Earth Day (April 22) is a good time to evaluate what your business can do to protect the planet’s natural resources for the next generation. “Green” initiatives can demonstrate your company’s commitment to responsible business practices — as well as lower your monthly bills.

For many small and midsized businesses, utilities and fuel are significant monthly expenses. In recognition of Earth Day, here are six cost-effective ways to rethink energy usage and boost your bottom line:

1. Install smart thermostats. This can save on heating costs in the winter and cooling costs in the summer. Smart thermostats adjust energy usage based on the presence of employees, the time of day and your temperature preferences. Smart thermostats that meet Energy Star criteria save users an average of 8% on their utility bills, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

You also might consider adjusting your current temperature settings by a degree or two (higher in the summer and lower in the winter) and programming thermostats to energy-saving mode during nonwork hours. Minor changes will compound over time.

2. Insulate and seal your facilities. Heating and cooling systems can be particularly costly in uninsulated, leaky buildings. Installing spray foam and replacing old seals or adding new ones can dramatically reduce energy costs.

3. Invest in energy-efficient fixed assets. Technological advances allow today’s equipment to consume less energy than older versions. Examples of older equipment that you should consider replacing with models that carry the Energy Star label include printers, copiers, scanners, computers and monitors.

Likewise, if your employees drive company vehicles or use gas-powered machinery or tools, consider efficiency ratings when it’s time to replace these assets. In some cases, it might make sense to switch to electric or hybrid alternatives.

4. Stay atop HVAC maintenance. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems depend on the unimpeded movement of air. Annual checkups can reveal blockages or leaks that can put additional stress on the equipment. Cleaning and replacing filters, as recommended, can also help lower energy usage.

5. Install LED lighting. Light-emitting diode (LED) lighting is more energy efficient and lasts longer than regular incandescent lighting. LED lights are also easily dimmed, reducing the cost of lighting a space. Plus, LED lights emit less heat than incandescents, which can help lower room temperature in the summer.

 6. Conduct an energy audit. Audits can uncover areas of excessive usage and waste. While some utility companies offer free on-site consultations, third-party energy audit firms are a more comprehensive option. The audit process begins by establishing baseline expenses for such items as:

  • Electricity,
  • Natural gas,
  • Fuel,
  • Water, and
  • Solid waste.

To prepare for an energy audit, you’ll need to gather these monthly expenses from the last two or three years. Looking back can help identify any variances, allowing you to investigate the root causes. You’ll also need to gather maintenance records and specifications — including square footage, year of construction, usage and operating hours — for each facility you operate. A list of energy-consuming assets — such as machines, equipment, lighting and HVAC systems, and vehicles — is also essential. The auditor will physically inspect your facilities and interview employees to identify problem areas and recommend potential energy-saving opportunities.

Go green, save green

While some of these recommendations require an investment, the cost savings can be significant and long-lasting. Contact us to discuss ways to lower your company’s energy costs and boost profits, including information about potential tax breaks that may be available for green improvements.