By Hilary Thompson
Often, the key to small business profits is managing your overhead costs. And your monthly electric bill is a good place to start. But you don’t need to move your IT to a cloud service or start a remote work policy to save on heating and cooling costs. Small steps added together can cut your electric bill down to size. Here are nine easy ways you can cut energy costs in your small business office space.
Heating and Cooling
1. Install a Smart Thermostat
Smart tech is a great way to save energy in your home office. You can start by installing a smart thermostat. These programmable thermostats are a popular smart home tech that works well in a commercial space. They automate temperature adjustments, keeping the space cooler or warmer when your office is empty. No need to keep things at an optimum temperature at night or on weekends when no one’s at work. And even if work plans change, you always have control over a smart thermostat via your smartphone. Because it’s a smart device, you can connect the thermostat to other sensors.
2. Maintain Your HVAC System
Just like your car, your HVAC system is most efficient when it’s regularly maintained. Look into getting a maintenance contract with an HVAC professional to do services before each heating and cooling season. Regular tune-ups extend the life of your system too. If a contract isn’t an option, do a little annual upkeep yourself. Keep a maintenance checklist. Change your system’s air filters. A clogged filter makes your system work harder, shortens its lifespan, and lowers air quality. During heavy use times, change filters every month. And check that all vents aren’t blocked by carpeting, desks, or filing cabinets.
3. Use Fans to Circulate Air
Ceiling fans circulate the air throughout your office. Effective air circulation eliminates hot and cold spots by delivering equal distribution. In the summer, set your ceiling fans to pull hot air upwards. In the winter, reverse their direction so they push hot air downwards. Using fans lets you adjust your thermostat a few degrees and still maintain a comfortable workspace. Stand-alone fans and box fans in windows on cooler days can help keep an office comfortable without needing to power up the HVAC.
4. Cover Windows
Window covers help insulate your office on hot and cold days. Beat back the sun’s heat with thick curtains or blinds. If you don’t care about the aesthetics, use aluminum foil on the windows to reflect the heat back outside. But if you don’t want to block the light completely, invest in some solar screen shades for the sun-facing side of your building. These screens work like sunglasses for your windows, blocking glare and UV light while stopping heat transfer. And if you’re at ground level, plant deciduous trees for shade and thick shrubs on the north side of your building to insulate against winter winds.
5. Inventory Your Lighting Needs
Perform a quick inventory of what lighting you have, then decide what you actually need. Chances are there are ways to cut out extraneous lamps and fixtures. Start by using any available natural lighting such as skylights and windows. Then add other lights to fill in work areas. If possible, place desks near windows. Decide which areas of your office need constant lighting versus intermittent. Most people work at their desk stations. So, use small task lighting there and fill in with ambient overhead lighting. For less-used areas like supply closets, meeting rooms, or bathrooms, install motion sensors to turn lights on and off. And replace light switches with dimmer switches so you can lower their intensity.
6. Replace Incandescent Light Bulbs
If you’re using incandescent light bulbs, you’re paying 25%to 80% more on lighting than you need to. Incandescents are cheap, but they burn far more electricity than compact fluorescents (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LEDs). While these more efficient bulbs are more expensive, their annual savings pays for the investment fast. Plus, CFLs and LEDs last much longer than incandescents. So you save more of your time replacing them. And CFLs and LEDs produce less heat, so they won’t add to your air conditioning costs.
7. Invest in Smart Lighting
Take your light bulbs to another level by investing in programmable smart bulbs or switches. Control your office light via an app on your smartphone for ultimate control. Use smart switches to program your lighting to adjust to the time of day (dimmer in the evenings, brighter in the afternoons). Set custom shut off times for after work hours, weekends, and vacation days. Or connect your smart lighting to motion sensors to detect when rooms are occupied or empty.
8. End Phantom Energy
Many appliances use power even when they’re not being used. The small, green LED power light on your coffee maker is always on. The same goes for the microwave and copier. That means they’re using electricity. Individually, these small lights don’t amount to much kilowatt usage. But together, they’re a hidden source of “phantom power” that increases your electric bill. For households, phantom power sources make up about 5% to 10% of total consumption. So power these devices off by unplugging them. Or connect many devices to a single power strip that you can easily switch off. Better yet, invest in a smart power strip. They can detect when devices go into sleep mode and cut their power. While you’re at it, remind employees to set their monitors, desktops, and laptops to hibernate after 15 to 30 minutes of idle time.
9. Update to Energy Star Equipment
New appliances are more efficient than older models. Consider updating to newer Energy Star certified office equipment. These energy-efficient products operate using less energy. And they enter a lower-power mode when idle. Look for the Energy Star seal when you buy your next copier, refrigerator, or computer. Small businesses that invest in these brands can cut their utility costs between 10% and 30% without sacrificing quality or service.