For many small offices, December signals the same thing: time for a break. Closing your office for the holidays can present opportunities to save energy, and set you up for a better year ahead.
So, while you and your employees are recouping your energy at home, here's how you can save some at the office, too.
Before everyone takes off, encourage your employees to turn off their computers and switch off power bars to save on phantom power, or energy that's used even when electronics are in standby mode. Consider also unplugging larger appliances, like printers, scanners and photocopiers.
Remember to consult with your IT expert before unplugging everything though, so you can make sure you won't affect your business' operations in any way.
"Do a visual test in your office with the overhead lights turned off and see what's still glowing," says Stephen Dixon, a consultant who helps businesses become more energy-efficient. You'll likely find equipment to unplug without any business interruption.
Do a once-over of your office kitchen, too. Unplug anything that has a light, like your microwaves or coffee machines. If they use an LED light, they're using energy, even when no one is around.
Offices in larger buildings likely have their own automation systems, but if you're in control of your office's temperature, remember to turn it down for the holidays.
Just like at home, small businesses can also use programmable or smart thermostats to save energy. In many cases, your smart thermostat will shift into eco mode when you're not around, so you'll be saving automatically. "Remember that you may still need to manage your settings, especially if you're closed during weekdays," Dixon says.
Interested in a smart thermostat?Here's everything you need to know.
Regardless of your thermostat type, remember not to turn your heat completely off. "Not all heating systems recover the same way," Dixon says. That means when it's time to come back in the new year, you may use more energy when heating the whole office up to a comfortable temperature again than you would have by running it low during your office shutdown.
Encouraging your employees to save energy at home is a simple way to get them thinking about saving energy at work, too, says Dixon.
If working from home becomes more common during the colder months, give your employees a reminder of the ways they can save energy at home.
Every business will differ in when and where they're using the most energy. A holiday office closure can actually be a great time to get a picture of where you may have opportunities to save energy.
Many local hydro companies track your real-time electricity data online. "If you have hourly interval data available, it can be a great way to see how much energy you're using and when," Dixon says.
"The first thing I do at a business is look at what are called 'deep holidays,' like Christmas or New Year's Day," he says. "See what you used last year and try to use even less. Setting goals and targets is a great way to get motivated to save more."
Before You Leave: A Quick Checklist
With winter comes darker days. Turning off the lights is typically a great way to save energy, but think about your office's security, too. Consider installing timers or motion-sensor lighting to save energy and keep your space secure, during the holidays, and year-round, Dixon recommends.
At the same time, switch over your lightbulbs to energy-efficient LEDs. Making the change during days when the office is empty will be especially quick. Plus, your staff will come back to a brighter, more attractive office.
A little elbow grease can go a long way. Putting a little time into cleaning and simple equipment changes can set you up for a more energy-efficient year ahead.
Cleaning the coils of your office refrigerator, for example, can improve how efficiently it cools, and help you save a significant amount of energy.
The quieter days leading up to the holidays are also an ideal time to find and fix air leaks without disrupting your employees' work.
And lastly, let's not forget the most important part – enjoy your break!