Small Changes for Small Businesses Improve Energy Efficiency and Save Money
It’s a workaday life for the small business owner. Late to bed and early to rise, with not a minute of rest in the day, or the week, or the decade. Employees to manage, hirings and firings, a register to run, equipment, an office or a storefront to maintain, advertising, marketing, sales calls, meetings, and that’s just the start of it. You can’t forget about your bills, your taxes, the fees you pay for licenses and permits. Oh, and aren’t you supposed to spend time with your family or something? Look, there’s another solicitor at the door telling you how to save money by giving them money. Sounds like a great idea. With all this going on, things that might sound good on paper just don’t make it onto your schedule for tomorrow, or next week, or any time this decade. Energy efficiency? Sounds like a great idea. But who’s got the time? Next!
Well, energy efficiency is a great idea, if it’s done thoroughly. Mostly because it can save you money. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a grocer can up their profit margin by 16% if they cut 10% of their energy usage. It’s similar for restaurants, retail storefronts, small offices, small theaters, and anyone that uses energy to power their business…which is pretty much everyone. Even the Mennonites are using computers. Less energy —> more money. What’s wrong with that?
Integrating Energy Efficiency Into Existing Practices Saves Time and Power
Okay, sure, you say. How much money? And how much time does it take? Because I’ve got zero time and twenty bucks a month isn’t that much to me. In fact, can you hang on a second? There are paying customers in line.
Well, just one more minute, please. I promise I’ll be brief. Twenty bucks a month plus change is $250 a year, which could buy your kid their textbooks when they go away to college. And you can do a lot better than that once we get into tax incentives and rebates, potentially enough to even get another part-timer to lighten your load. Or it could help you put some savings down to take a much-needed vacation and get away from the shop for a little while. See where I’m going with this? Now let’s start saving you money.
Here’s the idea: save time as you’re saving energy by making slight adjustments to your existing routine and business practices. All you have to do is what you’re already doing, just a little different. This holds true whether you own your space or rent.
The easiest way to save money on your energy bill is by decreasing your energy usage. It’s pretty simple. It’s just little things. The small business association has a whole list of them right here. Read it next time you’re in the bathroom, instead of checking Facebook. You’ve already got a closing checklist you and your employees follow as they lock up for the night; add a line on there saying “unplug appliances or turn off power strips.” Boom. It took you two seconds to write that down, five seconds to unplug everything, and you just saved yourself twenty bucks a month right there.
After you’ve plucked the low hanging fruit like turning off the lights, computers, printers, air compressors, or whatever appliances your shop requires when you’re not using them, the next step is upgrades. At the base level, the next time a light bulb goes out, replace it with an LED or an Energy Star certified compact fluorescent lamp (CFL). The same logic applies to larger purchases. The next time your cooler breaks, instead of paying a repairman again, buy a new, Energy Star certified cooler. For any and all appliances, preventative maintenance programs save you money by keeping equipment functioning at peak efficiency, as well as reducing the frequency of needed repairs. If you own your space, these preventative maintenance programs are particularly effective for HVAC systems. If you rent, it’s a bug you can put in the ear of your landlord next time you talk to them.
Expert Advice from Your Network Offers Energy Saving Options
I mentioned tax rebates and incentives earlier. These are available at the local, state, and federal level for businesses that follow green practices or make energy efficiency upgrades. I know I don’t have time to figure out where to find the tax code, what part to start reading, what jurisdiction I’m in, and what sort of upgrades would qualify for incentives and rebates in my bracket. Unless your small business is an accounting firm, you probably don’t have time either.
That’s fine. Your accountant does, and you’re already going to be meeting with them to talk over this year’s taxes as it is. So when you’re in that meeting, ask them what’s available. They’ll give you all the information you need to set goals for upgrades and changes in your practices for the next year. Armed with this knowledge, you can plan your appliance upgrades strategically. Replacing an older cooler might be a hard sell, until you consider that you could get that money back on your tax bill next year.
Speaking of meetings, you probably already attend the local Chamber of Commerce or other community business advocacy events. The next time you’re at one of these meetings, ask your peers who offers trustworthy energy audits in the area. Depending on your area, utilities, power suppliers, government agencies, nonprofits, and contractors will send out energy efficiency experts to local businesses for free energy audits, like those offered by some HVAC contractors. Emphasis on “free.” Instead of wasting time researching the complexities of power usage yourself, you can have someone come to your business and point out the cheapest, easiest, and most effective ways your specific business can save energy, and money!
Fixed Rate Energy Plans Reduce Energy Bill Uncertainty
Now that you’ve reduced your usage, upgraded your appliances, identified rebate and incentive strategies, and found a trustworthy expert to give you a free energy audit, you’ve probably got an exact idea of your energy usage. So why does your energy bill still fluctuate every month? The reason is, the price of energy is constantly moving based on the cost of fuel and other factors. So all that time and effort can be rendered meaningless because OPEC decides to play hardball. Bummer.
There’s an easy fix for this too. In states that have restructured utility monopolies, like most Northeastern states, third party energy suppliers like Liberty Power offer fixed rate energy plans. Instead of getting an unwelcome surprise in the mail every month, with Liberty Power you can lock in your rate for up to 36 months. That way, your hard work managing your energy consumption doesn’t go to waste. With the financial certainty this allows on a monthly basis, you can start putting your time and energy into other sections of your business. Weren’t you gonna try a new marketing plan?
With Liberty Power, you can get more consistency on your energy bill with a fixed rate energy plan. We offer a variety of options to ensure that you can choose the plan that works for your business. We even give you the opportunity to purchase Renewable Energy Credits to help promote the use of clean, sustainable energy, now and for the future. Contact us today to find out if a fixed rate energy plan is right for you.
Photo Credit: Mike Petrucci