By Lee Evans
Running a household or a small business can be expensive. However, many people don’t consider the choice and control they have over their energy expenses.
Now the emerging green economy combined with high connectivity has given birth to a bold new era of energy saving options for everyone. What follows is a list of essential, straightforward items that both homeowners and businesses can check off to trigger the type of cost reduction they’ve always wanted in terms of energy efficiency and renewable energy.
In general, the three main steps you can use to unlock the maximum amount of energy savings for your home or small business: Reduce, electrify and replace.
Reduce. This means that you should first take steps to audit and then lower your energy consumption by completing individualized identified Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs). For example, switch to automated thermostats, LED lighting and controls, increase air sealing and insulation, reduce electricity or fuel use especially for heating and cooling requirements. A review of third-party fuel supply options for potential cost reduction is available at merited.www9.nationalgridus.com
Electrify. This involves progressively moving appliances and equipment from primarily consuming fossil fuels to electric-powered alternatives. For example, the use of more efficient and cost-effective heat pumps for HVAC. Many of the appliances we own in our homes and even in small businesses, for example, can be upgraded to Energy Star appliances that themselves were built with energy efficiency in mind.
Energy savings also extends to our transportation choices. Evaluate as part of a cost-effective holistic approach where instead of using cars with an internal combustion engine, replace personal and business cars with electric vehicles.
Replace. Once you’ve taken the appropriate steps to electrify, you should then replace the electrified home or building with carbon free renewable energy sources. This includes moving to not only wind and solar-powered options but also hydro, geothermal and even battery storage. Community Solar should be evaluated as another cost saving option for homeowners, renters and small businesses.
The data show that going through these important steps is a great way to enjoy not only the benefits of energy savings on average of between 20-30 percent, but also improved marketability for homes or businesses.
Even though, everyone’s energy situation is a bit different from the next, this process must begin by looking inward – meaning first conduct a comprehensive energy audit. NYSERDA and many utility companies offer this service for free to homeowners and at a reduced cost to small and medium businesses.
An NYSERDA GJGNY energy study offers low-cost energy audits for small and medium-sized businesses.
A certified energy auditor will come to your home or business, looking for air leaks, insulation issues and more. They provide a prioritized list of ECMs that will upgrade your home or building for maximum cost savings and comfort. At that point, once you know the exact energy situation you’re dealing with, you can begin to institute ECMs designed to address your unique environment.
Small business owners can use automation and controls to set a better schedule for their HVAC and lighting systems, so that their building isn’t being lit, heated or cooled when employees aren’t in a room or building. Temperature and motion sensors can be used to have an HVAC system automatically stick to a schedule based on whether the building is occupied, guaranteeing comfort when it is and savings when it isn’t.
LED lighting can replace traditional light bulbs for an immediate cost-savings, for example. Fixing insulation issues discovered via a professional audit can help save money on heating and cooling right away.
ECMs combined with renewable energy gives people the best opportunity for sustainable energy cost savings. After ECMs, begin to evaluate for yourself or with experts the most cost-effective, viable way to replace old-school fossil fuel with more efficient renewable alternatives.
While all alternatives should be evaluated, a solar PV system investment comes with tax credits and incentives, and significantly lower cost-per-watt than traditional electricity. If rooftop solar or ground mounts aren’t viable or desirable, community solar should be considered. Homeowners, employees and other members of the public can join a community solar farm with no up-front cost in many areas. Upgrading to a geothermal system is probably easier than you realize and should be part of the screening process for sustainable energy savings.
In terms of how you’re going to pay for all of this, don’t worry. There are a wide range of different incentives and tax benefits designed to support your effort. When it comes to upgrading to things like energy efficient appliances or “smart” equipment, you may be able to save money right away by going through your current utility company.
NYSERDA also has several programs to help lower home or business’ energy bills.
One example is the Assisted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program that offers a whole-house approach to income-qualified homeowners. Another is the Business Energy Pro program that financially supports energy efficiency upgrades and operational improvements for business owners.
To find programs, search Nyserda.ny.gov/all-programs.
Even when taken in a vacuum, any one of these steps could bring with it short- and long-term cost reduction for business owners and a reduction in utility bills for homeowners. When taken together, they represent the types of financial savings—and leap forward in terms of energy efficiency—that both homeowners and small business owners cannot afford to ignore.
Finally, think about educating your employees, your tenants and your family members about how to lead more sustainable energy efficient lives across the board. If everyone works together, savings are no longer a matter of “if” but “when.”
Evans is a partner with ReWire Group LLC, a family owned, state-certified Minority Business Enterprise, energy advisory firm.