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Save Energy - Save Money

Helen Pilgrim, FPL Business Account Specialist for Miami-Dade County, works with hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses that want to reduce their energy usage and save money on monthly utility bills.

According to Pilgrim, there are some basic ways a business can cut costs, many of which take little effort but can translate into big savings. Below are her "top ten" basic, low-cost changes Florida businesses can make now to save money and energy:

  1. Turn off the lights before leaving at night or purchase occupancy sensors or timers that do it for you. For every 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) you save by turning things off, you will save $100 on your utility bill, assuming average electricity costs of ten cents per kWh.
  2. Consider upgrading or installing roof and ceiling insulation or reflective roof measures. If your business has a poorly insulated roof or inefficient windows, chances are your air conditioning and ventilating equipment are working extremely hard to keep unwanted heat out of your building--and that means higher energy costs.
  3. Cool efficiently. If possible, set the thermostat at 78 degrees or warmer with the thermostat fan switch on "auto." For additional savings, raise the thermostat to 82 degrees or warmer during off-business hours.
  4. Be sure to turn off computers and office equipment when not in use. A single monitor draws about 100 watts per day; if left on overnight and on weekends, it could add $30 or more to the annual energy bill. Multiply this by the total number of computers in your business and it adds up.
  5. If possible, dim hallway lighting by 30 percent during daytime hours to reduce demand charges and energy consumption.
  6. Make sure that your HVAC system is regularly cleaned and serviced to help prevent costly heating and cooling bills:

    • Check the outside air system or economizer
      The outside air system or economizer is a dampered vent used by many cooling systems; it draws in the required outside air during occupied periods and can also be used to reduce the need from mechanically cooled. If not regularly checked, the linkage on the damper can seize up or break--which can add to a building's annual energy bill. Have a licensed technician check, clean and lubricate the dampers about once a year, and repair if necessary.
    • Check air-conditioning temperatures
      With a thermometer, check the temperature of the return air going to your air conditioner and then check the temperature of the air coming out of the register that is nearest the A/C unit. If the temperature difference is less than 14? Fahrenheit (F) or more than 22?F, have a licensed technician inspect the unit.
  7. Change filters -- filters should be changed monthly or more often if your business is near a highway, construction site or other place where the air is dirtier than usual.
  8. Check cabinet panels on a quarterly basis and make sure the panels to your rooftop air-conditioning unit are fully attached, with all screws in place and all gaskets intact so that no air leaks out of the cabinet.
    Chilled air leaking out can cost $100 per rooftop unit per year in wasted energy.
  9. Clean condenser coils--check the condenser coils quarterly for either man-made or natural debris that can collect in them. At the beginning and end of the cooling season, thoroughly wash the coils.
  10. Request an energy evaluation from your utility. Most utilities offer a free, comprehensive review of a customer's energy usage to help them make informed, cost-effective decisions. Meanwhile ask your utility about any incentives available for reducing energy use.