Getting Started

There are a number of relatively easy things you may be able to do to make your business greener, many of them involving energy efficiency. Most businesses can save 25% or more on energy costs by taking simple steps to reduce consumption, from turning off lights to making cost-effective investments in new efficient equipment. These upgrades will contribute a positive cash flow right from the start.

The first step toward energy efficiency is to understand your current usage.  Begin by gathering a year’s worth of utility bills (electric, gas, propane, etc.) to become familiar with your energy consumption and related costs. Look for spikes or other patterns in your bills to determine when your consumption is highest, and why. Spikes in usage naturally occur seasonally (e.g. air conditioners running all summer) and daily (e.g. when a business “starts up” in the morning and employees arrive and turn on lights and equipment), but there may be other unexpected surges that you can identify and try to alleviate.

The next step might be to gather information about your building and energy equipment, such as how old your building is, when it was last renovated, where the utility meters are located, etc. Find out what type of heat and air conditioning (HVAC) you have now, what brand equipment, and how old it is. This type of information prepares you to make decisions about new equipment, and provides a critical starting point for an energy auditor.

Here is a checklist list of “low-hanging fruit” – basic steps you can take, often on your own.

Checklist of Low-Hanging Fruit

1. Lighting items

  • Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs
  • Replace incandescent or fluorescent exit signs with ultra high-efficiency LED signs
  • Replace T12 fluorescent bulbs with new, higher-efficiency T8 bulbs and electronic ballasts
  • Use occupancy sensors that automatically turn off lights in occasional-use areas (Or post prominent signs asking people to turn off lights when they’re leaving a room!)
2. HVAC items
  • Have your heating system tuned up, replacing filters and checking belts and calibration
  • Install programmable thermostats to automatically reduce usage when buildings are unoccupied
  • Upgrade to the most energy efficient new systems you can afford; ask for Energy Star-rated equipment
3. Building envelope items
  • Seal cracks and seams between floor and walls, around window and door frames, and around air conditioners and pipes that penetrate walls; use weatherstripping for windows and doors
  • Make sure that walls, roofs and attics are properly insulated and/or increase the level of insulation
  • Keep exterior windows and doors closed when HVAC is running
  • Consider upgrading to Energy Star windows and doors

4. Materials and purchasing items

  • Purchase sustainably produced or recycled office supplies
  • Switch to environmentally friendly cleaning supplies or a cleaning service that uses them
  • Replace office equipment and power cords with energy-efficient models; look for the Energy Star rating
  • Maximize use of materials: print on both sides of the paper and re-use pages with one-sided printing; use old letterhead for internal purposes
  • Implement recycling program and encourage use
  • Save water by installing low-flow faucets, toilets, showerheads