Saving energy is good business, because it cuts expenses. It’s also environmentally wise and responsible. There are any number of things you can do to save on energy costs in your office. They range from simple things each of us can do (like turning off lights) to ambitious upgrades. Let’s go through 12 ways to save energy in a small business office:
1. Turn Off Lights
Sounds obvious right? Well … not as obvious as it might seem. According to one survey by Lutron, 90% of Americans know of someone who forgets to turn out lights when leaving a room. Do you have signs next to light switches in conference rooms to turn out lights? Have you considered motion-activated lights in little-used hallways or common areas, that will turn off after a period of time and turn on only when someone enters the space? Think of ways to remind people to turn off lights, or have lights turn on and off automatically.
2. Upgrade Your Lights
By now, most of us know that incandescent light bulbs are being phased out. LED and fluorescent lights, as well as UID lights for large spaces, are better energy choices. But even with fluorescent lights, you may want to upgrade the fixtures, as older versions tend to be less energy efficient.
When looking for replacement bulbs, lumens are in, watts are out . Lumens measure how much light the bulb delivers. Watts measure how much energy is being consumed. Look for energy efficient bulbs delivering the lumens you need.
Don’t forget your Exit signs, either — they are often a high energy use. Retrofit or upgrade them to run off of LED lights.
3. Use Power Management Settings on Equipment
Screensavers used to be in vogue. But not anymore. Today, a black screen on a computer monitor not in use is a beautiful sight. On computers, printers and other pieces of office equipment, use the recommended power management settings to shut them off or go into hibernate mode when technology is not in use.
4. Move IT to the Cloud
Consider getting rid of your computer servers, and instead going with cloud-based systems. No more running multiple servers or cooling of that hot data center is needed. On top of that, more employees could telecommute. According to one survey in 2010, a small business with 100 users could cut its carbon footprint and energy costs by 90% by moving to the cloud.
There may be multiple reasons to move — or not move — to the cloud. But when evaluating that move, be sure to consider the energy impact as one factor.
5. Sign a Truce in the Thermostat Wars
Have you ever found yourself in the midst of an office thermostat war? According to a survey by CareerBuilder, almost half of employees said their offices were either too hot — or too cold.
Some employers put thermostats only in the hands of management to control — and avoid the constant adjusting of the thermostat by individuals.
Newer thermostat systems such as the Nest, have a feature called Thermostat Lock. This allows employees to adjust temperature but only within a certain range of a few degrees, to keep energy bills from getting out of hand.
A few fans in your office can also help it seem cooler in summer, and cost less than air conditioning to run.
And of course, there’s no sense in unnecessarily heating or cooling an empty office. Use a programmable thermostat that adjusts temperature at night and on weekends. One can pay for itself in no time.
6. Replace Old Equipment with Energy Star Rated Equipment
Whether it’s the refrigerator in the lunch room, the exhaust fans in the bathrooms, the printers, the HVAC system or the lighting fixtures — it may pay to upgrade to energy efficient models, especially if you have a lot of older equipment. Energy Star is an independent rating system for energy efficient products; so look for the Energy Star symbol and rating.
What’s more, the Energy Star website has a variety of valuable educational resources and tools just for small businesses . You can find a benchmarking tool to assess how energy efficient your building is. There are also guides for saving energy in specific types of small businesses — such as auto dealers, manufacturers, restaurants and retail.
7. Make Faucets, Toilets and Water Heaters Efficient
Leaking faucets and other fixtures can result in hundreds to thousands of dollars in extra water bills each year. Also, insulate your water heater if necessary to cut down on heating costs. Adjust the temperature of hot water heaters, too. Experts recommend between 110 and 120 degrees.
8. Control Sun Through Window Areas
Office buildings tend to have lots of windows, and during the summer or in southern locations, this puts an added load on your air conditioning system. Not to mention, it puts a load on your cooling bills.
Solar window film, blinds and awnings can help your office keep its cool.
9. Don’t Forget the Landscaping!
A landscaping design for your facility that is water intensive, can use a tremendous amount of water resources. Switch to xeriscaping or native plants that don’t need to be coddled with excessive water. If possible (and if within local code) “reuse” water from a local pond or rainwater runoff for watering your outdoor landscaping.
10. Fix Leaks Around Windows and Doors
A few tubes of caulking around windows, or some weather stripping around doors, may prevent energy loss that drives up HVAC bills.
11. Look Into Energy Savings Programs
Many electric providers are working to reduce demand in hot summer months, to avoid brownouts and other issues. So they are offering discounts to business customers that sign up for energy savings programs. The programs include everything from energy audits, to rebates for retiring energy-inefficient equipment. The source to find out all these programs and see what’s available in your state, is the Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management website . It has links to each state, and from there you can get to individual programs by electric providers.
Shop around also, for energy providers, as you may now have a choice for such providers as your natural gas source. Sometimes local business groups even offer special rates. For example, the Council of Small Enterprises in Ohio offers its members a special natural gas savings program .
12. Check Into Renewable Energy Sources
Solar power and other renewable energy is a long way from replacing electricity or gas completely for the vast majority of businesses. But solar panels, geo-thermal heat pumps, wind mills and other renewable energy sources may be used to reduce reliance on traditional energy. There are incentives and programs just for these — ranging from tax breaks and rebates, to grants and loan programs. Check out the DSIRE database of energy efficiency programs  run by North Carolina State University.
Finally, one bonus tip: get employees involved. Make it a competition to see who can come up with the best idea for saving on energy. Print up a few signs and make it a fun challenge!
Eco  Photo via Shutterstock