Small businesses need to watch energy expenses even after they become successful. It’s too easy for costs to get out of control, especially when it comes to power usage. Many businesses have specific power requirements that can’t always be reduced simply by using the facilities less. Luckily, utility companies recognize this and can help small businesses pare down their energy needs.
Car dealerships need a lot of light to function effectively. The lot needs bright light so that customers shopping at night can see the cars correctly, the dealership lobby needs bright light so that the building appears inviting, and the entire property needs bright light to prevent theft. And that’s in addition to the air conditioning or heating in the building, computer power costs, security systems, and service center equipment power requirements. In fact, the Energy Star division of the Environmental Protection Agency says that even a 10-percent reduction in power usage by dealerships across the country could result in a savings of $193 million dollars. That means if the dealerships do nothing, they’ll continue to spend $193 million that they really don’t have to spend.
Utility companies can identify which pieces of equipment are siphoning away power when the equipment isn’t in use. And of course, the utilities can work with the dealerships to install more efficient lighting and heating/air conditioning. The utility companies will also have information on government incentives and subsidies to help with the cost of changing the fixtures.
Food-based businesses face astronomical refrigeration and kitchen costs. Grocery and convenience stores — those without attached delis or bakeries — must keep refrigerators and freezers working at constant, proper temperatures. The problem is compounded by open refrigerator and freezer cases that allow warmer ambient air temperatures to access the colder foods. The cases have to be kept especially cold to combat that.
If the grocery has a bakery or deli, then costs increase substantially due to kitchen equipment costs, such as ovens. Restaurants and standalone bakeries face the same issues. Plus there are all the costs associated with air conditioning and heating to keep customers comfortable, and lighting in case the facility is open all night long.
And convenience stores that have gas stations attached, with their bright lights by the pumps? That power bill is going to be even bigger.
Utility companies can help the facilities switch to using closed cases and installing more efficient HVAC systems. Solar panels might be an option. Restaurants, groceries, and other food-based establishments do not typically have very high profit margins, and the resulting savings can give the owners a little more breathing room should business temporarily dip.
As 24-hour establishments, hotels and motels have very high lighting and HVAC costs, and these are made worse by guests who blast the air conditioning or who leave lights on all night. One of the better changes you can make, suggests the EPA, is to use natural light when possible. Unoccupied rooms or rooms that are being cleaned during the day, as well as lobby space, should have adequate window space to allow a lot of light to shine in. A utility company can help these establishments figure out how to increase their natural light as well as how to modify landscaping to protect the building from hot summer-afternoon sunlight.
By working together, small businesses and utility companies can reduce costs, save energy, and make running the business more profitable. Businesses should contact their local utility companies as soon as possible to begin evaluating and changing power usage.