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10 Things Your Business Can Do To Reduce Energy Costs

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With the recent heat wave across the U.S., businesses are paying more for power due to the higher demand.  As demand increases, generation is dispatched economically, meaning the cheapest generation gets loaded first. As demand grows, increasingly more expensive generators are put on line or ramped up to meet the growing need. In a nutshell: the greater the load, the higher the overall price for power.

What can businesses do to tame higher prices? The best answer: trim your power usage. In a concerted effort, this has the effect of lowering demand and bringing prices back down. I found the following list of 10 tips for businesses to reduce their energy use that I wanted to share.

1.  Keep control of heating & cooling.  By simply reducing the heating temperatures in your business by 1 degree in winter can cut your heating bill by up to 8%. If possible, open up the blinds or curtains on a sunny day and turn the heater off.  In warmer months, setting your air conditioner’s temperature just 1 degree higher than usual can reduce the power it uses by up to 10%. Positioning thermostats away from draughts and direct sunlight ensures they are accurate.

2.  Avoid wastage. You can save up to 75% of total heat loss by closing doors to colder rooms on cooler days, and closing doors to warmer rooms on hotter days. Fitting draught excluders and making sure your premises are well insulated can be very cost effective.  Keeping doors and windows closed when heating or air conditioning is running will also save on costs.

3.  Minimize artificial lighting & replace existing lighting with a more efficient option. By having the windows and skylights clean, you can cut the amount you spend on lighting. If you are working in one part of a room, isolate the lights to that area only. Label switches so your staff only turn on the lights they need, and turn them off completely at the end of a working day. You could also consider installing presence and daylight sensors to turn the lights on and off automatically. Switch your existing lighting to a more efficient lighting system - there are plenty of options available, and the annual savings are considerable.

4.  Use energy-saving features. Most electronic office equipment such as printers and photocopiers have energy-saving capabilities. Train your staff on how to use these features.

5.  Switch off office equipment when not in use. A single computer and monitor left on 24 hours a day can cost more than $90 a year. Switching it off after hours will conserve energy and reduce your energy bill. You could also fit seven-day timers to ensure equipment like printers and photocopiers are turned off overnight and on weekends. ENERGY STAR© computers with a sleep mode consume up to 80% less energy than conventional computers, with laptops up to 90%. Setting PCs to go into sleep mode when not in use can save up to 70% of the energy they consume when in full power mode.

6.  Make sure your equipment & systems are well maintained. A properly maintained heating and cooling system should work more efficiently than one that is not maintained. This should save energy and running costs.

7.  Out with the old…update your heating and cooling systems. If your old air conditioner or heater is not working at maximum efficiency, it could cost you money and use a lot of unnecessary power. By replacing air conditioners and heaters that are more than 10 years old, you can save up to 40% on your annual heating and cooling energy costs.

8.  Invest well. When purchasing PCs, monitors, printers, fax machines and copiers, consider ENERGY STAR© models that power down after a user-specified period of inactivity. If appropriate, use inkjet printers - they consume 90% less energy than laser printers. Purchase appropriately sized copiers for your business’s needs.  Look for the energy rating label when purchasing new appliances and equipment – the more stars the better.

9.  Get your staff involved in the effort to save power. Create an energy-efficient work culture in your business. Saving energy will require your employees to take on some of the responsibility, so make sure to consult them before changing your practices, and ensure everyone is on board in the effort to reduce power usage.

10.  Time-shift your workload, if possible. For companies with extended business hours, change the time you work from on-peak hours, when energy demand is at a premium, to off-peak hours, when demand has tapered and energy prices are lower.

Posted: July 25, 2013