Regardless of the type of business you’re in or looking to get into, you’re going to have competition. You may be a big fish in a little pond or vice versa but no matter what you should always be looking for ways to stand out. Fortunately there’s a program that can help you do just that.
Energy Star is an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program established in 1992, designed to help improve energy efficiency in homes and businesses alike. In fact, several states offer financing programs to encourage energy efficiency in small businesses. There’s even an annual Energy Star small business leader program that recognizes small businesses for improving their energy efficiency and an annual national award for the most outstanding businesses.
So whether you decide to go all out and compete for the award or simply make adjustments to become more energy efficient around your workplace, the Energy Star program helps your company save money and stand out for your eco-friendly efforts.
Energy Star small business loans
The Small Business Association (SBA) offers several loan options for small businesses to help with purchasing and installing energy efficient equipment. The 7(a) Loan, for example, is one of the more flexible loans offered by the SBA and can be used for anything from construction to purchasing light fixtures. The 504 CDC Program is also an option but requires the company receiving the loan to retain at least one job for every $35,000 provided.
If your business involves energy devices or techniques, the Energy Conservation Loan can help with retrofitting existing equipment with energy saving improvements such as photovoltaic cells, and the Pollution Control Loan Program can be used by small businesses involved with the creation of pollution control facilities such as recycling centers.
For more information about energy efficient financing in your state, visit the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO).
Ten ways you can start saving energy
You’ve probably seen the Energy Star tag on all sorts of appliances — from dishwashers to desktop computers — but the Energy Star program doesn’t stop with equipment. There are plenty of smaller ways in which you can start saving energy around the office with little to no cost to you:
- Replace standard light bulbs with Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs), which cost approximately 75% less to run.
- Install sensors that turn off the lights in your office when no one is around.
- Make use of daylight and use softer lighting throughout your office.
- If your office has a refrigerator, make sure the coils are cleaned at least twice a year.
- Replace disposable air filters or clean permanent ones on a monthly basis.
- Insulate older water heaters or, if possible, consider purchasing a tank-less water heater.
- Clean debris from around your HVAC unit on a regular basis to increase air flow.
- Install a programmable thermostat or wireless thermostat in order to adjust temperatures when no one is in the office.
- Plug leaks, install weather stripping and use fans when possible to increase the efficiency of your heating and cooling unit.
- Use solar screens around windows to block out intense summer sun and plant trees to (eventually) shade heavily sunlit areas.
The cost of going green
Even though making energy efficient adjustments at work will help you save money in the long run, it’s not always cheap to get started. While efforts such as shutting off the lights and adjusting the thermostat can be done at no cost, installing new CFLs and purchasing energy efficient equipment can seem cost-prohibitive at first. CFLs, however, last 10 times longer than standard bulbs and save you approximately $30 over their lifespan.
Also, in order to earn the Energy Star label, equipment must show that the purchaser will save the difference in its cost compared to its conventional, less energy efficient counterpart within a reasonable amount of time. So while there might be some cost up front, your energy efficient efforts will reward you in the long run.
Promote your energetic efforts
By starting out or improving on your business by using energy efficient practices and equipment, you’re already saving your company money, but you can also help drive revenue by promoting these efforts. Let your customers know that your business makes conscious efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and be more eco-friendly by making note of your efforts on your website and through local advertising.
Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency highlights Energy Star partners and leaders throughout the year via press releases and spotlighting new partners, leaders and the annual Partner of the Year award winner.
Whether you choose to work with the Energy Star program or simply make efforts to be more green on your own, making your business more energy efficient will save you money over time and leave a more earth-friendly impression on your customers and the environment.
What are some ways you’ve found to save energy with your business? What are some of the benefits and/or disadvantages you’ve found to working with the Energy Star program?
About the Author: Brent Hardy is Vice President of www.extraspace.com, responsible for all corporate construction & facilities management. He writes about corporate sustainable practices at blog.extraspace.com/category/sustainability.