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More Ways Small Businesses Can Save on Energy and Lower Your Bill

Small businesses that have installed energy-efficient equipment know the investment can pay off in many ways. The benefits include savings on energy costs, increased productivity, reduced downtime, a more sustainable business model and even financial incentives from government bodies and electric utility providers. Opportunities for energy efficiency savings extend to many other types of equipment beyond often considered lighting and HVAC systems.

While upgrading lighting and HVAC equipment are practical and profitable places to get started, many other kinds of equipment commonly used by small businesses also offer opportunities for improving energy efficiency and saving money. This article explores the opportunities for:

  • Refrigerators and Freezers
  • Commercial Cooking Equipment
  • Water Heating
  • Air Compressors

Refrigerators and Freezers

Commercial refrigerators and freezers are used in grocery stores, convenience stores, restaurants, food service, social clubs, schools, religious institutions and more.

Because refrigeration can account for more than half of monthly energy costs for some businesses, energy-efficient commercial refrigerators and freezers were introduced earlier than many other types of energy-saving equipment. In fact, for some time, new commercial building construction and remodeling codes in many areas have required energy-efficient refrigeration, often models with the U.S. Department of Energy’s ENERGY STAR® designation.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, ENERGY STAR certified commercial refrigerators and freezers are, on average, 20% more energy efficient than standard models. Depending on design and construction, businesses can save between $300 and $1,000 in operating electricity costs over the life of the equipment. 1 ENERGY STAR certified models are an excellent choice to replace older, inefficient equipment. Additionally, many utility companies offer financial incentives for choosing these higher efficiency models. These incentives often align with the annual energy savings provided by more energy-efficient models.

Commercial Cooking Equipment

Electric commercial cooking equipment like steam cookers, hot food holding cabinets and kitchen ventilation systems provide excellent opportunities for energy savings for restaurants, foodservice operations, school cafeterias, catering companies and small processed/packaged food operations.

ENERGY STAR certified electric steam cookers are significantly more efficient than standard models. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy states they can be up to 60% more energy efficient and 90% or more water efficient than conventional models. High-efficiency cookers can save a business up to $12,000 on utility bills over the life of the equipment. 2 Similarly, ENERGY STAR certified hot food holding cabinets are about 70% more efficient than standard models and may provide up to $3,000 in lifetime utility bill savings. 3 Additional business savings may be realized through electric utility incentive programs for these types of equipment.

Water Heating

Almost every small business or public location needs water heating, from restaurants to commercial office space to laundromats, and many more. While gas water heating is a viable option for many customers, there are great opportunities to save energy and money if customers choose the electric option with an energy-efficient commercial hot water heater.

The opportunities with commercial water heaters come from those that use heat pumps rather than conventional electric resistance heating. These units capture energy that is already present in the surrounding air and move it to where it is needed to heat water, like an air conditioner working in reverse. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heat pump models are among the most energy-efficient water heaters, often two to three times more energy efficient than ordinary electrical resistance water heaters.4

Many electric utility companies offer financial incentives for replacing conventional water heaters with heat pump models. Incentives are typically paid on a per unit basis, or could also be based on the incremental energy savings between heat pump heaters and conventional electrical resistance heaters.

Air Compressors

Often referred to as the “fourth utility”, compressed air is critical to a wide range of industries, including auto repair and painting, agriculture, light manufacturing and assembly, woodworking, food and beverage and many others. These compressed air systems use a substantial amount of energy and offer significant opportunities for energy-efficient upgrades and savings.

Upgrading compressed air systems can start by replacing older, fixed speed compressors with high efficiency compressors that use Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) to improve electric motor efficiency.

Additional energy savings are possible when more than just the air compressor is considered. With more sophisticated industrial air systems that include compression, distribution, system controls and air storage, even more efficiency savings are possible by periodically assessing the design and performance of the overall system.

Electric utilities can play a role in these evaluations through custom incentive programs that bring in a utility’s professional partner. These analyses can reveal opportunities for upgrading air storage capacity, switching to high-efficiency air nozzles, addressing leak repair and other efforts that increase overall system energy efficiency. Because significant efficiency improvements are often possible, and because of the amount of electrical energy that’s often involved, payback periods for air system efficiency upgrades tend to be shorter than for other types of equipment, often in the range of one to three years.

Get Going With an Energy Efficiency Upgrade That’s Right for Your Business and Your Budget

There are more ways for small businesses to achieve cost savings through energy efficiency upgrades than just those discussed here, including solutions for lighting and commercial HVAC systems. With an energy efficiency upgrade, businesses have the flexibility to reinvest the bill savings in their business operations or in additional energy efficiency projects. Electric utility companies often partner with their customers to help kickstart business energy efficiency projects with incentives. When combining the value of the incentive with the annual bill savings achieved, these energy efficiency upgrades pay for themselves quickly, helping customers improve their bottom lines throughout the life of the new equipment.

Learn more about improvements that could be right for your business.

Commercial Refrigerators & Freezers 

Commercial Steam Cookers 

Commercial Hot Food Holding Cabinets

Heat Pump Water Heaters

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