Small business owners have a constant stream of bills and responsibilities coming their way. The summer months bring back another utility bill—air conditioning.
Increased energy costs have remained one of the top three business expenses for 35 percent of small businesses over the last few years. The primary energy cost comes from heating and/or cooling for one-third of small companies.
Although some energy-saving strategies may seem too expensive for small businesses to implement—such as buying new and more energy-efficient equipment—there are steps that small business owners can take to bring the cost of a cool summer down.
NFIB member Daryl Pater, the chief manager of Mainstream Heating & Cooling, tells his customers three tips that he practices in his 5,600 square feet office and warehouse in Clarksville, Tennessee:
- Change your filters and make sure your unit stays clean;
- Use programmable thermostats so you’re not heating and cooling the space when it’s not occupied;
- Check your blinds, window shading, light bulbs, and other sources of heat to make sure heat is minimized.
Pater says the proper cleaning and maintenance of equipment will have a 30 percent impact on a heating and cooling bill.
“You have to try to get that line item down as small as possible,” Pater says. “The biggest change we made was the programmable thermostat so that we could change the temperature when we weren’t occupying the building. Originally it was a cost-cutting measure, but we kept it because it has kept the bills stable.”
Brad Pease, Vice President of Seattle-based Paladino and Co., a green building consulting firm, believes that utilizing office design as a savings tool can help offset heating and cooling costs.
“Heating and cooling is not a primary energy cost for our firm because of the decisions we’ve made in our office design,” he says.
One example is Paladino and Co.’s use of flexible workstations that allow employees to move around to warmer or cooler spaces.
“As a small business, every penny counts,” Pease says. “Small inefficiencies can add up over time to a significant waste of resources. By saving money on heating and cooling through passive design strategies and smart office layout, we are able to invest more in our equipment and people,” he says.
Other tips include taking advantage of natural light, telecommuting when possible to reduce office space requirements, and installing motion detectors.
Updates to Energy Policies
Another reason to beat the heat smartly is reflected in the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s recent forecast that the total utility-scale electricity generated from natural gas power plants will rise from 32 percent in 2017 to 34 percent in both 2018 and 2019. While the bulk of coal, nuclear, non-hydropower renewable, and hydropower energy will remain at the same levels, natural gas is the No. 1 generator of energy in the country.
Utility costs have also continued to rise due to the steady investment in transmission infrastructure during the past 10 years.
Despite the raised utility prices, there have been some federal wins, including the October 2017 repeal of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan Rule. The rule, which was put in place in 2015, required that states use energy sources other than coal to reduce carbon emissions. Learn more about NFIB’s efforts to advocate for the repeal of the Clean Power Plan.