Resolved to save energy? Options abound to cut costs as well as improve productivity

Fritz Diether
Fritz Diether

Business owners and managers resolved to improve the energy efficiency of their operations this year likely will have a lot of options from which to choose.

Replacing incandescent lighting, sealing leaks and repairing ductwork rank among the easiest ways to improve energy efficiency and offer some of the fastest returns on investment. Still, that’s just a sampling of the steps that can be taken to not only decrease energy bills, but also create a comfortable environment that increases employee productivity.

“It’s hard to find a downside,” said Fritz Diether, president and owner of Frostbusters & Coolth, a Grand Junction firm that conducts commercial and residential energy audits and works with contractors on installations and repairs.

An energy audit constitutes a good first step in assessing a building and identifying potential problems, Diether said. A blower door can check for air leakages and an infrared camera scan can identify where those leaks occur. An audit also can determine where additional insulation might be required or ductwork needs repaired.

Commercial energy audits also take into account the types of activities at a business, Diether said, whether its manufacturing operations, retail sales or office work.

Using the results of an audit, a plan can be developed to address energy efficiency issues. For businesses, Diether said the question is whether or not making improvements or repairs will improve profitability by decreasing costs and increasing productivity. A number of other factors also come into play, such as whether a business owns or leases the building it occupies and the age and reliability of equipment.

Every building is different and so is every business, Diether said. But there are some things that nearly every business can do to increase efficiency — starting with lighting. Replacing incandescent lighting with more efficient compact fluorescent lighting or even light-emitting diodes offers savings, Diether said. The longer lighting is used on a daily basis, the greater the savings. Generally, more energy efficient lighting can pay for itself within two to three years, he said.

Sealing air leaks and installing additional insulation helps keep buildings warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer and typically recoup the expense in lower energy bills in less than three years, he said. Repairing leaking or disconnected ductwork is relatively inexpensive and offers almost immediate savings, he added.

In the case of businesses with manufacturing operations, it could pay to replace aging electric motors or pumps with new and more efficient models, Diether said.

Energy efficiency isn’t only about cutting costs, though, Diether said. Businesses also can increase the comfort of their buildings and, in the process, the productivity of employees who work there. Employees who are too cold, too hot or otherwise uncomfortable tend to spend less time at their work stations or desks, he said.

“There are all sorts of ways for businesses to utilize energy efficiency,” he said.