5 Easy Ways Your Small Business Can Save Money

As any entrepreneur knows, Benjamin Franklin was right when he said that “a penny saved is a penny earned.” And with the right energy-efficiency strategies, your small business can save hundreds—or even thousands—on utilities this winter. That’s no small change.

As any entrepreneur knows, Benjamin Franklin was right when he said that “a penny saved is a penny earned.” And with the right energy-efficiency strategies, your small business can save hundreds—or even thousands—on utilities this winter. That’s no small change.

Here are five quick fixes:

  1. Change your light bulbs. If you haven’t already, look into one of the exceedingly energy-efficient alternatives to old-school “bulbs.” Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) use about one-fourth the energy and lasts ten times longer than a comparable traditional incandescent bulb; and light emitting diodes (LEDs)(check out one of our videos about LED lights) use only 20 to 25 percent of the energy and last up to 25 times longer than the traditional incandescent bulbs they replace.
  2. Install motion sensors. Your mother always told you to turn off the lights when you leave a room, but somehow it’s easy to forget. Rather than constantly reminding employees, make it easy on them and install motion sensors in indoor and outdoor areas. Outdoors motion sensors provide an extra layer of security around the perimeter of your building without requiring you to leave lights on all night. And indoors, they are ideal for places that are infrequently used, such as rest rooms or store rooms.
  3. Turn down the heat. Office temperatures typically make you feel like you live in “Opposite World”—freezing in the summer when you’re dressing light and boiling in the winter when you break out your turtlenecks. You want your office to be a respite from the elements, but there’s no need to go overboard. Set your thermostat right around 68 degrees for a comfortable, not tropical, temperature and leave it there—or better yet, invest in a programmable one. Don’t let all those new holiday sweaters go to waste!
  4. Invest in a dishwasher. That unsightly jumble of lunch dishes and coffee cups could be costing you money! In addition to being a conduit for germs during the cold and flu season, hand washing dishes actually wastes both water – up to 5,000 gallons compared to an ENERGY STAR dishwasher – and uses twice as much energy, both the kind you pay for and the kind you expend. Your utility bill – and your employees – will thank you.
  5. Defang the vampire. Also known as “phantom load,” “vampire energy” is the electricity that PCs, chargers and office machines use when they are plugged in even when they are off. The easiest way to avoid having electricity (and money!) leak all night is to plug machines into a power strip that you turn off every evening.

All small business owners know that wasting energy on the wrong goals is a recipe for disaster—wasting energy on your utility bill is too, but these quick fixes can help! Simply making these small, inexpensive changes will make it so your small business can save money this year.

 

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LED Lighting. Saving Money With A Twist of the Bulb.

Recently we addressed some of the questions that people have concerning LED lighting. Is this a fad (like CFL's)? Isn't LED lighting expensive to install? Will the bulbs work in my fixtures? Once again we visited with our friends from The House Of Lights in Scarborough, Maine...this time we try some LED light bulbs in common fixtures around you home. With a simple twist of the bulb, you can conserve energy and save

Recently we addressed some of the questions that people have concerning LED lighting.   Is this a fad (like CFL’s)?  Isn’t LED lighting expensive to install?  Will the bulbs work in my fixtures?

Once again we visited with our friends from The House Of Lights in Scarborough, Maine…this time we try some LED light bulbs in common fixtures around you home.   With a simple twist of the bulb, you can conserve energy and save money.

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Windows Are Responsible for 50% of heat loss.

Seeping around your windows is responsible for 50% of a homes heat loss. There are some things you can do to mitigate this problem.

The U.S. Department of Energy research suggests older homes lose as much as 50% of their heat loss (energy costs) due to seepage around windows.    This isn’t a result of poor construction, instead due to settling of older homes on their foundation and contraction/expansion during weather changes.

While there are many financial benefits to changing out our windows, the costs can still be prohibitive.  Fortunately-we do have options.  Some can actually be quite stylish!

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Energy Audits – what are they and should you get one?

An energy audit, sometimes called an energy assessment can help to find out where heating dollars are going. An energy audit shows how a home uses energy, including where it’s being wasted, so homeowners can make targeted upgrades. Should you have an audit done, we have some tips to help you decide.

When I was little, cold weather meant sledding parties, hot cocoa, and days off from school. I still love cocoa, but after we bought an old farmhouse, winter also meant icy drafts, rattling windows, and painfully high heating costs.

A friend recommended we get an energy audit, sometimes called an energy assessment, to find out where our heating dollars were going. An energy audit shows how a home uses energy, including where it’s being wasted, so homeowners can make targeted upgrades. For instance, we learned that our walls are well insulated, but our attic wasn’t.

