5 Ways to Lower Your Business’s Carbon Footprint (And save money while you’re at it…)

5 Ways to Lower Your Business’s Carbon Footprint (And save money while you’re at it…)

Global warming, carbon tax, cap and trade, going green, carbon footprint, the buzz words surrounding the topic are endless.

What it comes down to, however, is pretty simple. How much pollution is your business responsible for creating on a daily basis?

We’ve all seen the massive amounts of pollution trapped along the Wasatch Front every winter. Inversion is a huge issue in this state. While it may not be as pressing a concern here in Southern Utah, it won’t be long before that changes. Our valleys will be as polluted as those surrounding the state capitol in Salt Lake City if we continue spewing carbon emissions without regard to the impact.

The good news is, it’s fairly easy to lower your carbon footprint and reduce the amount of pollution your business creates. And the best part of the deal is, it’ll make your business more profitable at the same time.

On top of the financial benefits, the value your business can glean from a boost in reputation and brand awareness for your green efforts shouldn’t be overlooked.

Going green isn’t something your business should do quietly. You should make sure everyone knows all about your efforts to make the planet and our community a better place to live and breathe.

Here are five simple and easy steps you can take today to save on energy and make your business greener:

#1) Power your business down at night and over the weekends.

It’s an easy step. Turn off computers, lights, anything and everything you can when your business is closed.

The simplest way to do this is to engage your employees. Ask them to do their best to create a more environmentally friendly business.

But if you want to get a bit more sophisticated, you can also monitor your small business consumption with the installation of an energy monitoring system.

Your power bill tells you little more than how much energy your business consumed as a whole and how much it cost you each month.

Energy monitors attach to your circuit breaker panel and will allow you to get much more detailed reports about which devices are consuming how much power. They’re fairly inexpensive, they start at about $300. And there are a number of companies that sell them. Sense, (https://sense.com) Schneider Electric (https://www.se.com/us/en/home/smart-home/wiser/), and TED (http://www.theenergydetective.com/) to name a few.

Each of these devices comes with access to either an app on your phone or a dashboard on the internet. This allows you to see, in real-time, which individual devices are consuming power and how much power they’re consuming throughout your home or business.

Armed with this detailed information, you can easily find ways to reduce your consumption. You may decide it’s time to replace that old power hog of a refrigerator in the break room. Or you may decide to give the heater a nudge up once you see just how much the space heaters your employees are bringing in are consuming instead.

#2) Set your thermostat properly or install a smart thermostat.

If you don’t already have a programmable or a smart thermostat, get one.

Adjust the thermostat to shut down the HVAC system when your business is closed and to turn back on just before you open the doors in the morning.

Heating or cooling your building is, far and away, the largest source of power consumption. And that makes it the largest portion of the carbon footprint for most homes and businesses. Simply turning the thermostat off when no one’s around, and adjusting it by a degree or two can save huge amounts of energy and money.

Don’t freeze your employees too much during the winter, however. Paying for space heaters can be more expensive than simply turning the heat up a degree or two. Pay attention to your business and your employees and manage your thermostat accordingly.

#3) Be aware of “Peak Demand” charges.

Depending on the size of your business and electricity use you may be seeing a “peak demand” charge on your power bill every month.

This is a charge your power company assesses to cover the maximum amount of energy your business uses at a single point in time during the month.

Think of it this way, if you bake bread at your business and turn on all of your electric ovens at the same exact time every morning, you’re going to have a very large “peak demand.”

If instead, you bake bread throughout the day and only turn on one oven at a time, you’ll reduce your “peak demand” and you’ll lower your power bill because the power company won’t have to ensure the availability of all the electricity you were demanding by turning all your ovens on at once.

Doing everything you can to ensure you don’t turn everything on at the same time inside your business can help lower your demand charges and greatly reduce your power bill.

From staggering the start times of large pieces of electric machinery to setting the programs to turn the AC and heat on at different times in the morning if you have more than one thermostat in your building, there are numerous ways to reduce your peak demand. And remember, many electrical appliances like AC units and heaters, use a much greater amount of electricity when they first power on than they do when they’re running and act accordingly.

#4) Switch to LED lighting wherever possible.

Most homeowners have been swapping out incandescent bulbs for LED for years now.

But many businesses still run hugely inefficient sodium vapor lights in their parking lots or a store full of fluorescent tubes.

Swapping out those energy hogging lights for more efficient options can save your business thousands of dollars every month and make the return on the investment very attractive for a business owner willing to swap out all the lights in a large facility.

A commercial energy efficiency expert, like the ones at ACES Lyfe (http://aceslyfe.com) in St. George, can do a quick walk through of your business and let you know just how much energy and money you can save by making the switch to LED.

#5) Go solar.

