The start of winter can be tough for many small and medium-size businesses. Shorter days and colder weather can throw operating costs out of whack, and dwindling budgets make it difficult to implement major changes. Plus, if you’re located in a cooler climate, there’s a good chance your electric rate is increasing for the next 4-6 months.
But you don’t have to let winter energy woes put a damper on your holiday season. There are many easy (and free!) ways you can cut energy expenses and save money this winter – and you’ll continue to reap the benefits well into the summer.
1. Start with what you’ve got
You don’t need to buy fancy new gadgets or devices to realize savings. Start by looking around your facility for potential savings that won’t cost a penny.
Ceiling Fans: did you know that by reversing the direction of ceiling fans, you can keep your building warm without turning up the heat? All you have to do is switch the fan to run clockwise and it will circulate the warm air by pulling it down and away from the ceiling.
Window Blinds: during the day open the blinds on south-facing windows to allow the sunlight to naturally heat your building. Just be sure to close them at night so you don’t lose heat through the exposed glass.
Water Heaters: most water heaters are set to 140 degrees, which is 20 degrees higher than necessary. Even a 10-degree temperature reduction can cut energy use by 3-5%, and insulating the tank and pipes can cut usage by 4-9%.
Energy Rates: are you located in a deregulated market? If so, start shopping around for a new energy rate because there’s a good chance you’re paying too much. Even a small rate reduction can lead to big savings. Current bidding technology makes the energy procurement process fast, easy, and transparent so you can be sure you’re getting the best rate possible. See an example here.
2. Spend a little, save a lot
Consider these low-cost solutions to see even greater savings without breaking the bank.
Programmable Thermostats: why pay to heat empty space? A programmable thermostat allows you to control when you heat your building, which spaces you heat, and at what temperature. Setting the temperature back during unoccupied hours reduces energy use, and a programmable thermostat ensures the building is nice and warm when staff arrive for work. Tip: set the temperature to 68 during work hours and 55-60 when the building is unoccupied.
In the US alone, $700 million is wasted annually when buildings are not set to “unoccupied” mode on holidays!
LED Lighting: shorter days = longer run time for your lights, resulting in higher energy bills. Switching to LED’s is a quick and easy way to save on energy costs and the benefits will last all year round. LED’s use 75% less energy than traditional bulbs, and their average lifespan is 50,000 hours, making them virtually-maintenance free. Plus they put out better light quality, increase safety, and improve curb appeal. The cost of LEDs has declined significantly in recent years, making the technology more affordable with a quick payback.
Building Envelope: prevent cold air from infiltrating your space by replacing weather stripping and caulking around windows, doors, and building corners.
3. Give long term upgrades some thought
Insulation: if you find yourself or staff constantly turning up the heat, consider improving insulation in the ceiling and exterior walls. The great thing about insulation is that it pulls double duty, reducing heating costs in winter and cooling costs in the summer.
HVAC: proper maintenance can save anywhere from 5-20% of on energy bills, so start with a tune up to ensure the system is working properly. Have an HVAC professional clean coils, calibrate sensors, replace air filters, and verify that the damper is working properly. Once the system is in top shape, consider an HVAC retrofit to see BIG savings. Not only will a retrofit improve energy efficiency, but it will also extend the life of the existing unit and reduce maintenance costs.