If you've recently made the transition from home-based business to your first storefront, or if demand for your services has encouraged you to expand your business to a larger space, you may be excited at the possibilities open before you. A larger storefront in a highly-trafficked area can provide you with an entirely new stream of walk-in customers and give you and your staff the space you need to do your jobs well. However, this larger space can often come at a price -- in the form of higher energy costs eating into your bottom line. With average overhead costs ranging anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of sales across a wide range of industries, keeping these costs down is one of the quickest ways to boost your business. Read on to learn about the most cost-effective ways to slash your business's energy bills for good.
Evaluate your weak points
Before undertaking any changes to your business, you'll first need to determine the biggest sources of energy waste. You don't want to spend valuable time and money fixing a problem that accounts for a minuscule percentage of energy costs while ignoring an issue (like drafty doors or inefficient lighting) that is costing you significantly more.
Fortunately, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s Portfolio Manager program can provide you with the information you need to get started. By creating a profile and uploading your building's current and past energy bills, you'll be able to access detailed reports on your energy consumption over time and the components of your business or building that use the most energy. You'll also be able to access general information about other buildings and businesses in your area, letting you know whether your energy consumption is on target or whether your neighbors are making more efficient use of resources.
Plan your business around energy savings
In many cases, you can decrease your business's energy consumption just by making some careful arrangements in your working hours and environment. For example, if your business has east-facing windows that let in a lot of sunlight, you may want to push back your opening hours during summer months to avoid the higher cooling costs needed to keep your office at a comfortable temperature during the hottest time of day. If your utility provider utilizes "peak hours" pricing, remaining closed during these hours or minimizing your use of the computer systems or air conditioning can cut your energy costs exponentially.
If your lease gives you the freedom to make minor outdoor modifications, you might also consider planting some quick-growing grasses or shrubs that can help insulate your building from temperature extremes while providing your customers with a pleasant landscape.
Invest in automation and power management software
For businesses that run high-powered computer systems (from electronic cash registers to engineering software), power management software is a must. This software helps keep your computer systems from siphoning power when it's not needed. For the 40 percent of businesses that tend to inadvertently leave their computers on overnight, investing in power management software that can let you access (and turn off) your computers remotely can go a long way toward decreasing your monthly electricity costs.
Utility automation can also be a handy tool in your energy savings arsenal. By purchasing and installing inexpensive utility monitors, you'll be able to control the thermostat, turn lights off or on, or even cut power to certain parts of your business from anywhere with a wireless signal. Most of these monitors include internet or smartphone applications that will provide you with an instant view of your business's utility consumption.