How To Save Energy in the Office During the Summer
Energy costs are important to small business owners who understand the value of every dollar they spend and never want to pay more than is necessary. Of course, it’s hard to run a successful business if your workplace isn’t at the right temperature. The high humidity and searing heat of summer can sap you and your employees of the strength and concentration required for a full day of work.
So, what’s the best way to keep your business cool without spending a bundle? Here are a few ways you can chill out this summer and save on energy.
Air conditioning & thermostat
Make sure your air conditioning unit gets the regular maintenance it needs to keep running smoothly – an annual spring tune-up is the best way to ensure your system is operating at peak efficiency. Outside units should be kept clear of leaves and debris. Inside, make sure vents and fans don’t get clogged with dust, and keep furniture out of the way so cold air doesn’t get blocked behind a desk or filing cabinet.
Get a programmable thermostat if you don’t already have one – newer ‘smart’ thermostats can even be controlled online via an app, whether you’re in the office or meeting with clients a hundred kilometres away. Adjust the settings to allow the temperature to rise overnight or whenever your workplace is empty, then set it up to come on again an hour or so before people show up the next day. For peak efficiency, set the temperature to start rising again in the final hour of the day, just before you head home.
Location matters with a thermostat – make sure it’s not too close to anything hot or cold, such as an appliance, a sunny window, or an exit door. If external factors are affecting your thermostat, it might be working harder than it needs to.
What condition are your windows in? Are they old and leaky, or clean and new? For maximum efficiency with both cooling and heating, it’s often worth investing in new, energy efficient windows. Even if your windows are decent, make sure to give the tracks a good clean at least once a year – dirt and grime in the window frame can affect the seal and allow air to escape.
If your windows can be opened, crank them open and let the breeze blow in to cool the space down. If possible, open windows in multiple rooms to cross-ventilate your space – use fans to assist with moving the air around, if necessary. If they’re an option at your office, opening skylights is another great way to allow warm air to escape.
If summer sun streams through the windows of your workplace and overheats everyone inside, use translucent blinds to cut down on the glare without robbing yourself of too much natural light. Or, if you prefer, go all the way and install blackout coverings to stop the sun entirely. Alternatively, install retractable awnings outside to shade windows when needed, then wind them up and out of sight once the sun goes down or moves elsewhere.
Use floor fans and ceiling fans to keep a light breeze moving around your workplace. The effect of a fan is often enough to allow you to turn the thermostat up by one or two degrees. Ceiling fans should have a reverse setting that lifts warm air up – switch it again in the winter so rising warm air is pushed back down toward the floor.
One final note about fans and energy efficiency: fans don’t actually cool the air, they just move it around and cool anyone who feels the resulting breeze. As such, there’s no point in leaving fans running inside an empty room, so save power and turn them off when you’re not around. If you’re using a fan to cross-ventilate, however, feel free to let it run as long as it’s effective.
Incandescent bulbs give off heat, so consider replacing them with power-friendly LEDs. These long-lasting lighting systems use even less power than fluorescent bulbs and create a pleasant, bright light. LEDs now cost less than ever before, another great reason to switch. If you’ve got a big workplace and don’t want to spend a ton of money on new lights all at once, phase in your replacement over several months to make the financial outlay a little more manageable.
Dress down for summer
Assuming it’s appropriate and stays suitably professional, consider relaxing the dress code a little during the summer months – you won’t need to turn the air conditioning up so high if you and your staff switch jackets and ties for a nice polo shirt, or choose sandals instead of shoes.