There’s a reason large corporations such as Apple, Google, Ikea, Kohl’s, Target, and hundreds of others have gone solar. It saves them money and fixes their costs.

Locking in your power rates can not only nearly eliminate your carbon footprint, it can also really help your businesses bottom line.

Going solar not only gives you a great way to show the public you’re serious about being a green company, it also means rate increases from the power company for the electricity your business is going to need, won’t impact your bottom line.

Your business can stay more competitive because your expenses are fixed instead of being at the mercy of the power company’s rate hikes.

Even if power rates rise at just the same rate as inflation, in 25 years, your business will be paying about twice as much for power as it is today.

With options for funding through Utah’s CPACE program and federal and state rebates and incentives for businesses that go solar, there’s never been a better time to switch to the clean, green, energy that beats down on your businesses rooftop every single day.

Again, a local solar and energy efficiency company like ACESLyfe, will be happy to put together numbers for your business and show you just how much you can save.

After you lower your carbon footprint and go green, then what?

At the end of the day, what most business owners care about is, how much they can save. Adopting these five strategies to lower your carbon footprint can help business owners increase profits simply through the savings they’ll see on their fixed costs.

But what’s not baked into those numbers is the increase in brand reputation and sales a business can realize by leveraging their status as a “green company.”

Once you go green, posting frequently to social media, touting your efforts is a must. Let your followers and brand advocates know just how much you care about keeping the community as pollution-free as possible.

Pitch the story of your new solar installation and lower carbon footprint to the media. Brag about your status as a green company as much as you can in your advertising efforts.

In this age of the internet where every business can be found online, making sure your brand is as well represented as possible in every organic channel you can find is imperative. Your brand, your reputation, is more significant now than ever before because information about your company is so easy to find on the internet.

It’s extremely important to ensure good information about your business can be found online, and your status as a green company is indeed good information.

When you couple the incalculable value your brand gets from the good press for going green with the very real and clearly definable value the savings in energy costs provides, it’s surprising there aren’t more business owners taking advantage of the strategy. 

Sealing your home’s envelope

Sealing your home’s envelope

What’s a “home envelope?”

And why is sealing your home envelope important?

No one wants to live in a drafty house. To hear the wind whistling through gaps in your front door or a window whenever a stiff breeze arrives does nothing but suck money from your pockets. Sealing the cracks and gaps in your home is, of course, the logical answer, but how? Why?

Is it all about money? Not letting the heat escape in the winter and the chilled air-conditioned temperatures escape from your home in the summer? The cost of lost energy should be a consideration but there are other more significant reasons to seal your home.

A well-sealed home is a healthy home.

First and foremost, among those reasons is health. Sealing your home prevents outdoor air pollution from becoming indoor air pollution.

Your air conditioner and furnace have filtration systems designed to remove particulate matter from your indoor air. But if you have a constant source of air pollution entering your home, the effects of filtration can be nullified. You and your family are then left surrounded by just as much air pollution inside your home as you are when you’re driving the inversion-filled highways or running through the park on a red flag day.

To read more about the health impacts breathing in polution and air-borne particulate matter can have on you and your family, click here.

And who wants mold in their attic?

In addition, proper sealing of your home, coupled with proper ventilation, another key ingredient in creating an energy-efficient home, can dramatically reduce the possibility of mold and mildew becoming an issue in your attic.

The hot temperatures attics can experience along with even a small amount of moisture creates a breeding ground for black mold. And once mold spores get airborne inside your home, the health impacts on your family can be devastating.

Sealing and ventilating your home and attic prevents spores from getting into your home. More importantly, it removes moisture from the attic preventing mold growth.

Asthma and other respiratory illnesses, headaches, heart disease, stroke; are just a few of the ailments pollution can cause. It’s for that reason every homeowner should consider improving the efficiency of their home.

On top of making your home healthier, a more efficient home will have lower costs of maintenance as well. You’ll also find greater comfort from more even temperatures throughout the home and last but not least, a lower cost of ownership that comes from power bills that will drop anywhere from 20 to over 50 percent.

When you factor in all the benefits sealing and making a home more energy-efficient provides, why wouldn’t everyone want to upgrade their home environment? After all, you’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the investment that is your home. Protect it. Improve it. Make it more comfortable, and make it healthier.

Health Impacts of PM2.5

Health Impacts of PM2.5

PM2.5 goals met. But is it enough?

Salt Lake City has met goals for reducing particulate matter in the air, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

But, have you noticed the air quality getting better where you live? We’re for sure still concerned about the air where we live, and with good reason. The health impacts of PM2.5 high levels of particulate matter are well documented and downright scary.

Here’s the shortlist from the EPA:
  • premature death in people with heart or lung disease
  • nonfatal heart attacks
  • irregular heartbeat
  • aggravated asthma
  • decreased lung function
  • increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty breathing.

