Contributed Column

Your Business Energy Dollar

by David Corliss, Efficiency Vermont

Vermont business owners’ top 5 questions on energy costs

In my work, I talk to business owners all over Vermont about how to lower their energy bills. No matter what kind of business they run, all of these folks have three things in common: Their time is limited, they want to lower their overhead, and they have similar questions about energy efficiency. The good news is that it’s worth it for all of them to find out if they’re wasting their hard-earned money on unnecessarily high energy bills instead of investing it in energy-saving upgrades that offer good returns.

Here are the top questions I hear from Vermont business owners about investing in energy efficiency:

1. I want to cut my energy costs, but won’t that mean changing how I do business, like keeping some lights off?

Not at all. Energy-saving lighting can actually improve conditions in your facility. Often, business owners get better illumination when they upgrade, because light quality is higher and the fixtures are placed properly for optimal coverage. And that can have a positive impact on working conditions for your staff and on safety for everyone in your facility. It also can literally put your products in a better light.

2. Can I rely on energy savings? If I make an investment, I need a return on it.

Energy savings not only last for years but they actually increase if energy rates go up. The businesses I worked with last year can expect an average rate of return of 38 percent on their efficiency investments.

3. When do I know if it’s time to make the move to more efficient equipment or buildings?

There are a number of scenarios that indicate that an upgrade would be worth investigating:

• Frequent equipment breakdowns and repairs

• Functioning equipment nearing the end of its useful life

• Failed equipment

• You’re renovating, expanding, or building a facility

• High maintenance costs. For example, if you’re replacing lights often, consider efficient lighting and controls. Efficient lights not only use less energy, they also last longer, so won’t need to be replaced as often.

• Uncomfortably hot, cold, drafty, or stuffy rooms. These conditions could point to a leaky building and/or HVAC equipment needing replacement, repair, or controls adjustments.

4. Won’t it be disruptive to make upgrades?

Some equipment replacements are no more disruptive than changing a burned-out light. Others take more time. I’ve never worked with a business that regretted taking the time to make a cost-effective upgrade that enabled it to keep more of the money it earned instead of spending it on wasted energy. In fact, I’ve heard the opposite: People wish they’d acted sooner to stop overspending on energy.

5. I don’t know what I need to do to reduce my bills. How do I even start?

Because you’re in Vermont, you have services available to you through Efficiency Vermont. That’s where I work. My co-workers at customer service spend their days helping people to head down the right path to find and fix the causes of high energy bills. The toll-free number is 855-317-2254.

They also know about available financial incentives, rebates, or financing through local banks or credit unions for certain kinds of upgrades.

Don’t worry, we don’t send you a bill; the State of Vermont funds our services through the energy efficiency charge that you already pay on your electric bill. If you want to check things out first, go to •

David Corliss is an account manager with Efficiency Vermont.

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