Signs you might need an energy audit:

  • Your house is more than 50 years old
  • You’re breaking the bank to buy firewood, pellets, or heating oil
  • Drafts blow in around your windows and doors, or through chinks in the walls
  • Your windows or doors rattle in their frames
  • No matter how much the stove or furnace runs, your house feels chilly

Still not certain? You can run a quick Do-It-Yourself assessment, with some help from the federal government. You’ll need to know your past 12 months of utility usage, which is probably on your electricity bill or heating oil statement.

Some nonprofits offer free or low-cost energy audits, which usually consist of feeling for drafts, checking for rattling windows, and looking for visible signs of leaks, such as condensation on windows or loose ductwork.

A professional energy audit will cost $200 to $500 – the price varies depending on the size of your home and how many auditors in your area are competing for business – but will use some very interesting tools to give you a detailed look at your home’s trouble spots. (Tax subsidies can offset some or all of the cost.)

My favorite instrument was the thermographic scanner, which showed in vivid color exactly how heat was escaping my house – and even let me peek inside walls to see where the lath-and-plaster construction gave way to better-insulated studs with fiberfill. Most professional audits also include a blower door test, which can reveal all the leaks that New England’s older homes are famous for.

Afterward, you will get a detailed report outlining exactly where and how your home is losing energy, plus the measures that you can use to make your home more energy efficient – and even tell you how cost-effective each will be.

For instance, our energy auditor explained that if we added a foot of insulation to our attic, it would cost about $800 up front but would save us about $150 per year in heating costs, so it would pay for itself in six years. Replacing our rattling windows, by contrast, would cost $200 to $400 per window, and doing all 20 windows in the house would save only about $100 per year, so might never pay for itself. Caulking up gaps between old wooden beams costs only a few dollars per tube of caulk, but can make a huge difference in comfort and heating costs. And so forth.

Not only will you learn the best way to spend your winterizing dollars, getting an energy audit can qualify you to get tax credits for your energy efficiency upgrades.

After our energy audit, we decided to insulate our basement and attic, apply caulk liberally, and make a few other changes. The result is that not only does our house feel warmer, our heating costs also dropped enormously — we buy less wood, less heating oil, and our electric bill for the winter months dropped by about half.

For most homeowners, making the upgrades identified in a home energy audit can save you 5 to 30 percent on your monthly energy bill, according to the US Department of Energy.

If you’re ready to shrink your heating bills, get rid of spine-chilling drafts, and find cost-effective steps to a warmer home, an energy audit could be your next step.

 

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Energy-Efficient Resolutions for the New Year

This is one set of resolutions you won't have any trouble keeping. Saving money and making your home more energy efficient are likely high on your resolution list. Here are some tips and hints to keep on top of mind.

‘Tis the season for New Year’s resolutions, and while most people focus on resolutions related to work or personal growth, we’d like to suggest you add in a new category this year. While you’re working on improving your own personal world, why not work on improving the world around you?

To that end, we’re offering four energy-saving New Year’s Resolutions that will make the world a healthier place, and save money to boot! (I bet that’s on your list too!)

This year, resolve to:

  1. Get a professional home energy audit. An energy audit is the first step in energy savings.  A professional will visit and assess your home from top-to-bottom, using the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index, which is the industry standard by which a home’s energy efficiency is measured. Often they’ll do a “blower door test” and thermographic imaging to pinpoint exactly where energy is escaping. As part of the assessment, they’ll give you suggestions on which upgrades you should consider for the most benefit.
  2.   Make one energy-efficiency investment a month. Even though energy-efficient upgrades pay for themselves over time, there is typically an upfront cost. That’s why you might want to consider spreading out your investments. You can start small: why not get new power strips to help stop the ‘energy vampires’ in your home? Next, check into energy-efficient lighting, then a programmable thermostat. Every change you make will add up to significant savings over the not-so-long run.
  3.   Use less. This philosophy is so simple, yet so constructive. Using less encompasses using less electricity by turning off the lights when you leave a room; using less water by turning off the tap when you brush your teeth; using less energy by washing your clothes in cold water, rather than hot – the possibilities are endless. Several mobile apps can help you track your energy and water consumption.
  4. Champion energy savings among your family. It’s vital to get the whole family on board, but it will be more effective if you make it fun, rather than nagging them.  Monitor your progress together, and use your savings for a fun family outing. Keep a chart of small changes every family member can make – whether it’s unplugging their chargers at night, or putting on a sweater instead of cranking the heat. Make sure they know they are a crucial part of the success of this endeavor and show them how their changes – big and small – make a difference.

They say that a new behavior becomes a habit after two or three months. Stick with your new energy-saving regime – and your other New Year’s resolutions – and see how far you have come as spring starts to appear!

 

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Pellet Stoves. Savings. Simplicity. Safety.

Whether you’re looking for new heating options to save money, want to do your part to help the environment, or are looking for some aesthetic appeal, a pellet stove could be just the investment your home needs. To help you decide if you want to join the 2.8 million American households that have pellet stoves, we came up with a list of pros and cons to guide you through.

