Today we return to our multi-part series exploring ways small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) can reduce their energy costs. A recent KRC Research survey commissioned by Microsoft found nearly 70 percent of the 250 small businesses surveyed said environmentally friendly practices were important for their business. Moreover, 63 percent of the IT decision makers in those surveyed companies said they saved money using IT for green initiatives.
Anyone who has ever paid for heating and air conditioning
knows how easy it is to run up a boiler-busting bill, but there's more to HVAC
(Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) savings then keeping the thermostat
For all businesses,
employee comfort is a high priority (or should be). Productivity can be
negatively affected by stifling temperatures or freezing-cold climates.
Programmable thermostats are simple microprocessor-based devices that offer as
much as a 50 percent rate of return on your investment. They can also maintain
start-up and shutdown schedules that keep climate levels comfortable and
eliminate unnecessary HVAC costs while rooms or the building are unoccupied.
maintenance is equally important. Some easy steps to ensuring efficient
equipment are replacing dirty air filters, which usually require a specialist
to inspect and perform the switch. However, DIY projects like cleaning intake
screens, supply registers and return grills can cool down overheating energy
costs. If your building uses a boiler, ensure it is regularly inspected. If
repair and inspection costs are mounting, consider swapping out the old boiler
for a new one. If your boiler currently uses a fuel other than natural gas,
consider making the switch to natural gas if you are planning a boiler
You may also be able
to save energy by managing the sunlight that falls on your building. Solar hot
water systems and solar heating systems are two potentially economical solar
energy technologies you might want to consider.
Do your employees ever complain
about scalding their hands when using the bathroom faucets? It may be because
water-heating levels are often set higher than necessary. Adjust the temperature
until you reach an acceptable setting. Flow-restrictors and self-closing
faucets can also help reduce hot water use. As with heating and ventilation,
routine maintenance will ensure leaks are repaired, and an electronic
time-of-use controller, available at most large hardware stores, keeps your
water heater off when not in use.
Catch Some Rays
Solar power and solar heating are still regarded as too
costly for SMBs, despite incentives offered by some state governments (notably
California). However, there are ways to manipulate the sun's power to your
advantage. If you live in a hot climate, you can save money on AC costs by installing awnings and sunscreens or blinds to
windows, doors and skylights. You can also replace older windows with better
sealing models that offer low-emittance (Low-E) coating (a metallic oxide layer
that suppresses radiative heat flow). Even shrubs and trees can be used to
effectively block sunlight.
When the weather turns
cold, ensure windows are not blocked by office partitions to allow sunshine in.
Close blinds at night to keep out the cold, and ensure your windows are
properly caulked and weather-stripped. Oftentimes, simply replacing the windows
with double or triple-pained models is the most efficient, long-lasting way to
keep Jack Frost from entering.
The Big Heat We've only just scratched the surface when it
comes to HVAC cost-saving techniques. SMBs with a mind to go father can also
consider options like solar
water heaters and solar heating systems. Remember that large, loft-like spaces
require more energy to heat, and most of it may be going right over your
employees' heads-heat rises. If all these tips seem like something your
building could improve with, perhaps it's time to start looking for a more
easily manageable workplace. In California, perhaps?
Nathan Eddy is Associate Editor, Midmarket, at eWEEK.com. Before joining eWEEK.com, Nate was a writer with ChannelWeb and he served as an editor at FierceMarkets. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.