Energy costs can be one of your business’s highest expenses, regardless of the sector or industry. Thankfully, they are also one of the most manageable. With modest, thoughtful changes, you can have a lasting impact on high energy bills, leading to substantial savings for years. Even better, the same strategies that save money can help you waste less and lower your carbon footprint. Here’s a primer to get you started on the path to lower energy costs and increased environmental responsibility:
Understand your current use
It’s difficult to manage what you don’t understand. Just as you need to recognize the source of your company’s marketing issues before making impactful changes to how they advertise, you need to know when and how you are using energy to find the most effective conservation and efficiency changes for your business.
The best way to understand how your company uses power is through an energy audit. While many energy companies provide free or low-cost audits, you will get even more information from a comprehensive audit. This in-depth evaluation will look at everything from your building’s condition and insulation to the age and condition of your machinery.
Commercial energy audit companies will provide data that outline your peak usage times, find process improvements that will decrease energy consumption, and suggest upgrades to increase efficiency. An energy audit is a powerful tool in your energy management toolbox and is a great place to start if electricity and gas costs strain your company’s budget.
Armed with the data from your audit, you can move on to the next steps:
Maintain and update your machinery
Incorporate periodic maintenance and cleaning of your machinery into your staff’s responsibilities. Not only will this increase energy efficiency, but it can also prolong the life of your equipment. The increased efficiency of a well-running machine often offsets the costs of tuning, repairing, or cleaning your machinery.
If your machines are older, it is also worth considering replacing them. While you’ll have an initial up-front expense, the return on your investment may be such that you can break even in as little as a few years, thanks to increased energy efficiency. Additionally, your machines may be more effective, allowing you to deliver a higher quality product more quickly, create more goods or service more customers in less time. Look for machines with an energy-star rating to ensure you are getting efficient equipment that will translate into lower energy costs.
Be strategic about timing
If you are on a variable-rate energy contract that charges more for power in peak-usage times, you can take advantage of rate fluctuations to create savings. Schedule energy-intensive processes for off-peak hours. Plan inspections, start-ups, or other energy-intensive activities for times when your energy is less expensive.
Look at your lighting
Lighting usually accounts for a significant amount of your energy expenses. Simple changes like switching to LED lights or opening curtains or blinds during the day are easy ways to decrease energy consumption.
Produce your own energy
Why purchase what you can generate yourself? While most businesses need to stay connected to the energy grid for reliability reasons, purchasing a system that allows you to generate some of your energy on-site can result in meaningful savings, in addition to being a sound environmental choice.
Not only will you have to buy less energy, your on-site energy generation will shield you somewhat from future increases in grid-supplied power. Additionally, you can enjoy the security of knowing you won’t lose business or sales due to utility outages because you can rely on your solar panels, wind turbine, or other on-site energy generation station.
Look for other inefficiencies
Every business is unique, meaning they all have different energy-saving opportunities. You know your company and operations better than anyone, so take enough time to look at how and where you use energy and where you might make improvements. The solution could be anything from running the heater or air conditioning at slightly lower or higher temperatures to removing redundancies in a specific process.
This evaluation process is a great time to involve your staff as well. They may have suggestions for areas where you can use less or functions that you can shift to less expensive times. Explain what you are trying to accomplish and ask for their input.
Work with an energy management company
There are many energy-use changes you can make and manage on your own. However, the best way to optimize your energy procurement and reduce expenses is by working with someone whose entire business revolves around understanding commercial energy use and contracts. Energy consultants can help you with everything from finding a comprehensive energy auditor to negotiating future energy contracts.
Saving energy is excellent for your company’s bottom line and the environment. Small changes can have a big impact, and larger changes an even bigger one. You can be a good steward of your business’s funds and the earth’s resources by finding ways to conserve energy and decrease your utility bills.
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