January 31, 2017

8 Tips For Small Business Owners To Save Energy

Photograph of Historic Part of Milwaukee taken at night

photo by: Mike Penney/Flickr/CC BY NC ND 2.0

Historic downtowns with small businesses help communities thrive. Below, we share how your small business can save energy (and money) so you can make a positive impact in your town.

Small businesses are at the heart of main streets and towns throughout America. Small business owners can help revitalize communities by hiring a local workforce, providing an economic boost to their town, and saving historic structures through reuse.

While opening a small business is exciting, it can also create opportunities to practice sustainability. We’ve assembled eight tips to help you and your small business save energy and money each year.

1. Sign up for online billing.

It sounds simple, but online billing allows you to view your energy use history in easy-to-understand increments and can help you recognize patterns. Once you have a sense of your energy history, you will have a better idea of what needs to change in order to save money.

2. Work with your utility provider.

Research utility-offered energy efficiency programs for small business owners on your utility’s website. Often, local governments work with utility providers to establish and implement efficiency programs. Some utility companies offer rebates for installing energy efficient HVAC, lighting, and other equipment.

3. Get an energy assessment.

Sign up for energy benchmarking through Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager. You can enter your information for energy and water use, greenhouse gas emissions, and other important data to help you better track your building’s energy usage. There are usually free online training sessions and manuals available.

4. Work with other local organizations.

Contact your local Main Street program, Business Improvement District (BID), or Community Development Corporation (CDC) to learn more about sustainability or energy efficiency programs. Check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) website for existing programs and/or financing offered for small businesses. Consider other financing opportunities through Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) and Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

Photograph of historic downtown Montana

photo by: Tim Evanson/Flickr/CC BY SA 2.0

Historic buildings use and expel energy differently than newer construction.

5. Make small changes that create a big difference.

If lightbulbs need to be replaced, use more efficient, lower-wattage LED bulbs that produce equivalent or superior light quality. Repair broken windows and weather-strip or caulk windows and doors where drafts can be felt or where there are visible signs of deterioration. Make sure lights and plug loads are turned off at night, and throughout the day when not needed. Add, repair, or replace interior shading devices such as curtains or blinds. Refer to our tips for homeowners.

6. Understand energy usage and its relationship with historic structures.

Review small business energy tips from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Also check out their small business energy efficiency lending guide. Read our report Saving Windows, Saving Money: Evaluating the Energy Performance of Window Retrofit and Replacement. This information will help you navigate how historic buildings use energy and how you can make sure you’re using as little as possible for your business.

7. Take advantage of technology.

Replace manual thermostats with programmable thermostats, and turn down heating and cooling systems when the building is unoccupied. Apply upper and lower limits on heating and cooling temperature set points. This is an easy way to lower your day-to-day energy costs.

8. Consider adding solar or renewable energy to your buildings.

Renewable energy sources like solar panels can be a little pricey initially, but over time, they can help you reduce the energy costs incurred by your business. In some cases, you can even apply for grants to help you finance the installation of renewable energy sources. You can learn about best practices for adding these energy options to historic structures here.

Meghan White Headshot

Meghan White is a historic preservationist and a former assistant editor for Preservation magazine. She has a penchant for historic stables, absorbing stories of the past, and one day rehabilitating a Charleston single house.

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