Whether you’re looking for new heating options to save money, want to do your part to help the environment, or are looking for some aesthetic appeal, a pellet stove could be just the investment your home needs. To help you decide if you want to join the 2.8 million American households that have pellet stoves, we came up with a list of pros and cons to guide you through. Consider this your “hot stove” report…

The Pros

Long-term savings

If you’re like most people, one of the biggest deciding factors of switching to a pellet stove is cost. Generally speaking, pellet stoves could offer a return on your initial investment since it usually costs less to keep your home warm than oil, gas, or electric-powered heating. You can expect to pay a couple of thousand dollars or more for your stove (depending on the model you choose), as well as a bit extra for the installation since an exhaust must be put in, so it will take time to recoup your upfront costs. One comparison between an oil-heated home and a hybrid oil and pellet-heated home found that the latter saved $876 in annual heating costs. Unfortunately, the federal tax incentive that used to be in place for pellet stove buyers expired in 2013, but check with your state to see if any rebates or tax credits are available.

Simplicity

If your decision involves a pellet stove versus a wood-burning stove, the pellet stove wins for ease of use. The pellets burn more efficiently than wood (even if the flames aren’t as “romantic” looking), produce a more consistent heat, and do not create as much ash. Plus, the heat is regulated via thermostat. Once you load the hopper with pellets, your work is done.

Safety

Unlike wood burning stoves, pellet stoves are less likely to get hot enough to cause burns, with the exception of the glass door.  In that respect, they are safer for homes that have small children.

The “green” factor

There’s no doubt that pellet stoves are more eco-friendly than traditional heating sources. According to the Alliance for Green Heat, installing a pellet stove can reduce your carbon footprint by two to four tons per year, or 10 – 20 percent of your entire emissions.

The Cons

Storage challenges

Pellets are easy to store since they come in 40-pound bags, but if storage space is limited in your home (and, yes, they should be stored indoors), that could be a negative since it will mean frequent trips to the store.

Upkeep is required

Pellet stove owners should be aware that frequent maintenance and cleaning is necessary to keep the stove in proper working condition. If you tend to be lax about that sort of thing, like scheduling yearly professional maintenance, and taking care of the stove’s cleaning on an ongoing basis, this might not be a good fit for you.

Electricity powered

If you’re considering a stove because your area is prone to power outages, pellet stoves won’t solve that problem. They require electricity to run the fans, so if you lose power, you’ll also lose your heat source (unless you hook up to a generator).

The noise factor

If you’re already used to your heating or cooling systems being noisy, this might not matter, but be aware that you’ll hear a constant, dull rumbling sound when your pellet stove is running.


If you love the idea of incorporating a pellet stove into your home décor, and the pros outweigh the cons, this could be your next major home upgrade.

If you are looking for more information about pellet stoves, well-there is a group that can help.  Check out the The Pellet Fuels Institute-they are a non-profit association that serves the pellet industry, which is comprised of pellet mills, pellet appliance manufacturers and industry suppliers. The Institute is active in educating consumers about the convenience and practicality of using wood pellet fuel in both residential and commercial applications.

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Lack of Nat Gas Pipelines Equals Higher Electric Utility Rates

Energy and business writer for Forbes.com, James Conca, has a reputation for carefully and with appropriate detail covering U.S. energy issues.  His December 17th piece Pipeline And Nuclear Shortages Send New England’s Utility Bills Soaring is among his strongest.

Accompanying his piece is this graphic that depicts natural gas pipeline infrastructure across the county.  Those who understand the basic laws of supply and demand can easily understand how parts of New England are so far behind other parts of the U.S. (in terms of the availability of nat gas) and why electric utilities here are so susceptible to fluctuations in the energy market.

Consumers interested in saving on their electric bill often see competitive supply companies as a good alternative to the utility default or stand offer.  Due to sophisticated buying practices, and being able to look over longer periods of time ,like 12 or 24 months (many utilities look at pricing only for 6 months at a time), consumers benefit from shopping the market.

Since many electric utilities are owned by large national or multi-national companies, using an electricity supply company also enables consumers to shop locally with a businesses in their own state or region.  Doing so has the added benefit of supporting local jobs and community.

 

 

 

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LED Lighting Misconceptions

LED Lighting. What are the benefits, misconceptions, and potential pitfalls of LED lighting? We spoke with folks who know a whole lot about LED lighting and asked them to address some of the more pressing questions they are getting.

Residential and business consumers have many questions (and some concerns) about LED lighting. Is this another lighting fad (like CFL’s)? Can you really save money? Will I have to change out my light fixtures?

To help answer those (and many other questions), we visited with one of northern New England’s most respected lighting and design stores, the House of Lights , and asked them to address some of the questions they are hearing.

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