Businesses need to run a tight ship in order to stay profitable. Keeping an eye on costs like payroll, insurance, and utilities is important for managing cash flow and growth. But that last one can be tricky. Essentials like water, electricity, and gas are necessary to keep a business running. Even during a crunch, you can’t just decide to save money by disconnecting all the lights.
We all know that energy efficient offices don’t just cut down on emissions to save the planet, they also save money. But is it actually a profitable move? And how much money are we talking about?
Creating efficiency through behavioral changes.
“Efficiency” isn’t a static thing. There’s no magic number that means you’re suddenly “efficient,” whereas before, you weren’t. It’s a continuum with a constantly moving horizon, thanks to ever-advancing technology. Some of what makes an office more energy efficient is behavior: Do employees turn the copier off at the end of the day? Are they setting the thermostat to a reasonable level? Do they close the blinds on hot, sunny days?
Training employees to keep an eye out for opportunities to think green can absolutely have an effect on savings. During the energy crisis of 2000-2001, Californians were asked to cut back on their electricity usage, just by modifying their behaviors. They did so, to the tune of 7 percent reduction, a huge accomplishment.
How much money can a small behavioral change save you?
Some folks at Tips and Tricks did the math on what you save by turning off a desktop computer at night. For a CPU running idle with a screensaver consuming 0.082 Kwh for 16 hours overnight on weekdays and all day on the weekends, assuming 11 cents per Kwh, that saves $60.04 per year. A 19-inch monitor consuming .05 Kwh adds another $36.60 to that, for a total of $96.64 annually.
That’s nice, but it’s still nothing to write home about. At least, until you remember that this is one employee’s computer. Multiply that by 100 employees, and you get $9664.00 in savings, just from one little change.
The money saved from behavioral changes will also depend on your equipment and your situation. Turning off overhead lights and relying on spot lighting for specific workstations can provide significant savings in some cases, but if your overheads are fluorescents and all your desk lamps are incandescent bulbs, you might actually be increasing your energy usage.
Similarly, opening up the shades to maximize natural light in the office and reduce reliance on artificial lighting might make sense in Minnesota, but here in Orlando, direct sunlight will likely do more to drive up cooling costs than lower the electric bill.
Upgrading and building for increased efficiency.
While behavioral changes can help increase efficiency to a point, there’s a natural limit to how much can be accomplished that way. Luckily, there is also lots of stuff that can make your office more efficient. These solutions cost more upfront but can bring in major savings in the long run, without impacting employee routines or productivity.
Example of a small upgrade: LED lighting.
A traditional incandescent light bulb costs around a dollar. A compact fluorescent bulb costs around $2. The equivalent LED is around $8. So switching to LEDs, while small on the whole scale of things, would definitely blow up your lighting budget for a moment.
But that’s just in the short term. An LED light can last for 25,000 hours. At that point, you’ll have replaced the compact fluorescent bulb three times, and the incandescent bulb a whopping 21 times. So you’ll have spent $21 on incandescents and just $6 on compact fluorescents compared with the single $8 LED. Looking at the purchase price, it seems like CFL is the way to go.
This, however, doesn’t take energy efficiency into account. By the time you need to replace that LED, you’ll have spent $180 on electricity to run that incandescent bulb, $42 on the fluorescent one, and just $30 on the LED. Add the purchase price to the electricity cost, and the LED comes out $10 ahead of the CFL, saving you $163 over the incandescent bulb. Again, this is just one light. In an office looking for sustainability over the long term, this small upgrade can add up to big savings.
Example of a larger upgrade: Low-E Windows
Low-E windows are windows with a thin coating of metal in them that stops heat from traveling through it. In Florida, you’re looking for windows with a low solar heat gain coefficient, meaning sunlight will raise the inside temperature of the building less. (Businesses further north will want to look for a low U-values, which represents the amount of heat inside the building that’s lost through the window.)
Low-E windows typically cost around 10-15% more than regular windows, and that’s assuming you had planned to replace your windows at all! It’s definitely a significant investment. But they can also reduce energy costs by 30-50%, a massive amount of money saved over time.
Tax breaks and rebates can help bring costs down.
Governments and utilities understand that upgrading things like lighting, windows, HVAC systems, and insulation can get pricey. That’s why they offer a variety of incentives to help businesses and individuals make that step.
The Orlando Utilities Commission offers a variety of rebates for businesses that install energy-efficient systems. For example, they offer a rebate of $1.50 per square foot for ENERGY STAR windows, $.12 per square foot for a reflective roof, and $.10 per square foot for ceiling insulation. Even smaller projects can qualify for rebates, with 100% of the cost of repairing a leaky duct covered, up to $100.
In the past, there have also been a number of Federal tax breaks for energy efficient updates. Since these are created by and subject to legislation, they change regularly. It’s important to consult with both experts in efficient design, as well as with an accountant, to figure out what kind of tax break you might be eligible for, based on the type and the extent of your efficiency upgrades.
An energy efficient office is a sustainable one.
This is true both in the sense of being environmentally friendly and in keeping budgets manageable over the life of the business. There are so many factors to consider when renovating or constructing an office with efficiency in mind. Luckily, BG Southern is here to help. Get in touch, and we can figure out the details of your construction project together.