For most companies, energy use is a necessary cost of doing business. From heating and cooling workspaces to transportation and electronics, business energy expenses are one of the top three costs incurred by 35% of small businesses according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
While energy costs impact a wide variety of small businesses, many do not know about the simple, cost effective ways to conserve energy. These opportunities vary across different areas and industries, but chances are your business could spend less. From tax credits to individual actions in your workplace, learn about nine different ways to run a more lean, profitable, and earth friendly business by saving on energy expenses.
1. Monitor Office-Wide Energy Use
One of the best ways to begin cost cutting is to have a clear sense of exactly how much you are spending on energy expenses. You can hire a company to conduct an energy audit, or you can start by simply spending time examining your utility bills. Pay attention to how costs vary from month to month and try to set some realistic goals for lowering energy usage.
Cost reduction involves every level of your business, so it is important to get your staff on board with the value of energy conservation. Make specific goals known to your employees and be sure to reward them for contributing useful ideas of their own. In no time, you can shave off costs and bring your team together under the banner of conservation and cost-effective energy use.
2. Consider Different Utility Suppliers and Fixed/Variable Rates
Thanks to utility deregulation, there are many areas where more than one retail supplier is available. Shop around for the best prices, but also pay attention to the credit rating and customer support offered by each retailer. You want to find the best option that balances prices, reliability and customer support, which will vary from one area to another based on your specific needs.
Beyond your energy retailer, you can choose to lock in a fixed or variable rate for your utilities. Fixed rates mean that you can set a clear baseline for your business across the year and not worry about spontaneous surges in utility costs, but variable rates mean that you can take advantage of the lowest rates available at different points in the year. Read up on the rate variations in your area and consider a fixed or variable rate based on whichever seems most cost effective.
3. Protect Your Business from Scams
Alongside competition for energy retailers comes the risk of scams and other predatory schemes. Only give your personal information to reputable dealers; do not be afraid to hang up the phone on pressuring cold callers and report any unprofessional or unsafe situations to your utility local oversight organization.
4. Tax Breaks and Incentives
Many states and localities offer tax incentives for using green electronics and alternative sources of energy. Research those that are available in your area in addition to Demand Response Programs and other opportunities offered by your utility retailor. Businesses that recycle their used cooking oil and donate it for biofuel production are also eligible for certain tax breaks.
5. Energy-Efficient Office Equipment on a Budget
One of the golden rules of energy conservation is to turn off equipment when it is not in use. This includes using power strips or unplugging unused electronics from wall sockets. Laptops use less energy than desktop computers, and reusable batteries offer a great alternative to disposable batteries. Look for Energy Star certified office equipment, as it can save you money on your bills and potentially qualify you for different tax breaks depending on your locality.
6. HVAC Upkeep: An Opportunity to Save
Heating and cooling your office space can be expensive, especially as your company grows into a larger space. Perform regular maintenance on your HVAC system and change filters to prevent needless spending. Use fans instead of air conditioning when possible, and be sure your space is well insulated. Even a casual dress code can go a long way to making your employees comfortable.
7. Lighting Options for Every Space
The most cost-effective light source is the sun, so strike a balance between temperature and natural light with blinds and other window fixtures. Be sure to turn off lights and other electronics not in use, and replace old light bulbs with halogen or LEDs.
8. Alternatives to Transportation Spending
From virtual meetings and carpooling to transitioning to vehicles with better fuel economy, there are many ways to cut spending on transportation. Consider switching from diesel and gasoline vehicles to electric or plugin hybrids or even biodiesel for long-term savings.
9. Alternative Forms of Energy
While retail competition and efficient office items can make a difference, you can go the extra mile by installing solar panels or other forms of alternative energy. Switching over to solar power can also qualify you for tax credits which can eventually pay for the installation and upkeep costs. If you create a surplus, you can often sell back to energy retailers for even greater savings.