Business owners might look back fondly on a time when embracing energy efficiency felt like a forward-thinking, friendly kind of gesture toward someone interesting, a person you might want to get to know better someday. Early efforts to conserve electricity were like the polite side hugs or “attaboy” pats on the back associated with casual acquaintances. (“I’ll call you. Let’s do lunch!”)
Today, the need to conserve energy within an era of spiked energy bills and strained electric grids feels more like the desperate clutchings of a drowning swimmer. Long gone are the days when facility owners had the luxury of anticipating a future with greater energy efficiency as an evolved, socially-conscious, mostly optional choice.
Indeed, today’s energy conservation conversation has an edge of seriousness to it that just didn’t exist before, back when the future was a long way away. That future is right here, right now, and the only choice is really not much of a choice at all.
Something has to give before that monthly electricity bill fundamentally changes the way you do business. For some business owners, the failure to adapt and embrace energy-saving technologies might signal the beginning of the end for their business altogether.
Say Hello to Your New Top Priority
We get it. Energy efficiency has not always been the top priority for business owners. There are so many other fires to put out, and sometimes the desire to promote more efficient or sustainable operations can simply end up on the back burner.
There are important reasons for small businesses to be more energy-efficient, however. There are also reasons for a business to embrace sustainability that can have a positive impact on the entire organization and its competitiveness.
After all, sustainability isn’t just about the environment. If you dream of running your business this time next year, there is a solid business case to be made for sustainability.
And, as we mentioned before, today’s energy costs can represent an existential threat for businesses that don’t embrace energy conservation as a front-burner issue. It really is time to make energy savings one of the most important areas of focus for your business.
The Thousand Mile Journey and That Famous First Step
Facility owners sometimes think of energy conservation as a daunting task, like a never-ending chore. For many business owners, the idea of beginning the effort is overwhelming.
Many business owners feel that they don’t have the money or resources to put into sustainability and energy efficiency practices. Others just have limited time to dedicate to the project.
Other business owners might actually be excited about the prospect of transforming their facilities into more energy-efficient operations, but they may also be unsure about how to begin. Taking on an energy efficiency project can feel overwhelming even to those people who see the clear value in making a change.
The good news is that the barriers are not at all like the challenges faced by early adopter efficiency warriors even just a few years ago. There are more products, programs, services, and support than ever before, and the long, hard journey toward lower energy consumption is really not that long. (It’s not that hard, either.)
Any business owner interested in saving money on energy costs can quickly and easily get started on an efficiency project that delivers immediate results. The first step, as always, involves making a plan.
Creating an Efficiency Plan
The first step for any small business is to create a general plan and strategy for how the business will be more efficient and sustainable. This should include immediate tweaks and low- or no-cost changes that can be implemented right away, as well as more significant, long-term strategies.
For example, in the short term, maybe the goal is to lower energy costs each month. In the long term, however, you could establish percentage cost reduction goals to be met year-over-year.
Along with creating a plan, integrate ways that you’ll get employee buy-in. Employees are your most important resource when it comes to sustainability and efficiency. Little changes they make to the way they use energy can go a long way to helping your business meet its energy efficiency goals.
Involve your employees, and find a way to get them excited about the changes taking place at the business. Sustainable, energy-efficient businesses promote conservation as an enduring part of the work culture, and getting employee buy-in from the start can help with that.
As you’re creating a plan for sustainability, perform an energy audit. Since you want to make improvements and encourage employees to do the same, you need to have a baseline from which to begin.
An energy audit will help you see how much energy you’re currently using, and will identify specific areas of your operation where you can make meaningful changes. During an energy audit, a professional will point out areas where you may have air leaks or places where you could replace your current lighting with energy-efficient bulbs and fixtures.
Lastly, research small business energy incentives and rebates that you may be eligible for. In the lighting and electrical industry, many manufacturers, utility companies, and government entities offer rebate programs that encourage consumers to embrace high-efficiency technologies.
Lighting Efficiency Tips
Lighting is one of the largest consumers of electricity for businesses. As a small business, you can have a lighting audit conducted which will not only help identify current lighting issues but will also guide you through the process of identifying the proper lighting and lumens output for your space.
In a lighting audit, the lighting expert will typically conduct a lighting snapshot. From this lighting snapshot, she will determine what type of lighting you currently have, how many fixtures of each type, and the energy savings available to you when you retrofit to LED lighting.
This is important because there are foot-candle requirements and color rendering considerations that an expert can help you with. For example, in sporting arenas, warehouses, and other large, open venues, LED high bay lighting can deliver the quantity and quality of light required with fewer, more energy-efficient fixtures than are currently installed.
Below are three lighting snapshot worksheets that business owners can print and use when considering upgrading the lighting at their facility. Whether you are thinking about doing the work yourself, or you’re planning to hire a commercial lighting contractor, these worksheets will help you manage the project more efficiently.
If your location is smaller and does not have a large variety of lights, this is the only worksheet that you will need. Simply list each lamp’s information along with the approximate hours they are used each month. You can use this to calculate how much energy your lighting consumes and how much energy your new LED lighting will save you. Download the printable worksheet here.
If you have a larger facility or if you have a wide variety of lamps and fixtures, use this worksheet along with the Room Count worksheet to inventory your facility. Give each lamp type a reference number that you will use in the Room Count to designate what type of lights are in each room. This saves time because you only have to write information about your lamps once and then refer back to it when you count. Download the printable worksheet here.
