Energy efficiency improvement projects provide small business owners and entrepreneurs with the opportunity to invest in their companies and communities, with a net improvement to their bottom line. Considering that the average commercial building wastes 30 percent of its energy, according to Energy Star––there are numerous ways to increase efficiency and it can start with small projects, such as changing light bulbs, or targeting major systems, such as HVAC, replacing windows, roofs or boilers.
In addition to the clear and crucial benefit of helping the environment, small business owners and entrepreneurs who are willing to make the investment in energy efficiency projects can also reap the benefits by cutting long-term costs; namely in reduced operating costs, reduced monthly utility bills, improved indoor environments and other related benefits. Typically, the monthly savings created by the energy improvements are higher than the monthly debt service associated with financing the energy improvements, thus making the decision to move forward a no-brainier.
Investing in projects to improve the efficiency of buildings is good for business. Owners of green buildings reported that their ROI improved by 19.2 percent on average for existing building green projects and 9.9 percent on average for new projects, according to the U.S. Green Building Council. Fortunately, there are a number of options businesses can take to improve their energy consumption.
Target the worst energy offenders.
It can sometimes be difficult for business owners to know which improvement option is best for their building, but there are two good areas to start:
- HVAC systems – Heating, cooling and ventilation efforts account for 51 percent of the total energy use in an average building. Replacing outdated models or making improvements to these systems can have a substantial impact.
- Lighting systems – Lighting is the second largest consumer of energy, representing about 25 percent of the average building’s total energy use. There are many options to improve lighting systems, such as changes to controls, switching to LED light bulbs and installing occupancy sensors.
Volunteer for an audit.
For building owners interested in taking a deeper dive, an energy audit can be extremely helpful. Audits investigate a building’s pattern of energy use, current equipment and operations to provide suggested areas of improvement. The audit also provides information on the cost of specific energy conservation measures and the possible savings that could be obtained. One thing to keep in mind is that the audit recommendations can vary depending on the level of inspection, as well as a company’s budget.
Thinking about scheduling an audit?
A thorough audit can help building owners make the most informed decision possible before beginning an energy efficiency project. Auditing services are offered by energy services companies, energy consultants and engineering firms. Not all firms offer the same services, so it is important to look for an auditor who understands how energy is used in your facility and is well-versed in the review process. There are a number of organizations that offer energy auditing certifications, including the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the Association of Energy Engineers. Local utility and government agencies can help business owners find qualified auditors, and, in some cases, provide financial assistance to cover the cost of the audit.
View improvements as investments.
Energy improvements are also a way for building owners to reinvest in their property. Over the life of a building, different opportunities will be available at different times – depending on the changing usage of a building, remaining life of the equipment and assemblies, and availability of improved technologies in the market.
Energy efficiency improvements can do more than help businesses reduce their utility bills, they can conserve resources, lower carbon footprints and reduce smog. According to a study by the EPA, buildings account for more than 70 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption and contribute just under 39 percent of the nation’s total carbon dioxide emissions. Businesses can make a positive impact on the environment and their community when they improve the energy operations of their building.