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April 12, 2014

ASK SCORE: Profitability requires power management

TERRE HAUTE — Small business owners are always on the lookout for ways to improve the efficiency of their processes and tasks. But a person could pace a store, shop floor or home office for hours and never spot some of the most inefficient aspects of the business, even though they are usually in plain sight.

These cost culprits arelights, equipment, computers — anything that uses electricity. And if business owners don’t pay attention to how they use these, the resulting waste may well compromise profitability and, potentially, competitive competitiveness. And don’t assume that convenience makes up for the added cost; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program estimates that small businesses can save as much money per square foot by cutting energy waste as large organizations.

Fortunately, there are many simple ways to make your small business more energy-efficient. And even with lease space or equipment or processes that require ample amounts of electricity, improving efficiency in other areas will have a positive effect on the power bill — an important consideration in an era of volatile energy costs.

Here are some tips to help get the most out of each energy dollar:

• Turn off lights, computers and other equipment when not in use. This includes computers, which, contrary to popular belief, do not use less energy when in screen-saver mode. The better strategy is automatic switching to sleep mode or simply turning monitors off.

• Track down “phantom” loads — computers, laptop AC adapters, printers and other appliances that continue to draw a small amount of power when they are switched off. Unplug them when not in use, or have them plugged in to a power strip with an on/off switch. (Make sure the power strip itself is energy efficient as well.)

• Replace incandescent light bulbs with ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent lamps, wherever appropriate. CFLs cost about 75 percent less to operate, and last about 10 times longer.

• Eliminate unnecessary lighting and, if possible, make use of “free” daylight during the day by rearranging workspaces. “Solar screens,” shades and blinds will help regulate glare and control solar heating, easing the burden on heating, ventilating and air-conditioning system.

• Invest in annual “tune-ups” of the HVAC system. Along with enjoying greater efficiency, owners may also avoid major repairs, which typically happen on the hottest or coldest days of the year.

• Use rechargeable batteries for products like cordless phones; they are more cost effective than throwaway batteries. But be sure to unplug the chargers when they are not in use or when the batteries are charged.

For more guidance on cost-effective small business practices, contact SCORE. There you’ll find a wealth of information resources and training opportunities, plus free, confidential counseling from more than 13,000 business experts. For more information, visit www.score.org.

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