For more reading on the health impacts of particulate matter, you can download the EPA PDF on particulate matter exposure here.

The problem with how Utah met the clean air goals

In order to meet the particulate matter goals, an exemption had to be made concerning a number of bad air days over the past few years. In particular, days where fireworks and wildfires produced too much pollution and pushed the Salt Lake City area over the PM2.5 threshold. PM2.5 describes fine inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometers and smaller, according to the EPA.

Utah’s plan to reduce these harmful particulates and reduce the health impacts of PM2.5 in the state has been in place since 2014, and while it’s great news that things haven’t gotten worse, one still has to wonder what they can do at their own home to ensure their family is as safe as possible.

What can you do to mitigate the health impacts of PM2.5?

The good news on that front is there are ways to seal your home and protect your family. A thorough in-home assessment is the best place to start eliminating the health impacts of PM2.5 in your own home.

A home assessment like those provided free of charge from one of our experts at ACES Lyfe, will provide you with a list of place you can seal your home and prevent those fine particulate matter particles from getting into your home.

Sealing can lights, attic vents, ducts, drywall joints and other areas where your home’s envelope has been pierced is the best place to start and can dramatically lower the levels of PM2.5 pollution that can enter your home.

Call today to get your free in-home assessment and we’ll be happy to show you how you can seal out PM2.5, and while you’re at it, you’ll lower your power and gas bills, and improve the comfort of your home as well!

Cart Before the Horse

Cart Before the Horse

Cart before the horse

 

We’ve all heard the expression the “CART BEFORE THE HORSE.” It’s an idiom used to suggest something is done contrary to the way it should be done, should have been done, or with the wrong emphasis.

Using this phrase in relation to “Energy Efficiency and Solar” solutions is a very relative topic and is addressed daily as we consult with our clients and our own representatives.

Whenever I am conversing with people about their energy issues and educating them on the solutions that we provide, by default they immediately refer to renewable energy, wind, batteries, solar, etc. Of those items, the most expensive is the Solar option. While there is most definitely a significant need for renewable energy such as solar, it most definitely needs to be placed “BEHIND THE HORSE!”

Purchasing solar for a house that is “energy-inefficient” is… putting the “CART BEFORE THE HORSE.” It would be the epitome of throwing dollars out of your vehicle window while driving down the road. It makes little sense to add solar panels to a home that has clapped out air ducts, poor insulation, no ventilation, a passive attic environment, unbalanced attic air and exhaust flow, 50-year-old windows, and/or other inefficient problems. Putting energy efficiency before solar, on the other hand, makes a whole lot more sense.  

Typical home energy improvements need to be implemented before the plunge into solar, and there are a few steps that can be taken to make your home or business more efficient first. Examples are:

  • Stop using some of the devices or units that are drawing substantial power
  • Limit the daily use of units or items
  • Find less expensive alternatives for the power consuming items that you have
  • Ventilate your attic space properly and balanced
  •  Insulate your attic space with the proper solution(s)
  • Create a positive/passive environment by way of exhaust fans that are solar powered 
  • Replace existing light bulbs (where most of the energy used turns into heat rather than light) with LED bulbs
  • Upgrade your heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems
  • Replace your old refrigerator and freezer with new, high-efficiency models (either energy-efficient or propane)
  • Replace high energy consumption loads (high-wattage electric stoves, clothes dryers, water heaters, heating appliances)
  • Make an external and/or an internal isolation of your home
  • Utilize your large electrical loads (pool pumps, electrical mills, etc.) during off-peak hours
  • Install solar water heaters and summer shading
  • Utilize devices with timers and other home automation systems
  • If you live in the U.S., when shopping for electrical appliances, look for devices labeled with Energy Star® labels

 

ACES provides many solutions and improvements with examples like sealing air leaks around floors, walls, ceilings, windows, doors, and fireplaces, to spray foam, and weather stripping, amongst many other things we do and offer. The energy savings from reducing drafts in a home alone, not including your attic, can range from 5% to 30%+ per year, and the home is much more comfortable and healthier afterward. What I have experienced is that 99% of the time, and I don’t use that number lightly, the energy efficiency solutions and repairs are less expensive, but most importantly necessary before adding solar. 

create EEcreate They are also necessary for comfort, as well as the obvious fiscal benefits. Upon completing energy efficiency upgrades and repairs for our clients, across the board our clients experience an average savings of 30%, with some clients exceeding 40% or more! What does this mean? This means that instead of a solar system that offsets 100% of your power needs, you now would only need to purchase a system that offsets 70% of your needs. The energy efficiency upgrades and repairs will account for the 30% balance. AND… you now get to enjoy the comfort and health benefits on top of the pocket-book! 

