Our small town/rural tip: Check with your electric provider, whether that is an electric cooperative or even your own city government; many offer energy audits at no cost. Some will help with energy saving devices, special plans to reduce costs and low cost loans for efficiency improvements or equipment. Well worth the effort!
The U.S. Department of Energy and the Alliance to Save Energy offer several tips for keeping your energy costs under control, not only in your small business, but also in your home.
Keep your heating/cooling system in top shape. Change the filter once a month. Keep the indoor and outdoor coils clean. ASE says dirt buildup on the indoor coil is a major cause of decreased efficiency. You might even consider an annual checkup of your cooling system by a licensed inspector.
Install a “smart” thermostat. A programmable thermostat can run between $25 and $150 on average, but by scheduling the system to cool around your small business’ open hours, you could save 10 to 30 percent on your annual heating/cooling costs.
Shade the east and west sides of your small business. Plant trees, install awnings or keep the blinds and curtains closed during the hottest parts of the day.
Replace incandescent light bulbs with florescent light bulbs. Florescent bulbs use less than one-fourth of the energy, according to the ASE. They are a little more expensive, so if you can’t replace every bulb in your small business this afternoon, replace two a month for a few months and start saving slowly.
Turn off your computer. And printer and scanner and copy machine when they aren’t in use, especially overnight. When you go to lunch or to a meeting, put your computer in “sleep” mode to conserve energy throughout the day. Consider a power strip for your electronics and turn the strip off each night. Something as simple as a DVD player that’s off still uses a few watts of energy when plugged straight into the wall.
And like your mom always told you: Turn off the lights when you leave the room.
Get more energy-saving tips from the Alliance to Save Energy at www.ase.org/.
In my retail store, I’ll be turning off the computer and fax at night, and programming the thermostat to reflect our business hours. Since we are open till 9 pm, we won’t save as much as businesses that close at 5, but every little bit helps.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.