It's a new year, and the perfect time to not only reflect on your successes, but set yourself up for success in the months ahead, too. Here's our guide to making 2020 a more energy-efficient – and prosperous – year for your business.
If you haven't already, get to know your electricity bill. Looking at bills from the last 18 to 24 months, and even real-time data through your local hydro company's website, can tell you when you're using energy most, so you can brainstorm ways to save.
You can also reach out to your local hydro for help with finding opportunities for energy efficiency. Many will offer a walk-through of your business where a professional can share some ideas for saving energy.
As a next step, an audit from a certified energy professional may also help you uncover opportunities to save more energy through steps like upgrading HVAC equipment or making inexpensive changes like switching your lighting to more efficient LED bulbs.
Your customers and your employees alike can give you a lot of insight into how your business can improve, so ask for their input.
It may be as simple as having a team meeting where you talk about energy and ask for ideas for ways to save. Your day-to-day staff are the ones who most likely notice things such as an unused cooler staying plugged in unnecessarily.
Whether formally through a survey, or informally in conversation, ask your customers and employees about their experience and look for energy efficiency improvement possibilities.
What’s important is actually taking action on the feedback you get. Do customers think your store looks a bit dated? New LED lighting can help. Are employees finding your space drafty? Seal windows and doors with weather stripping and caulking.
A little cleaning can go a long way in terms of energy efficiency. Cleaning the coils on refrigerators or other cooling equipment, for example, helps them run more efficiently, so your appliances last longer and you can save energy month-to-month.
Set calendar reminders for regular equipment maintenance and be sure to make room in your budget for ongoing work. If your business' needs don't require professional help, consider offering up incentives, like additional pay or gift cards, for current employees to take on these extra tasks.
Just like at home, some small businesses can take advantage of smart devices, like smart light switches and thermostats, to help monitor and control their energy use, says Adam Dixon, a consultant who works with businesses to help them save energy. Smart plugs, for example, can help you control more of your electronics, even if you're not close by.
While you have tech on the brain, take the first few months of the year to assess your business' computers, printers and other electronics to see where you may have opportunities to save.
Look for technology that's outdated, like fax machines or older, personal printers no one uses, and pull the plug.
Upgrading from older desktops to newer, more efficient laptops can also help curb energy use, plus gives your employees more freedom to work from home.
"Small business owners sometimes think they need the same equipment as large ones, but you can get away with less," Dixon adds. If you don't need to print or scan documents often, use a corner print shop instead of keeping a large printer plugged in and warmed on standby all the time. If you do want to keep your printer in-house but yours is on the older side, consider investing in a newer, smaller model that may use less energy on standby.
Remember, many municipalities offer electronics recycling for free or minimal cost, so check out what's available in your area.
Along with upgrading your hardware, think about shifting more of your operations and data (like documents and emails) to the cloud, where everything is hosted at a remote data centre, instead of a server closet in your office. This can help reduce how much power you're using and increase the reliability of your data storage.
The year ahead is full of potential. Get a head start by taking advantage of incentives to help your business save energy.