Use the Lamp Inventory to reference what types of lights are in each room, how many there are, and how many hours per month, on average, they are used. Not only will this information be critical to decisions about what type of lights you will need, but it will also be a valuable help upon installation. Download the printable worksheet here.
In addition, you can realize even more lighting savings by swapping traditional light switches for motion-sensing light switches. You can also add dimmers in rooms with windows so you don’t use as much electricity during daylight hours.
Lastly, businesses that upgrade their parking lot lighting to the latest LED technology can reduce energy usage even more. A parking lot lighting contractor can help a business design the right lighting solution within municipal guidelines.
Remember: Parking lot lights in need of repair can also use energy even when the lights are not on! Do not make the mistake of assuming a broken parking lot light has no impact on your energy bill.
General Tips for a More Efficient Office
The following are great places to start working toward more efficiency and sustainability in your workplace, and many of these solutions are free or low-cost to implement.
- Use energy-efficient light bulbs. This is undoubtedly one of the simplest changes you can make. Remove your incandescent bulbs or fluorescent tubes, and replace them with efficient LED bulbs and fixtures. This will help you save a significant amount on your electricity costs, and the return on investment will be high.
- Use natural light whenever possible. Natural light can reduce the electricity you’re using, and it has the added benefit of being uplifting to employees and helping improve productivity.
- Encourage employees to turn off lights when they aren’t being used. You can also utilize lighting controls with sensors, so they automatically turn off when there’s no one using the space. Occupancy sensors are a great way to keep lights off in places like conference rooms or storage areas if no one is there.
- Use fans to improve airflow and help reduce the energy used by your AC system.
- Encourage casual dress whenever possible in your workplace, especially in the hot summer months. This will keep employees comfortable and cooler, so you can keep your thermostat at a higher setting.
- Have employees turn off office equipment when not in use or at the end of the day. Many people don’t realize that certain devices, such as computers, appliances, and office equipment all continue to use energy even when no one is actually using them. Turn them off and unplug them whenever possible. Unplugging is important because even if a device is turned off but is still plugged in, it may be using what’s called “phantom energy.” Smart controls can also be used to power down outlets after a certain number of hours of inactivity.
- Consider installing a programmable thermostat to help reduce energy use when no one is at work. Additionally, if you set your thermostat just one degree higher in the summer months, it can reduce the power usage of an HVAC system by as much as 10%. Smart building controls can also be used to control your HVAC system, maintaining optimal comfort and reducing energy consumption year-round.
- Make sure your heating and air equipment are regularly maintained. Faulty HVAC equipment and dirty air filters can easily cause your monthly energy bills to increase.
Other Sustainability Tips for Your Small Business
Some other tips to consider integrating into your small business that are not just for energy efficiency, but for general sustainability as well, include:
- If possible, encourage telecommuting at least sometimes. Employees tend to favor a flexible work environment, and it can reduce their carbon footprint, as well as your overhead costs. You’ll use less energy if you have fewer employees in the office when possible.
- Monitor your office supplies and make sure you’re not over-ordering or being wasteful in how they’re used.
- Stop printing so much if possible.
- Rather than printing materials to hand out during meetings, is it possible to send them electronically? For example, if you’re meeting with someone, rather than giving them paper copies of your presentation you can send them a slideshow or give them access to it during the meeting.
- Do an audit of your hard copy mailing lists and make sure they only include people that you absolutely want to be sending mail to.
- Add greenery to your office space, which will absorb pollutants, and make the air healthier. It will also make for a more lively and aesthetically pleasing work environment for your employees and your customers.
- Consider having your office building L.E.E.D. Certified. LEED-certified buildings are safer and greener and save on maintenance costs over a building’s life cycle.
What many small business owners should know is that being energy efficient and sustainable is much easier to put into action than they might believe. Plus, in the end, the business benefits far outweigh the possible costs of making moves to be more efficient.
Energy Efficiency: An Important Conversation Whose Time Has Come
This article has at best only scratched the surface of some of the issues related to upgrading or retrofitting an existing commercial building to become more energy efficient. The topic continues to evolve in real-time, with new developments arising almost monthly.
While remarkable progress has been made with the means and methods to improve building energy efficiency over the past few decades, significant developments are still on the horizon. Many commercial systems and efficiency approaches are only now beginning to move toward the theoretical limits we’ve heard about from researchers over the years.
For now, facility owners should focus on the specific solutions that are currently available and that have been proven to be effective at lowering facility operating costs. Solutions such as programmable LED lighting and smart building controls lead the way in this discussion.
And when you’re ready to get serious about reducing energy costs through system upgrades or a facility retrofit, you need to contact an expert with a reputation for delivering lasting value.
With respect, we’d like to suggest you contact us.
Retrofitting With a Mission Since 1982
For the past 40 years, FSG has been in the customer solutions business, supporting facility owners and managers as they work to manage their evolving lighting, HVAC control, and smart building technology requirements.
Our designers and field technicians work at the very top of their profession, with certifications and experience that deliver reliable solutions to meet your present and future needs. Plus, with our national reach, we can seamlessly provide our services wherever you are.
Call us today at (877) 293-6689 to find out how FSG can deliver immediate options for you as you explore ways to increase your building’s energy efficiency and overall appeal.
Also, make sure to check out the energy-efficient lighting and controls products available 24-7 at our online store. When you order from FSG, you get more than just top-quality products. You also get the security of buying your products from industry professionals who have vetted those products for you.