Ten Eco-friendly Alternatives to Cranking Up the AC
It’s been a hot couple of weeks. Not hotter than it’s ever been here in the West Coast, but in the other side of the country, enough for the New York Times to call this latest spell a heat wave.
Fortunately, few people have died due to the summer heat compared to similar disasters in previous years. However people all over the country have been extremely uncomfortable ever since summer started.
Good thing that preparing for any heat wave is not only easy, it’s great for your bottom-line and the environment too.
Here are a few simple things you do:
10.) Fix weather seals
Make sure your airconditioner’s cooling down your workspace -not your entire neighborhood. A well-sealed work area will keep your airconditioner from overloading and allow you to keep cold air in, and hot air out. Or the opposite, when the weather gets colder.
Air leakage can be a serious problem. You can save up to 30% of your summer energy bill just by fixing or improving your weather seals. Replacing weather-stripping and caulking gaps is fairly simple to do by yourself. For a more professional fix -when appearances matter – have experienced contractors do this for you. The reduction in utility bills should pay for this over time.
9.) Install ceiling fans
Ceiling fans are way underrated. They consume a small fraction of the power a typical commercial a/c unit requires (meaning lower utility bills!) and allow you to make far better use of whatever climate control appliances you already have. Not only do they help cool you and your employees (and customers!) by themselves, ceiling fans can help better distribute cold air from your airconditioners – ensuring there are fewer ”hot spots” in your work space. If you’re considering getting more a/c units, consider having a few ceiling fans installed first.
If your workspace is in a temperate zone, consider getting ceiling fans that can turn in opposite directions to help draw cold air up and warm up your space during winter. In tropical and subtropical climates, much cheaper orbit fans can be considered.
Cooling in large commercial and industrial settings can also be augmented with new high-volume_low-speed fans.
8.) Upgrade lights and fixtures
New LED lights not only use much less power than fluorescent (and incandescent, if you still have them) bulbs, they also run much cooler. You might not notice any temperature difference right off the bat, but in a medium size office, the switch is often significant enough to reduce heat and give you savings over time.
Another area to look into is computers and other equipment. In one of my previous jobs, we oversaw a transition from CRT monitors to the power saving flat screens that are so ubiquitous today. I can’t recall the numbers exactly, but around 500 monitors and a few servers were replaced. Over a year, those purchases paid for themselves. We were able to save thousands of dollars not only because the new equipment was using much less power, but also because we could run the a/c’s less frequently.
Speaking of airconditioners, a good rule of thumb is anything over 10 years old needs to be replaced. Appliances from a decade ago are huge power hogs compared to more recent models. This also holds true for almost everything, but items you should consider replacing include refrigerators, television sets, and monitors.
7.) Make drinking water freely available
Dehydration can play havoc with anyone’s ability to work. It’s not just that nagging feeling that you need a drink that does it either- dehydration has a direct effect on your ability to concentrate.
While you probably already have easy access to water, make sure that your entire work space or office has ready access. No one should have to go to a whole different floor or area to get water. A glass of water also cools you down, making the heat less likely to affect your performance.
6.) Relax dress codes
This doesn’t mean that you should allow your employees to dress like slobs. Outside impressions are formed based on how you and your employees dress. However, you should be willing to make concessions for your employees’ comfort to and from offices and work sites. For instance, if employees are normally required to wear trousers outside, perhaps allow them to wear short sleeved shirts or shorts for these few months of summer.
5.) Clean A/C filters
You should be doing this regularly anyway. Cleaning or replacing a/c filters will reduce the strain on your airconditioner, allowing it to run better, and cut down on incidences of airborne illnesses. When a/c filters get dirty- they get really dirty. Cleaning or replacing filters will help you save money not just by allowing your airconditioners to run better, but by preventing employees from getting sick as well.
4.) Upgrade insulation
This might be a pretty pricey upgrade in a workspace that you’re already using, but it will always be worth it. Not only can you ease up on the a/c, but you can save up on heating bills during winter as well. Replacing insulation can be a much more involved process than replacing weather seals, so it’s normally much easier to just let a contractor handle this. If you need to do this yourself, be sure to have all the right safety gear. Some old insulating materials can be hazardous, if not downright lethal when handled improperly.
3.) Tint and shade windows
A decent window tint will not only cut down on direct solar radiation that makes its way inside your work spaces and offices – they can also offer you a measure of privacy – which many of you might find important. Shades and curtains can also do the same thing at the cost of visibility. Less direct solar radiation making way into your work space means less heat.
But these days it makes more and more sense to:
2.) Go solar!
What better way to reduce or even totally eliminate your dependence on the power grid than with solar panels? Admittedly there are still a few problems with scaling solar energy in some cases, even as solar energy technology continues to improve. However, its problems with high initial costs and energy storage are mostly surmounted, and it’s an increasingly attractive option for small businesses to reduce their ecological impact – and keep their a/c running.
A few states also currently give subsidies and other incentives for businesses to run at least partly on solar energy, which makes this option even more appealing.
1.) Plant trees!
If you’re faced with choosing two business locations that are otherwise equal, always choose the one with more trees. Strategically-placed trees will cut down on solar glare, provide shade, cut down on air pollution. This means less overloaded airconditioners and filters that don’t get gunked up as fast. Trees will also increase humidity through transpiration.
The water released from a single large tree can produce the cooling effect of 10 room-sized air conditioners operating 24 hours a day, making trees even more appealing in dry climates. Plus, they just make everything look so much better.
Beating the summer heat is more than just short-term survival. It can be a way for your business a much more efficient machine.
Sources and Additional Reading
energy.gov/energysaver/energy-saver - Energy.gov
Energy saving tips for business - Powerdirect.au
Heat to Roil More Fire Weather in West Coast - Accuweather.com
Benefits of Solar Power For Business - Small Business Chronicle
Other images from Wikimedia Commons and Reddit.com
Arthur Piccio is one of PrintRunner Blog’s resident Admins. He is also the head writer for The Art of Small Business. His work has been featured on New York Times’ You’re The Boss Small Business Blog, Bizsugar, SmallBiz Trends, and other small business and printing-oriented online publications.
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