What do cold temperatures and financial returns have in common? Turns out, they are co-dependent, and tend to drop together. A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with our member business, Intelligent Labor & Moving Company. Ezekiel Wheeler, owner of the company, said to me: “If you are only planning on running a business for 6 months, you can do all sorts of bizarre things. But if it is something that’s going to last longer, sustainability is really the key word that makes it function on every level.”
Small businesses are an integral part of their communities. They provide goods and services to their own communities, which increases autonomy and resiliency. In order to keep serving their communities, small businesses have to ensure their viability through consistency of returns and financial stability. An increased predictability of energy expenses could make operational costs more manageable.
However, throughout the year we sometimes experience unpredictable weather patterns. Some prompt us to crank up the heat, others – turn up the A/C. Neither helps keep the energy bill stable. This year, the summer season had us reaching for water, and we have already seen the king tide at Fort Point Channel (and Long Wharf) rise 2 feet higher than usual. The heavy rains keep flooding Eastern Mass regularly during this month of October. What will this winter bring?
While we can’t entirely predict this year’s winter, we can offer some guidance on adapting to the effects of unpredictable temperatures. Whether you are looking to making your retail location, warehouse, or home office weather-resilient, look no further. CABA has put together these simple strategies to get you through the winter.
Look out for yourself AND your business.
As a term used in biology, resiliency means “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties”. We have to think about our communities as systems, which are made up of elements such as residents, schools, churches, small businesses, and so on. Winter storms can bring about many challenges to all of these elements. Communication is key when addressing preparation for upcoming winter storms. Be sure to keep your staff, clients, and customers up to date with any changes in your operations or hours.
Create an emergency or a preparedness plan for your business. Put on paper how you are going to prepare for snow days, who will be responsible for ordering salt, and what happens when the power goes out (do you have a backup generator, a portable heater, or will you be able to transport all employees home safely by a shuttle bus?). Look at how neatly Boston University’s Dental School organized their emergency instructions. It takes as much place as an award on your wall, yet might prove much more useful!
Get an energy audit.
Energy audits are worth the small time investment. (We only mention time because energy audits are free!) By contacting Mass Save, you can have a qualified technician come in and assess all of the elements that make up the physical system of your business, and work with you to unlock big savings on energy efficiency.
This can save you money in more than one way. First, the technician assesses your “building envelope”, which includes roofs, doors, windows, construction joints, penetrations like pipes or chimneys, and external walls. The Department of Energy suggests that following up on such an assessment (caulking up leaky windows, for example, or adding proper insulation) can save you at least 15% on your energy bill.
Second, the technician will assess your electrical system. As the system gets older, the circuit breakers, transformers, and lighting control circuits require maintenance to function properly. In office buildings, lighting may represent nearly 40% of the total bill value. Both an assessment and a potential retrofit can reduce these operational costs.
Usually, HVAC systems consume up to 30% of a typical energy bill, and a leaky system causes the total number to go up. Updating an outdated system can minimize your bill cost for many years to come. When you replace an old natural gas heating or water heating system, you can get up to $1,600 in rebates!
Mass Save’s energy audit is available to all commercial and residential locations, so it doesn’t matter where you operate from. What matters is your desire to ensure the predictability of operational costs. An added bonus of going through the Mass Save audit? As a result of it, you may be eligible for a free set of LED lightbulbs and other perks!
Measured = managed.
Before your energy audit technician leaves, ask him about a discounted programmable thermostat. Residential customers receive the thermostat for free along with LED bulbs and advanced power strips. Commercial customers will receive a rebate for a thermostat. The rebate for a new one is worth $25, which mean you receive this device for cheap and it is definitely worth the investment. A programmable thermostat allows you to set the exact temperature you want for the exact duration of time you need.
Setting your thermostat to keep up a certain temperature during the heating season can save energy and money. Savings come from keeping temperature fluctuations at a minimum throughout the day. Over time this practice reduces energy consumption, which in turn helps cut the bill. Small businesses can get up to 70% off of the cost of such a device (and many others) through the Direct Install program by Mass Save.
For CABA member businesses, we also provide an on-demand software product known as Business Sustainability Performance and Reporting Kit. bSPaRK is an online tool that tracks all of the business’s energy, waste, water and transportation usage, showing the exact amount of energy used over time. By comparing the data from different time periods, you are able to see how much energy they save over the years of being energy efficient.
Buy local energy.
If the majority of your energy expenses come from electricity, you might consider going renewable. We at CABA know very well that sometimes doing any distributed generation is impossible for you, so we thought of two services you can take nevertheless advantage of:
- Mass Energy makes it easy as 1-2-3. In order to switch to a fully renewable supply with your current utility provider, all you have to do is sign up for the service (you will need your utility account number), and Mass Energy will handle it for you.
- Switching to a community solar program may cut your total energy bill by up to 10%. We are particularly fond of community solar access provided through our member businesses, Solstice Initiative and Relay Power.
It is also worth thinking about heating. Most of the businesses we visited during our BARS campaign this summer mentioned that they heat with natural gas. Lo and behold, Mass Save’s incentives for natural gas heating, hot water gas heating, and combined heat & power (CHP)! You can save up to $10,000 on a new boiler, and over $15,000 during the lifetime service of a water heater.
These are just some of the things you can do in order to make your business more resilient. Moreover, we want to make sure you stay efficient throughout the year. Sign up for our Newsletter, and we’ll make sure to follow up with more tips!
CABA is on a mission to make every business in Massachusetts climate resilient. It is extremely important for the wellbeing of our communities to sustain the diverse small businesses that make up the Massachusetts economy. If you have more suggestions for other businesses in the state to reduce their energy consumption and/or their bill, drop us a line or give us a call!