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Reduce Your Energy Diet: Tips for Businesses

Every small and medium business needs energy, but may not need as much as it uses.

If you carefully track your monthly energy costs, you may find ways to improve efficiency and lower your electric and natural gas bills.

By focusing on your energy use in at least 5 key areas, you may be able to significantly reduce your costs.

  • Lighting
    • Use LED, fluorescent or compact fluorescent lighting (LED bulbs use far less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs, do not produce the same levels of heat, and last much longer).
    • Light only areas necessary for production and safety, and only when necessary.
    • Use 1/2 banks of lights when daylight is available to outer areas.
    • Motion sensors in certain rooms (including restrooms, closets and conference rooms) can help you significantly cut lighting costs.
    • Use LED fixtures in “exit” signs. While they may be more expensive on the front end, LED fixtures last longer than more traditional lighting and use far less energy.
    • Implement workplace policies for turning off lights or dimming them at night and on weekends (if possible).
    • Contact your electric utility regarding Demand Side Management (DSM) programs for lighting or specific incentives for energy efficiency.
  • Air Conditioning, Heating, & Refrigeration
    • Have a qualified commercial HVAC contractor audit your building to determine if there are any internal heat sources that should be exhausted rather than cooled, and whether heat from these sources can be distributed within your building to help lower your winter heating bill.
    • Have your heating and air conditioning equipment serviced regularly by a professional and change filters regularly. If the units work as efficiently as possible, you’ll save money.
    • Make sure your buildings are properly insulated and ventilated. Having the proper amount of both is crucial to energy efficiency.
    • Check ductwork regularly to ensure there are no leaks.
    • Install an automated building management system for HVAC and lighting. These may range from a simple programmable thermostat to an integrated control panel covering your entire building.
    • If you do not need to heat or cool storage rooms, warehouses or unused spaces, seal them off or take other steps so energy is not wasted in those areas.
    • Closing curtains, shades and blinds during the day in summer – but keeping them open during the winter – will help with energy efficiency.
    • Maintain refrigeration equipment regularly. This includes cleaning the coils and checking the seals to make sure they are airtight.
    • Consider replacing older equipment sooner rather than later. Newer equipment may be much more energy efficient and may qualify for federal income tax credits (depending on current programs).
    • When shopping for appliances, read the yellow and black Energy Guide label on each appliance and look for the Energy Star label. Energy Star products operate well above the federal minimum standards for energy efficiency.
    • Don’t underestimate how landscaping can improve your energy efficiency.
      • Deciduous trees on the south and west sides of buildings will block sunlight in the summer but let it hit the buildings during winter. Evergreen trees to the north will help protect buildings from winter winds.
      • Concrete and rocks will hold and radiate heat year-round (an advantage in winter but a disadvantage in summer).
    • Contact your electric and natural gas utilities regarding Demand Side Management (DSM) programs or energy efficiency billing incentives for businesses.
  • Computers, Printers, & Copiers
    • Use the “sleep modes” on computers, monitors, printers, copiers, fax machines and other appliances for lower energy use.
    • Newer, flat-screen monitors use less power (and space).
    • Network several users to fewer printers and consider using a multifunctional device (including a printer, scanner, high volume copier, etc.) to replace several energy consuming devices.
    • When buying computers and other appliances, look for those with the Energy Star label. Energy Star appliances far exceed federal efficiency standards.
    • Implement workplace policies for turning computers, copiers, and other devices off at night and on weekends (if possible).
  • Electric Motors
    • Have technicians inspect motors regularly to ensure proper alignment, lubrication and cleanliness.
    • Cycle motors off (such as exhaust fans and air handlers) when not in use or when the building is not occupied.
    • Use variable frequency drives (variable speed motors) wherever possible.
    • Purchase higher efficiency motors at the time of replacement. These may cost more on the front end, but will pay for themselves and save money in the long run because of reduced energy use.
  • Hot Water
    • Lower your water heater temperature to 120 degrees (except for medical, food service, and certain other entities that should follow local code requirements).
    • Instantaneous (or “flash”) heaters, located close to the sink, may help you use less water and less energy to heat it.
    • Insulating water heaters and pipes may save you money, if you use older units and carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
    • When shopping for new water heating equipment, read the yellow and black Energy Guide label on the appliance. Also look for the Energy Star label.
    • If you use a boiler system that also meets your hot water needs, it may be worth adding a separate water heater. If you do, you may be able to shut off the boiler during summer.
    • Remember that if an appliance is water-efficient, it is likely to be energy-efficient, too.

Local and regional resources, including the Purdue Technical Assistance Program, can help you in getting a handle on your energy diet and finding ways to cut costs.

A professional energy audit may also be a wise investment. Your energy utilities may be able to offer expertise or direct you to more resources. Small Business Development Centers may also be able to offer information on energy audits.