Tips for Small Businesses to Reduce Energy
Canadians are marking Earth Day this week, taking time to think about their energy use and working to reduce their impact on our environment. Many of us focus mostly on power use at home, or how we get to and from work. But small business owners can bring about wider change by adopting green, energy-saving practices in their office environment as well. The results aren’t just good for the planet – they’ll save you money, too. Here are some tips to help reduce energy consumption at your small business.
Get the lights right
Changing your lighting, and your habits around use of lights, can have an impact on your energy bill. If you still use incandescent bulbs, consider switching to compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Both cost more than incandescent bulbs but use substantially less power and last as much as 15 times longer, meaning you’ll end up saving significantly more than you spend. Remember, however, that CFLs contain toxic mercury and should be disposed of carefully. Check to see whether your local area has a recycling system in place before throwing them into the trash.
Whatever type of lights you have, make sure they’re cleaned regularly. Removing dirt, grease and grime from bulbs and lighting systems will improve their output and keep your office brighter.
Avoid wasting electricity by adding motion sensors in bathrooms, kitchens, storage areas and anywhere else that isn’t in constant use. Turn off lights in meeting rooms and common areas when they’re empty, and shut off as many lights as possible at the end of each day without compromising safety and security. Adjust timers to account for longer daylight hours in summer months. If your office or storefront gets plenty of natural light, consider turning lights off entirely on sunny days. If possible, add a skylight to boost the amount of natural light in your workplace – it’ll also aid with ventilation in the summertime.
Control your computers (and other office equipment)
Consider buying a laptop or notebook computer the next time you need an upgrade: they consume less power than desktops. For all your business machines, especially printers and copiers, activate the energy saving mode so they don’t suck up as much power between times of frequent use. Computers should be shut down at the end of each day, or put into hibernate mode so you can pick up where you left off while still saving energy. Eliminate ‘phantom’ power costs by installing smart power strips that cut electricity to machines and devices that go into standby mode when switched off.
Going paperless as much as possible is another good way to save both money and energy. You’ll reduce your printer use, and the cost of buying toner and supplies.
Keep your cool
In summer months, cooling costs can add up fast. Install a programmable thermostat in your workplace and set it to cool before you arrive, then warm up again shortly before you leave at the end of the day. Whenever you’re running your air conditioning system, keep all external doors closed. Some business owners believe an open door is a welcome invitation to potential customers to wander in, but it’s a big waste of power to blast cold air out into the street.
Save money by installing fans. Ceiling fans are the most efficient, and can work in both summer and winter. Run them counter-clockwise in the hotter months to draw warm air away from the floor, then reverse the direction when seasons change to push warm air down. Window fans and floor fans are also helpful, allowing you to dial the thermostat up a few degrees without losing your cool. Give the chill factor a boost by placing frozen water bottles in front of fans. Remember, however, that fans don’t actually lower the temperature of a room, they just make it feel cooler by creating a breeze. Shut them down when you leave a room in order to save power.
Have a plan, and get an audit
Take some time to review your energy spending over the past year, or several years, and look for any spikes. Knowing when your costs are liable to climb will help you adjust your behaviour, and encourage you to look for savings. If your local utility or power company offers an energy audit service, have an expert come to your workplace. They’ll assess your usage and offer suggestions for potential savings.
Engage your employees
Get your staff involved in your environmental awareness and energy saving efforts. Post reminders around your workplace, and encourage your employees to participate in power-conscious activities, such as switching off lights and shutting down computers and other machines. Reward people who practice power saving habits, or those who provide suggestions on ways to improve and enhance energy efficiency.
Finally, be proud of what you do to reduce energy use at your small business. Share success stories with your customers – if they’re environmentally conscious, you’ll be giving them another good reason to keep bringing you their business.