Cutting business costs by improving energy efficiency

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Running a business comes with never ending expenses starting from the processing of the permits and licenses down to office space rent, equipment, payroll, and operations maintenance. Among all the expenses, business owners are mostly surprised with the unpredictable cost caused by energy consumption.

In the United States, small businesses collectively spend a staggering $60 billion on energy each year, according to US Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program. In addition, a survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) found that energy cost is one of the top three business expenses in 35% of small businesses.

Energy efficiency, which uses less energy to provide the same productivity, should be included in every business plan. It helps businesses in a range of ways: reducing its operating costs and impact on the environment, and enhancing the image of the company.

Consulting firm McKinsey&Company said in a report that energy efficiency represents about 40% of the greenhouse gas reduction potential that can be realized at a cost of less than €60 per metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent worldwide.

“In many cases, it is an extremely attractive upfront investment that plays for itself over time, while providing the added benefits of reducing the cost of energy and increasing the energy productivity of the economy,” McKinsey&Company said.

Interest in energy efficiency, then, is now given attention by most companies. There are many ways to improve energy efficiency for businesses, and most of these can be made with little efforts on maintenance and small changes in office setup and employees’ behavior.

Office lighting is a workplace necessity. Wherever possible, use energy-saving lighting such as fluorescent bulbs and LED (light-emitting diode) light bulbs instead of incandescent or halogen lighting, an Australian-based electricity supplier Powerdirect said in its Web site.

“Both incandescent and halogen bulbs consume significantly more electricity and will have a big effect on your power bills. Should halogen spotlights be important in promoting specific products or services, investigate using low-voltage halogen lights,” Powerdirect explained.

Ensuring that lights are free of dust and build ups is also important. In this way, lights remain bright and its longevity in reducing heat increases.

Even the office color and window coverings matter. Businesses should pay attention on how much light can be gained by using light colors for walls and window coverings that allow the maximum possible light penetration throughout the day.

To further cut the costs in energy, turning off the lights when are not needed must be observed. Making this a routine does not only saves energy, it also extends the overall lamp life and reduces replacement costs. Thus, taking advantage of the natural light is beneficial.

In terms of business equipment including copiers, printers and faxes, choose those that are equipped with standby feature. Also consider using timers to turn off larger copiers and printers as these devices still consume valuable electricity when in standby mode, Powerdirect said.

In today’s modern age, computer is a basic need in all businesses. Similar to other equipment, ensure that its power-saving feature is activated so the monitor and computer both go into standby mode after a certain amount of inactivity. In addition, all the staff must be advised to always turn off the computers when they leave the office.

In purchasing new computers, consider whether a laptop could be a better option than a desktop computer. Powerdirect said that aside from increased productivity, laptops consume less energy than their desktop counterpart.

For heating and cooling aspect, there are also simple tips that can help cut the energy cost. First, ensure that the workplace is well insulated; most especially the ceiling. As Powerdirect noted, this is one area that often ignored and the one where businesses can save significant energy usage.

Second, look at weathering the building to reduce the cooling bill. “Installing window shades, solar reduction film or awnings will reduce the heat entering your building,” Powerdirect said.

Furthermore, install automatic closers on external door so they are not left open. Also consider installing blinds or curtains on external windows to reduce heat from entering.

Above all these, employers should educate and encourage its employees to be energy-conscious and to offer ideas about how energy can be saved. Designating a responsible party to promote good energy practices within the organization is a good idea to consider. — Mark Louis F. Ferrolino