Six No- to Low-Cost Solutions that Reduce Utility Consumption
By Laura Schlereth
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As energy costs increase, it’s important for business owners to consider how they can keep their own utility bills manageable. This means evaluating where valuable energy is being wasted or overused throughout their facilities. Luckily, there are many simple adjustments business owners can make to reduce their company’s utility consumption and increase profitability.
Follow the six tips below and you’ll be running a much more energy-efficient and cost-effective office in no time:
- 1. Switch to CFL or LED light bulbs: Lloyd Lee, business development and marketing manager with Climate Smart, a carbon management training company based in Vancouver, says replacing a 100W incandescent bulb with 23W CFL bulb—which provides equivalent brightness—will save you at least 75 percent on your electricity bill. Another benefit to CFLs, according to Lee, is that they have significantly longer lifespans than incandescent bulbs—6,000 to 15,000 hours compared with 1,000 hours—which means that over the life of the bulb, you spend less time and money on replacing bulbs. Although CFL bulbs cost more upfront, you’ll experience payback in a relatively short time depending on your usage and local utility costs. "Based on utility rates in British Columbia, when replacing a 100W incandescent with a 23W CFL in an average commercial application that uses around 18 hours of lighting per day, one will usually experience full payback in eight to nine months," Lee says. For even more savings, business owners should consider using LED lighting. Though LEDs cost more than CFLs initially, Lee adds that they use less than half the electricity of CFLs and last five times as long,—25,000 to 50,000 hours—so it’s a worthy consideration.
- 2. Lessen air-conditioning use by relaxing the dress code during warm weather: Christine Lolley, partner with Solares Architecture Inc., a sustainable house design company based in Toronto, says many facilities that require formal office attire can overuse air-conditioning in warmer months. Lolley recommends relaxing the dress code on non-client days so employees can wear office-appropriate summer clothing, so the thermostat doesn’t have to be set quite so low. You can even supplement the air conditioning with fans, which use less energy than air conditioning, Lolley says.
- 3. Make sure lighting is only on when it’s being used: It might seem like common sense in the home, but many times offices make the mistake of leaving lights on when they’re not needed. Lolley believes that most people will admit that because they’re not the ones paying the energy bills, they’re not as conscious. "Enforce a ‘turn off the lights when you’re done’ policy," says Lee. "This is especially important to run by your cleaning crew if you have one. Many times they’re the last ones in the office at night, and if they forget to turn the lights out, that can result in a significant waste of energy." Lee says a retail store he once worked with saved 17 percent on their electricity bill for the year just from telling the cleaning crew to turn off the lights when they had finished.
- 4. Use day lighting when possible: Why pay high electricity bills when you can get free lighting from the sun? Depending on where your office is located in the building, it might not be possible to use day lighting in all areas. But Lolley says a simple redesign of your layout can make certain areas prime for natural lighting without receiving any excessive glare. Simply facing computer screens 90 degrees from the window will prevent any glare, so employees can turn off the lights and open their blinds to save energy.
- 5. Prevent phantom loads by unplugging equipment when it’s not in use: Many appliances use energy simply by being plugged in, even if the power is off. Lee recommends using power strips whenever you can. In the kitchen, you can plug your toaster, microwave, coffeemaker, etc. all into the strip so it’s a simple shutoff at the end of the day.
- 6. Implement the "power saving" setting on computers when they’re idle: Chances are, your business’ operations involve a great deal of computer use. Lolley recommends exploring your computers’ "power save" options so that they aren’t wasting energy when their users are away. Lolley also recommends implementing "power save" if your computer system runs on a server and might not be able to completely shut down at the end of the day. It’s worth a consultation with an IT expert to assess your options.
Considering implementing these tips all at once or take it one step at a time to see what’s most effective for your office. When it comes to energy efficiency, even the smallest effort can make a difference.