With razor-thin margins, it's essential to get the most value from every dollar spent on energy. The nation's electric utility companies, long a resource for energy-saving advice and programs, can help. So, too, can the nation's new energy laws. Combining both resources will give you a powerful tool to improve your profitability.
Here are 10 tips to lower your energy bills. Following this advice will cost little or nothing, but the returns could surprise you.
- Reduce air conditioning and space heating use during unoccupied hours.
- Raising thermostat settings a few degrees during occupied hours can still maintain comfort, while saving energy and money. If possible, minimize sunlight through windows on hot afternoons.
- Adjust thermostat settings near closing hours—higher for air conditioning, lower for heating.
- Turn off unneeded lights.
- Use more efficient lower-wattage or compact fluorescent bulbs. Dust and clean bulbs regularly.
- Have your heating, air conditioning, cooking, icemaking and refrigeration equipment periodically serviced and adjusted as needed.
- Turn off equipment when not in use.
- Check automatic controls for proper working condition and settings.
- Lower water temperature settings; for hand washing, 105°F is recommended.
- Use higher efficiency outdoor lighting systems and use only the lighting necessary to do the job.
If you want a qualified professional to assist you in making energy-saving improvements, start with your electric utility company. It will have historical data about energy use in your business.
Electric companies offer free energy-saving advice, and many have a range of no-or low-cost energy management programs. A list of programs by electric utilities can be found at: http://www.eei.org/ industry_issues/retail_services_a nd_delivery/wise_energy_use/programs_and_incentives/ progs.pdf.
These tips will cost you little or nothing, but the results are surprising.
For operators who have restaurants throughout a region or the country, contacting electric utilities can be a daunting logistical challenge. Edison Electric Institute's National Accounts Network makes this easier (www.eei.org/na-necan). This will save you time and simplify the task of working with utilities for power hookups, rate questions and info about efficiency programs.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct), the nation's first comprehensive energy law in 13 years, can help you get more value from your energy dollars, too. EPAct sets higher energyefficiency standards for a variety-of commercial appliances and equipment. It also offers $2.7 billion in tax deductions and credits for the purchase of high-efficiency products.
As an example, commercial buildings can qualify for a tax deduction of $1.80 per square foot if they are built to exceed by 50% the energy efficiency rating of a "baseline" building in the American Society of Heating Refrigeration Air Conditioning Engineers' (ASHRAE) building code 90.1-2001.
Under EPAct, the federal government is also offering tax credits for distributed generation systems—solar energy, microturbines and fuel cells—that meet certain efficiency requirements. The window for all these tax incentives is scheduled to close on December 31, 2007, although discussions are underway that will likely extend it. For the latest tax incentive information, visit: http://www.energytaxincentives.org/.
A number of states also offer incentives to improve energy efficiency. Visit http://www.eere.energy.gov/states/ for details.
The time to get the most value from every energy dollar is now. The return will be greater profitability and a future with more reliable, affordable and environmentally sustainable energy supplies.
Steve Kiesner is director of the Edison Electric Institute's national accounts program. EEI is the trade association of shareholder-owned energy companies. He can be reached at 202-508-5414 or email@example.com.