As an energy consultant who's dedicated his professional life to lowering energy expenses, I've always advocated for energy efficiency. It's a great way for entrepreneurs to save money. And with all the help provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, you can get fast results.
In the world of business, implementing energy-efficiency measures can mean a large investment but also a great financial return. Still, money shouldn't always be the incentive to run an energy-efficient business. My clients have experienced numerous other benefits from making the transition -- and some of these perks proved more valuable than the dollar savings.
Protect our children.
Switching to LED lighting is one of my favorite energy-conservation measures because it's totally painless. Just unscrew the old bulbs and install LED replacements in the same sockets. It doesn't take much to convince a business owner, and it comes with a more-than-acceptable ROI.
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However, when I pitched LEDs to specific organizations earlier in my career, I missed mentioning a potentially greater benefit. Schools, hospitals and other institutions that serve children and their families appreciate the lack of glass and mercury in LED bulb designs. CFLs are cheaper and offer decent savings, but using them in fixtures installed within a child's reach is the equivalent of placing a ticking time bomb.
School administrators who've enlisted my consulting assistance report they've received positive feedback from parents who noticed the LED installations. They earned acclaim not only for being environmentally friendly but also for creating a safer environment for children.
Set and forget.
LEDs last a very long time, so it's amusing to hear astonished clients say they haven't called an electrician or manager to intervene in three years. The truth is, quality LEDs might outlast the businesses that installed them.
Even when used for up to eight hours per day, LEDs can last more than 10 years. A problem-free first three years is nearly guaranteed. Businesses that don't require changes to their lighting requirements can simply set and forget their installations. The only "maintenance" is a little dusting from time to time.
Offer more for less.
Switching to LEDs also has created many success stories for supermarkets and stores. If lighting decisions affect your product sales, I recommend hiring a lighting designer or other qualified expert. The end result will save you money and look and feel better, too.
LED offers several solutions to help you create more appealing storefronts. Designers and owners even can use a mix of LED strips and conventional LED bulbs. Retail-space interiors see unlimited possibilities through experimentation with color, reflection and contrast. Now, one could argue these results all are due to a designer's eye, but make no mistake the decision to install LEDs was inspired by energy-efficiency upgrades.
Reinvigorate office spirits.
In commercial buildings, I often suggest rearranging the space for greater energy efficiency. Combined with a few equipment changes, this does a lot to introduce a new element in sometimes dull, everyday office life.
You don't need to launch an entire remodel. Relocating the same old water cooler to a different spot can make a space more attractive or improve flow. Upgrades to office kitchens could bring new food options to the table -- always good for office morale.
Create a better work environment.
The more serious efficiency upgrades also do a good job of improving the overall work environment. A friend and a colleague who deals with energy conservation revealed that his efforts often result in better noise insulation. Thicker windows and additional wall layers make it harder for outside noise to pass through.
Noise insulation is valued in both the residential and commercial sectors. Efficiency upgrades that block out the city's constant hum actually can boost property values. These measures work well even for noises created in the work process itself. Business owners with offices in their workshops were surprised to discover their workspaces were significantly quieter after adding thermal insulation.
Hold down the fort.
Commercial-business owners often ask for energy-efficiency advice as a last resort before moving to a new location. Some locations have great strategic or other value, but unacceptable energy loss affects basic working conditions.
Owners usually fear that upgrades will cost them an arm and a leg. That's rarely the case. After a thorough discussion of the current location's property value and intangibles, many business owners realize that energy updates are a better investment than moving.
It's not always about having ideal conditions. In fact, it's far more important to hold down the fort. Selective efficiency measures, applied only where they are most needed, can keep a business running and earning revenue to fund more improvements down the road.
Owner education is another hidden benefit from employing energy-efficiency measures. To make smart decisions, owners must learn about energy loss, the cost to their businesses and what needs to be done. Once they understand the benefits of initial energy-efficiency improvements, they become aware of the potential to implement appropriate measures as they expand to additional locations.
All good entrepreneurs value knowledge and experience, especially when it helps their business ventures.
Get a boost from 'green appeal.'
Of course, I can't finish up without addressing the elephant in the room: These days, being "green" no longer makes someone a hippie -- it means he or she is a responsible member of society. The ideology is so prevalent that Viridian decided to completely rebrand as a green company, offering energy from sustainable sources.
If business owners need another indication that going green will help their public images, they need look no further than the list of Fortune 500 companies. Many of them have decided to go green, becoming highly efficient in the process. Being perceived as green carries some of the same allure as making regular donations to charities.
In today's eco-conscious economy, companies that develop and market green tech are revered for their work, which is actually quite profitable. A good number of them even spend a portion of their profit installing green tech in underdeveloped regions, further increasing the green image.
Share your success stories.
Through energy subsidies, the U.S. Department of Energy does its best to encourage everyone to become more efficient. Unfortunately, subsidy programs help perpetuate a stigma that energy efficiency isn't strong enough to stand on its own.
Subsidies improve the ROI, but the examples above should prove that efficiency measures offer more benefits than a few extra bucks on the company's account. In the end, improving a company's image and work conditions may result in greater profits than all the money saved on energy.