This article was originally published on Entrepreneur.
Leadership often demands touch choices, but the decisions you make about your company’s energy usage shouldn’t require too much deliberation. Businesses squander an estimated 30 percent of their energy spending through inefficient practices. In a crowded marketplace, those wasted resources can make a world of difference.
You live by the fortunes of your company and spend a good deal of time looking for every possible edge. Why, then, should you waste money on inefficient energy practices? When the life of your business and the well-being of the world as a whole are at stake, the choice to save energy becomes a pretty easy one.
The good news is it’s easier than ever to make your business more energy-efficient. The green movement has hit the business world in a major way, and that means plenty of simple options can help you save on energy costs. Here are a few ways that a relatively small investment can reduce spending and lower your environmental impact.
Appoint an “efficiency czar.”
Naming an office “energy czar” gives your company the ability to correct efficiency issues as soon as (or possibly even before) they cost you money. An administrator already manages the ins and outs of the workplace, so putting him or her in charge of energy use is a natural extension of job responsibilities.
The office manager takes care of administrative tasks around the building and naturally has a finger on the pulse of your company’s day-to-day operations. This person or someone in a similar role may be best positioned to streamline your company’s energy use. No matter who you choose, she or he must be conscientious and motivated — someone who can identify potential areas for improvement with an eye on eco-friendly developments.
Practice out with the old, in with the new.
Your newly appointed energy specialist’s first order of business? A full audit of your fixtures and equipment. Energy-efficient electronics might seem an unnecessary purchase, but they’ll more than make up for the price difference after a year or two of regular use.
A multitude of energy-efficient electronics are labeled so you can check ratings when it’s time to replace your old computers, printers, copiers and other equipment. Even when you’re not using electronics, they’re consuming energy. This perpetual standby can account for as much as 10 percent of electricity costs, so devices with better ratings will reveal an immediate impact. Odds are you’re using a wide variety of equipment. Evaluate it all, from your phone to the server on which you store your data.
Keep your data cool.
If your business makes use of a data center or server farm, cost-cutting opportunities await. Such facilities represent an estimated 2 percent of theentire country’s energy use — equivalent to about 70 billion kilowatt-hours per year. You can reduce your data center’s footprint within this massive outlay. Even if you’re not directly in control of the center, you can make an informed choice to partner with a data provider that uses smart energy practices.
Powerful processors must be kept cool, and centers can achieve this without putting all the emphasis on expensive air-conditioning. For example, you can save a good deal of processing power by installing power-management software that puts servers on standby when not in use. Good air flow in your facility is vital as well, and the “hot aisle/cold aisle” layout has been shown to regulate temperature and reduce energy use by an estimated 20 to 25 percent.
Perform regular HVAC maintenance.
Working in an energy-friendly climate means having careful control over your heating and cooling systems. Many of the fixes here can be handled only by trained HVAC professionals, so invite one to assess your building’s performance and suggest needed changes. These intricate systems make your building habitable, and regular upkeep prevents waste while maintaining a pleasant work environment.
You might be surprised that complex systems often rely on simple procedures. Something as straightforward as replacing (or cleaning, depending on manufacturer recommendations) air filters can make a big difference. In fact, a regularly maintained HVAC system can provide a savings of up to 40 percent. Your HVAC system drains money when it runs at less than optimal efficiency, so be sure all components are in good working order and insulated to prevent energy loss. It might seem obvious, but you can’t afford to squander any small amount of care when up to 40 percent of your entire building’s energy use is at stake.
Integrate solar energy.
Incorporating solar power into your energy use is a significant energy-saving option for business operations of just about any size. For a negligible cost (plus, it’s tax-deductible), you can outfit your space with noninvasive solar panels capable of generating up to 100 percent of your electricity — without releasing environmentally destructive emissions.
When it comes to saving energy and money, there’s no clearer win-win than solar. Although many business owners seem overly hesitant to adopt solar energy, the array of business and environmental benefits should make this an easy transition. With solar, CEOs can cut energy costs nearly in half while reducing their company’s environmental impact. Of all the tough decisions you make as CEO, the choice to add solar won’t be one of them.