If you ask small business owners to name their number one unpredictable expense, many will give you the same answer: energy costs. ENERGY STAR estimates that small businesses across the nation spend more than $60 billion a year on energy. Most of this energy is consumed in the form of electricity. So what’s a business owner to do? Get started by choosing energy efficient practices from the list below to reduce your small business energy costs.
There are many ways to save electricity in an office, and most can be made with small changes to employee behavior. Often, simply letting your staff know that you intend to be more conscious of energy costs and ways to save is enough to make them aware and conscientious about it, too! In case you're not sure where to begin, we gathered some of the most effective business energy saving tips to help jumpstart your cost savings. In the workplace, the main thing is to avoid using energy where it’s not absolutely needed. The office energy saving tips below can help you and your staff become aware of when and how that might be happening.
1. Get an energy audit. An energy audit can help determine your baseline energy use and offer a clear outline for ways to save energy at work. Many electric utility companies offer free audits. A professional will then come out to your business and do a full inspection of your location to check for air leaks, insulation issues, or opportunities to install energy-efficient lighting.
Pro tip: Make sure to contact your local utility company to inquire about a free audit, not your energy supplier. Check out our comparison of utilities vs energy suppliers here.
2. Purchase energy-efficient office equipment. Before you buy or lease office electronics, check to see if they are ENERGYSTAR-rated. An ENERGYSTAR-rated appliance has been evaluated and deemed energy-efficient, which can save you money and help you manage your small business energy costs, especially in the long run.
3. Reduce Peak Demand. One of the best ways to save electricity in an office is to reduce your peak demand. The phrase “peak demand” refers to the hours in a day when energy usage is at its highest. Peak demand times are typically normal office hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). You can reduce your demand during this time by staggering work hours / start times, running heavy equipment and factory equipment during the evening and early morning hours, and conserving energy throughout the day.
4. Program your thermostats. This is one of those office energy saving tips that is especially relevant for a 9-5 workplace. You don’t need to heat or cool a workplace after everyone has gone home for the night. Even if your team’s hours vary, using programmable or smart thermostats to manage the temperature during “off” hours can make a big difference. Pro tip: Want to know the best energy-saving temperature to set your thermostat to? Check out our Thermostat Guide to find the best temperatures for all occasions and seasons.
5. Turn off lights when not in use. It might seem like a no-brainer, but in a typical office, lights stay on in areas like break rooms, bathrooms, or conference rooms, even when those spaces aren’t being used. Sensor lights can help to keep the lights on when needed, but off when they’re not.
6. Use energy-efficient light bulbs. It's one of the easiest and simplest energy saving ideas in the workplace: switch out your regular incandescent bulbs with energy efficient bulbs such as CFL or LED. This will help you use a significantly less amount of electricity.
7. Take advantage of natural sunlight. If you’re fortunate enough to have an office space where there’s abundant natural light, use it! On a sunny day, you might not need to turn on the lights at all in areas where windows can give all the illumination you need. While using passive solar heating might not seem like one of the ways to save energy at work, it really does help. The fewer kilowatt hours of energy you use, the less you have to pay.
8. Start running fans. You can reduce your energy usage in the workplace simply and easily by running fans in offices, warehouses, showrooms and kitchens. Fans keep air flowing so your HVAC unit can run more efficiently.
9. Power down computers and other office equipment at the end of the day. If computers are not being used through the hours when your staff aren’t working, have your team be in the habit of shutting them down before they leave. Turning off and unplugging as many devices as possible at the end of the day is a simple way to cut back. This includes energy efficient coffee makers, toasters, and similar appliances.
10. Prevent “Phantom energy”. Phantom energy is the energy that is still being used by equipment that remains plugged in but not in use. A great office energy-saving tip is to have your computer peripherals (printers, monitors, etc.) connected to power strips (aka “surge protectors”) so that the flip of a single switch can shut down several devices at a time.
11. Think outside your building. Are you in control of the landscaping around your business? If so, you have a great opportunity to create energy-savings for your small business with energy-efficient landscaping. Strategically planting trees to block winds or provide shade on hot summer days can help reduce your heating and cooling costs.
12. Get employees engaged in energy-efficient practices. If you, as the business owner, are looking to reduce electricity costs, that’s great! But that may only get you so far. Inspiring employees to be energy-efficient in their day-to-day work lives may take some time, but check out our page on Improving Employee’s Energy-Saving Practices to see tips and tricks on how to raise morale while lowering small business energy costs.