Saving energy when business is limited

Tips for saving energy whether you're open, closed, or somewhere in between

As your business adapts to this time and changes to how you operate, it’s natural to worry about how your energy bill impacts your bottom line. Here are some tips to minimize your energy use while also considering security and air quality. Staying open or partially open? Jump to our tips below.

If your business is temporarily closed

Lower your heat settings but be careful about turning your HVAC off while it’s still cold out at night

It’s tempting to completely turn off your HVAC units if no one will be there. But this could lead to mold or other air quality issues. So consider lowering your heat settings instead (say, from 68 degrees to about 45 or 50 degrees). As the weather starts to warm up consistently, this will be less of an issue.

It may be good to periodically run just your blower fan to filter stale air

In general, think of all the possible implications of having partially or completely vacant buildings shuttered for long periods of time, including all aspects of air quality.

Close curtains and blinds

Block outside cold air, or summer sun, so your heater or air conditioner – which should still be on but just at a lower (or higher, for A/C) set-point – doesn’t work as hard.

Turn your water heater off if you’ll be away for an extended period

Make sure your circulation pumps are off, as well. You can also turn your water heater down below 75 degrees if you’re uncertain how long you’ll be away.

It’s natural to turn off lights

Turning off lights is a good idea but do consider safety and security. Just like when we leave our homes for vacation, it’s good to provide the impression that someone is there occasionally. You may want to purchase simple timers to plug a few inside lights into. On the outside, consider installing motion-detector controlled lights. There are many LED options that are solar powered and won’t have any impact on your bill.

Turn off (and even unplug) refrigerators, freezers in your staff kitchens

Be sure to clean them out thoroughly first, and prop the doors open so they don’t get moldy.

Unplug energy-sucking electronic appliances and office equipment

Unplug printers, scanners, computers and monitors, microwaves, water coolers and any personal entertainment systems or device chargers your staff may have. These “energy vampires” draw a small amount of power even when they’re powered off. Use sticky notes to remind people what needs to be plugged back in when you return.

For medical and dental offices

As you re-open, if you have fewer stations in use for physical distancing, it’s a good idea to shut down unused equipment to save energy. Of course, it’s important to properly flush irrigating or suction equipment first, for example, so it stays clean while sitting unused for long periods.

If you’re open or partially open

Turn off lighting when you leave but consider safety and security

You may want to leave a couple of lights on or purchase simple automatic timers to plug a few inside lights in to. Consider installing motion-detection lights outside. There are many solar-powered, LED options that won’t have any impact on your electric bill.

Save energy by turning your water heater down when you leave

A water heater consumes 25% of its energy to keep the tank of water warm—even if hot water is not being used. When lowering the water temperature, set it above 115°F or below 75°F to prevent the growth of Legionella bacteria, which can cause illness.

Reset programmable or smart thermostats to account for your new reduced hours

As always, consider lowering (for heat) or raising (for A/C) your thermostat 5 to 10 degrees for times the building will be unoccupied for longer than 8 hours.

Close curtains and blinds

This helps block outside cold air, or summer sun, so your heater or air conditioning doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain the same indoor temperature.

Balancing HVAC energy savings with air quality

You may also be thinking about air quality for your team if you’re staying partially or fully staffed. The solution here comes down to whether you want a longer-term, clean-air solution that costs a little more, or want to get by for right now as inexpensively as possible.

  • If you’re trying keep costs down and ride out the current situation, you can use your HVAC to do whole-building, full-air-change flushes at the appropriate time of day or night to reduce the formation and buildup of mold and unhealthy indoor environments.

  • If you’re planning for the long term, there is equipment you can install that efficiently helps your HVAC system manage air quality. Here’s an example PGE. This will likely drive energy use up, not down, but can make your work environment very clean.

  • The  CDC recommends PGE also considering the following changes to your HVAC system:

    • Increasing ventilation rates

    • Increase the percentage of outdoor air that circulates into the system

Consolidate food in restaurant refrigerators, walk-in coolers and freezers

One full cooler is better than 2 that are partially full, for instance. Not only does that allow you to turn the unused one off, but it also helps the one you’re still using save energy, since the fuller it is, the less energy it will use to maintain the cold.

Turn off unused coolers and freezers

Be sure to clean them fully first to prevent mold. You can also buy desiccants that absorb excess moisture and place them inside. Large home improvement stores carry refillable containers and desiccant materials.

Looking for more ways to save energy and money? Contact us for a free, energy-efficiency Savings Checkup. You’ll get custom recommendations tailored to your business.