Article

Go Green and Save Big in Your Office

There are many good reasons to save energy as part of your day-to-day business operations, including:

  • to save money on your energy bills
  • to reduce the amount of energy going to waste around your business, and
  • to lighten your impact on the environment.

No matter how big or small your business may be, you can make a difference by identifying how you’re currently using energy and then making some simple changes to conserve that energy. Here are some tips to help you:

Watch your lighting

For most small businesses, lighting tends to use the most electricity – and it provides the greatest opportunity for savings.

Switch to well-designed, energy-efficient lighting. Instead of using ceiling fixtures that light entire rooms, use task lighting to direct the light exactly where you need it – on a specific work area, for example.

Remove unnecessary lights. Many lighting systems are over-designed, providing too much light for the task. This is inefficient and can make the working space uncomfortable. In some cases, lamps or whole lighting fixtures can be removed or retrofitted without creating lighting problems, although this may create uneven lighting in the working environment.

Consult a lighting professional for advice before embarking on a removal or retrofit project to ensure the resulting lighting level will meet Workers' Compensation Board standards and provide optimal comfort.

Adjust lighting levels to match your true needs. Are your lights always on full, even when your business is not open to the public? Before and after "public" hours, try to use your lights only as needed: have just enough light for employees to safely do certain jobs, such as cleaning or restocking shelves.

Turn off lights whenever an area is unoccupied, including common areas such as copy rooms, break rooms, conference rooms, and restrooms. If your lights can be controlled separately, turn off lights whenever there is enough natural light. Post reminders next to light switches or install occupancy sensors to keep lights off in unused areas.

You may be able to turn off up to half of your lights during certain times of the day – and save considerable energy.

Buy ENERGY STAR®

When it’s time to buy new office equipment, always look for the ENERGY STAR® label to know that the machine meets or exceeds the Government of Canada’s highest standards for energy efficiency. ENERGY STAR® office machines help save energy in two ways:

  1. they use less energy to perform regular tasks and,
  2. when not in use, they automatically enter a low-power mode.

Use energy-efficient computing equipment

Substitute laptops for desktops and you could save up to 90% or more. A typical laptop computer has a maximum power consumption of about 15 watts and has extensive power management capabilities. A typical desktop PC with display consumes about 10 times that amount and has limited power management features.

Specify 80 PLUS power supply when ordering computers. 80 PLUS means that your computer power supply is at least 80 per cent efficient or greater at various load thresholds and is power factor corrected.

Laser printers consume a great deal of energy. Black and white ink-jets both cost less to buy and use less energy – and their quality is getting better all the time. You also may be able to make do with a shared printer, rather than a printer at every workstation.

Change your old power bars to the latest current sensing power bars. Unlike traditional power bars that are really just large versions of a wall plug with added surge protection, current sensing power bars truly manage your energy use.

Power off equipment

All electronic devices – including computers, printers, modems, photocopiers, fax machines, televisions, cell phone chargers, coffee makers, and anything else with a clock, timer, adapter, memory or remote control – continue to draw power even when you’re not using them. This is known as phantom load.

An easy way to save energy, then, is to turn off these devices whenever they’re not in use, especially nights and weekends. And if you must leave on your computers, at least turn off the monitors. This will not affect the programs you are working on. A computer's LCD screen typically uses about 25 per cent of the total energy required to run a computer and a CRT monitor can use up to 50 per cent.

Ban screensavers (which do not save energy) and instead enable the "power save" or “sleep” mode on your computers. Your computers and monitors will automatically power down and save energy when no one is working at them, but will come back to full power with a touch on the keyboard or a click on the mouse.

Install ENERGY STAR® LAN-based activation software to automatically power off workstation monitors connected to your network when they are not in use.

For more ideas and incentives to help your business seize energy-saving opportunities, refer to the BC Hydro Power Smart program.