The Energy Efficiency Before Solar Solution 

So let’s be honest with ourselves and just look at this subject from an elementary perspective. Energy efficiency before solar just makes sense simply because saving energy is less expensive than producing it. By improving energy efficiency the cost of the photovoltaic (solar) system you are going to install will be reduced. The more energy you need, the more energy has to be generated. This again means that to meet your daily electricity needs, you have to buy a system that is sufficient enough to offset what you need. So putting the comfort and health benefits aside for a moment, we must not forget about the fiscal benefits of energy efficiency and solar. They are definitely attractive!, but the cart needs to remain “BEHIND THE HORSE”.

The “CART BEFORE THE HORSE” concept is imperative to reverse or realign correctly so that your R.O.I. is quicker and so that it makes the most sense. While the amount of savings varies by state, even a small reduction in dependency on traditional energy sources can indeed have a profound impact on a household budget, especially over time. Many homeowners find that the benefits from solar far outweigh the initial costs, combined with the cost of installation continuing to drop each year as well.

For our eco-conscious homeowners/clients, we know that they rely on a number of materials, installation techniques, and appliances that can help, but the one thing that has been increasing in popularity as it decreases in price is indeed solar. The single most significant problem that I see on a regular basis is that solar has to be, and must be, “Post Efficiency Solutions/Repairs and Upgrades”. That doesn’t mean that if you have solar already that you’re toast! Efficiency solutions should still be implemented with no hesitation. The point that I am driving home is that the ball is in your court if you haven’t installed solar yet! You’ll end up with less solar on your home and the same fiscal benefits, not to forget all of the comfort and health benefits.

Your Invitation to Energy Efficiency: 

Do it the right way and accomplish your goals! If you already have solar, you still have the option to place the cart “BEHIND THE HORSE”, and improve the efficiency of your home! Your ROI will be longer but it still makes sense. If you don’t have solar yet, experience a quicker and more cost effective outcome and put the cart “BEHIND THE HORSE” starting from day one. Placing the cart “BEHIND THE HORSE”, making your home as efficient as possible first, allows you to experience increased savings, a quicker ROI, a healthier home, and a more comfortable home! This is indeed the way forward! 

 

What are you waiting for?

Tax Credits

Tax Credits

Solar Tax Credits to Sunset

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” 

-Benjamin Franklin

Taxes. No one enjoys paying them. We’d all rather use the money for something else. A vacation, a new side-by-side, the kids college tuition, the list goes on. Yet, pay them we must. Fortunately, governments large and small attempt to influence our behavior through tax incentives like the solar tax credit, giving us a few ways to ease the pain and get a little something for ourselves in the bargain.

For example, for years, the federal government and the state of Utah have encouraged businesses and individuals to invest in renewable energy through tax credits. Install solar panels on your home or business, and you’ll get 30 percent of the cost of the project back in the form of a tax credit.

Not a bad deal when you think about it, especially since you get free power from the sun in return. Unfortunately, the famous nugget of wisdom predicts, all good things come to an end.  

Come 2020, the solar tax credit sunset begins. Federal tax credits for renewable energy upgrades for both businesses and homeowners will drop to 26 percent on January 1, 2020. Then in 2021, the solar tax credit drops again to 22 percent and in 2022 is goes away all together for residential solar and drops to 10 percent for businesses.

What does the solar tax credit sunset mean to you?

After years of seeing the cost of solar slowly fall it’s about to go up fairly rapidly. And that means, right now, and for the next six months, this will likely be the best time to install a solar array on your home or business for several years to come.

 Getting 30 percent of the cost of a solar array back on your tax bill can mean thousands of dollars in your pocket instead of Uncle Sam’s come April 15th and it makes the return on your investment and the break even point for solar far more attractive to home and business owners.

When you couple the tax incentives with the state of Utah’s new C-Pace program, a solar project can have a huge impact on revenue for business owners. Not to mention the public relations bonanza you can reap by becoming a “green” business. There’s a reason Uinta Brewing Company brags about how sustainable their brewery is; it’s good business.

If switching to clean energy is something you’ve looked into in the past, whether for your business or your home, but you were scared off by the high price tag or the numbers didn’t make sense at the time, you’ll want to look at it again before the end of 2019. 

 The numbers won’t get any better than they are right now for quite some time. You can find out more about how to take your home or business solar at ACESlyfe.com or you can chat with an experienced and knowledgeable ACES Lyfe rep by calling 435-294-2900 and they’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have.

 There’s no shame in taking advantage of these tax incentives. They help keep the air around us clean, increase our energy independence, reduce green-house emissions and have the potential to save you or your business a whole lot of money while they last. For more information visit the Solar Investment Tax Credit website!

 

What are you waiting for?