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Small Business

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Energy Efficiency with ENERGY STAR

Calculate Your Energy Intensity

Some small businesses may require more energy than others depending on the type of business they run. These are energy-intensive users. Curious how your facility’s energy use stacks up against other facilities? Calculate your energy intensity.

Quick Tips to Make Your Small Business Energy Efficient

  1. Turn off lights and equipment when they are not in use. Seems obvious, but high utility costs often include paying for energy that is completely wasted.
  2. Install "occupant sensors" in the proper locations to automatically turn off lighting when no one is present, and back on when they return. Sensors add convenience as well as save money. But, even good equipment can be installed wrong, so don't install the sensor behind a coat rack, door, or book case. It must be able to "see" the motion of occupant approaching an unlit area to turn on the light before, or as they enter. The savings come when people leave an area, and the sensor ensures that the lights are always, automatically turned off, until someone returns. Although, you, personally, never forget to turn off the lights, just think about all those other people wasting money.
  3. Buy ENERGY STAR labeled office equipment, and other products, when needed, and be sure the "stand-by mode" function is activated. This automatic "sleep mode" saves energy and money when the equipment is not in use, by reducing the "vampire" effect of "instant on" (always on) equipment, which is constantly drawing power.
  4. Adjust lighting to your actual needs; use free "daylighting." This means turn off or dim your lights when daylight is adequate, or use automatic "daylight dimming" ballasts/controls to do this for you. To prevent computer screen glare, eyestrain, and headaches, use limited "task lighting" and do not "over-light" the area. Too much light can be as bad for visual quality as too little light — and it costs a lot more.
  5. "Tune-up" your HVAC system with an annual maintenance contract. Even a new ENERGY STAR labeled HVAC (heating/ventilation/air-conditioning) system- just like a new car- will decline in performance, without regular maintenance. A yearly "maintenance contract" will cost about $100, but can save even more than it costs, and the contract automatically ensures that your HVAC contractor will provide "pre-season" tune-ups before each cooling and heating season. You save money with "no sweat" in the summer; no chills in the winter.
  6. Regularly change (or clean if reusable) the HVAC filters with your own "do-it-yourself" labor for a high "return-on-investment. "During peak cooling or heating season, change or clean your filters every month; they cost about $2-3 each. Dirty filters can cost up to $5 a month extra, overwork the equipment, and result in dirtier indoor air. Consider purchasing "electrostatic" filters, which are washable, long lasting, and provide cleaner air. Clean or change filters more often if smokers, or pollution sources are present.
  7. Install a programmable thermostat to automate your HVAC system. An "old-fashioned" thermostat turns the HVAC on and off based on temperature, not whether the building is occupied, or whether you benefit from the cooling/heating. This solid-state, electronic device can optimize HVAC operation "24/7" based on your needs. For example, instead of heating or cooling all night, so you can enter a comfortable building in the morning, this "smart thermostat" can turn on the HVAC one hour before you arrive, based on your daily/hourly needs. The cost can be $25 to $150, and it could cut your HVAC costs about 30%.
  8. Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), wherever appropriate. CFLs cost about 75% less to operate, and last about 10 times longer. Enough said.
  9. Install LED (light-emitting diode) exit signs. Your current fixture may accept a simple, "screw-in" lighting element to replace the small incandescent bulbs that burn out with frustrating frequency. This string of LEDs will cost about $15 to $20, will last decades, give brighter light, and end risky ladder climbing to replace bulbs. If your current exit sign will not accept the screw-in lighting element, a new LED exit sign fixture costs about $100, and will still save about 90% over incandescent bulbs' operating costs.
  10. Control direct sun through windows. During cooling season, block direct heat gain from the sun shining through glass on the East, and especially West sides of the building. Depending on your situation, there are several options such as "solar screen," "solar film," awnings, and vines. Over time, trees can attractively shade the glass and building. Interior curtains or drapes can help, but it's best to prevent the Summer heat from getting past the glass and inside. During heating season, with the sun low in the South, unobstructed Southern windows can contribute heat gain during the day, but should be covered at night.
  11. Use fans. Comfort is a function of temperature, humidity, and air movement. Moving air can make a somewhat higher temperature and/or humidity feel comfortable. Fans can help delay or reduce the need for air-conditioning, and a temperature setting of only 3-5 degrees higher can feel as comfortable with fans. Each degree of higher temperature can save about 3% on cooling costs. Ceiling fans can even be reversed in the Winter, and on low speed will pull warmer air down from the ceiling. When the temperature outside is more comfortable than inside, a "box fan" in the window, or "whole house" fan in the attic can push air out of the building and pull in comfortable outside air. In businesses, like restaurants, with high heat and humidity from cooking, fans can make a huge difference in employee and customer comfort, by giving a boost to air-conditioning. Fans can increase comfort and save money year round.
  12. Plug the leaks with weather stripping and caulking; another cheap "do-it-yourself" job. Caulking and weather stripping let you manage your ventilation, which is the desirable, deliberately controlled exchange of stuffy inside air for fresher outdoor air. Most commercial buildings require 15-20 cubic feet per minute (CFM) ventilation per person for healthy indoor air. Exceptions and details can be found in "Building Air Quality" at www.epa.gov/iaq. However, "air infiltration" in the uncontrolled "leaking" or exchange of inside air (which you paid to heat or cool) at a high rate through cracks around windows, doors, utility switches/outlets, and any other holes between the inside and outside. This can make heating or cooling a building very expensive, and still leave it uncomfortable; "drafty" or "clammy.
Cover to Putting Energy Into Profits Guidebook

Want even more in-depth information about energy efficiency for your small business? Check out the Putting Energy Into Profits Guidebook (PDF) (39 pp., 1.6M, About PDF).

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