there are a number of ways that you can cut costs outside your business. You can plant some trees for extra shade, for instance, especially if you have large windows that face the afternoon sun.
You can also address the roof, either by adding a reflective roof coating to reflect the sun’s rays, or better yet, installing a green rooftop, which reduces cooling and heating costs and counts toward LEED certification.
Train Your Employees
All of the energy-saving tricks in the world won’t mean a thing if your employees don’t observe your new procedures! Most of the time, it doesn’t take much to train your employees to do the simple, everyday things that cut your energy costs.
Whether they’re environmentally conscious or simply want to save the company some money, it shouldn’t be hard to bring the team onboard.
In order to make sure you’re as energy efficient as possible, you should take advantage of an energy audit. In an energy audit, a professional can come to your business and look for ways that you could be saving money on your energy bills.
Controlling Climate Costs
Looking to control your electricity bills with a little help from your climate control systems? Here are some tips:
Use Programmable Thermostats
It’s hard to overestimate how much money you can save with a programmable thermostat. By setting times for your HVAC system to automatically turn up or down, you can dramatically lower the amount of power your system consumes during the day.
After all, there’s no reason to keep things toasty in the winter and cool in the summer when no one’s there!
Keep HVAC Systems Well-Maintained
Keeping up with regular maintenance on your company’s HVAC system will save you tons of money over the lifetime of your equipment. Not only does well-maintained HVAC equipment work at higher efficiency, but you’ll also avoid expensive repairs by catching small problems before they can develop into something more serious.
An important part of HVAC maintenance is to have your equipment tuned up at least annually. During these annual visits, your HVAC technician will clean your system and fix small problems, which boosts your efficiency and improves your indoor air quality.
You should also make sure to change your air filters as frequently as your manufacturer recommends—this can help to protect your investment in your climate control systems.
Make Sure You Have the Right HVAC Equipment
Depending on the age of your HVAC system, it may make sense to replace your older gear with new, more energy-efficient equipment. Not only can you save on increasing repair costs, but the technology in new equipment could be light years beyond what you previously had installed.
When you’re replacing equipment, though, make sure you choose the right model for your business’s size. While a bigger unit will certainly provide you with more than enough cold or hot air, the investment will be excessive, and you may end up spending way more than you need to in order to keep it running.
Start Running Fans
It’s a simple step, but adding fans in your workplace can improve the efficiency of your HVAC system by evenly distributing air throughout your space. Whether you have a small storefront or a large warehouse, the cost of running fans is far less than running your heater or air conditioner.
Stop the Leaks
You’d be surprised at how much of your energy bill you spend on heating or air conditioning the air just outside of your business. Even small leaks can end up costing you a bundle every month.
Have a professional look for any drafts in your building, especially around doors and windows, as well as throughout your ducts. It’s also worth examining your roof, which can quickly develop cracks and holes that let the air out, but also let water in.
The Bottom Line
There are so many ways for you to cut your energy costs that it can seem almost overwhelming. But for the most part, these steps represent easy actions that you and your employees can take. Best of all, the savings start to add up quickly.
When you cut your energy usage, you’ll find that your monthly energy bills will stop fluctuating quite so much. However, this is only one way to improve your bottom line.
As you continue investing in reducing your energy costs, you should look out for any local, state, or federal incentives for purchasing or installing green equipment. These incentives, including tax credits and rebates, are simple, direct ways to make energy efficiency pay for itself.
Between saving money and saving the environment, there’s no reason to put off making your business as energy efficient as possible.