What businesses need to know about becoming more energy efficient
For businesses big and small, energy is a major expense that continues to grow along with the steady rise of fuel and energy prices. Small businesses in the U.S. spend about $60 billion on energy each year.
It makes sense to invest in energy-efficient solutions, then, if only to recuperate some of the inordinate costs. But decreasing reliance on conventional energy sources, and retooling operations to make better use of available power, is easier said than done. Those same U.S. small businesses could stand to reduce utility costs by as much as 10% to 30% through strategic investments. And it can be done without sacrificing service, quality, and style.
The question is how? What are some things that businesses need to know about investing in more energy-efficient strategies?
1. Employ smart technologies
The internet of things enables true automation, especially when it comes to scheduling actions, devices, and beyond. You can, for example, program all of the lights to turn off at a certain time each night.
By employing smart technologies you can ensure everything from lighting to workstations is being powered down in the after-hours. That saves a lot of energy and also reduces total expenses in a big way. You can find smart switches, smart outlets, smart bulbs, and so much more.
2. Install solar panels
Most commercial and retail properties have open space on the roof that goes to waste. By installing solar panels, and incorporating renewable energy, it’s possible to reduce dependency on traditional fossil fuels thus improving sustainability.
With more power generated by natural sources, both energy consumption and power costs decrease, as well. What’s more, there are many federal and state tax incentives for solar energy systems, and in some places, you can sell extra power back to the grid.
3. Incorporate natural light
Even with energy-efficient bulbs installed, having the lights on all day and night can use vast amounts of energy. One way to counter this is to open up the office and workspace to allow for more natural light.
Depending on how big the windows are at your workplace, you might consider leaving blinds open, removing shutters or shades, or even creating a more open space. Painting the walls with brighter colors can also help improve natural light indoors.
4. Swap to LEDs
Light is a primary source of energy usage in most places, especially large offices and facilities, besides cooling and air conditioning. Swapping all bulbs and light sources to LEDs can offer up to as much as a 75% efficiency boost.
A common misconception is that all LEDs are soul-sucking, bright white colors, but that’s not true. You can find multi-color and ambient LEDs that offer unique temperatures like reds, blues, or a warm glow. Also, because they tend to be much brighter, you don’t need as many LED bulbs or light fixtures as you do with conventional bulbs.
5. Tune-up, clean, and monitor HVAC systems
Giving your HVAC and cooling systems a regular tune-up can also help improve energy efficiency. Regular maintenance like cleaning and changing out air filters is a good place to start.
You might also consider installing a smart thermostat to help regulate indoor temperatures. They can also learn usage habits to automate the cooling process. Similar to smart lighting, they can turn off cooling systems at night when no one is in the office, or they can automatically raise the temperature to reduce cooling costs.
6. Remove unnecessary equipment
Not everyone that works in the office needs a desktop computer or terminal. Sometimes, it’s more energy efficient to issue laptops, and allow workers to bring their own devices into the office.
Take stock of what equipment is available and what’s used daily, including how that affects power consumption. Then, try to eliminate some of the extraneous gear that’s rarely used or not necessary. This can be extended to include everything from lighting to copy machines, and so on.
7. Educate your teams
Outside of automating everything, it makes sense to get everyone on board with energy-efficient protocols. Train, educate, and remind workers about their responsibilities. If they make a habit of turning off lights, equipment, and reducing their footprint, the collective impact will be great.
8. Refresh insulation
Over time, the insulation and seals around windows and doors begin to weather. As that happens, they become less effective at trapping cold or warm air and preventing leaks. If you’re cooling an office with an outside wall, it’s going to take more energy and the HVAC system is going to work much harder.
It’s a good idea to refresh insulation or to have a high-grade sealant installed. In some extreme cases, it may be necessary to replace windows or doors, especially if they’re old and outdated. You might also consider having window tint installed to shield against heat-producing sunrays.
It’s not going to happen overnight
It’s important to understand that converting a power-dependent company to a more energy-efficient operation requires time and persistence. There are a lot of upgrades and changes that you can make, as well as your team. However, the impact is going to roll out slowly, and the cost savings may not be immediately apparent. That’s okay, it’s still worth the time and effort.
Moving towards high-sustainability and energy-efficiency levels is a commendable task, indeed. It’s also going to be incredibly beneficial in the long run, even more so with hybrid and remote work opportunities remaining a priority into the future.
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philly with her husband and pup, Bear.