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Small Business Energy Savings | March 3, 2017

Strategies for Energy Savings in the Break Room

No matter what the industry, small business owners can likely agree on one thing: Finding cost saving ideas for the workplace is essential.

We’ve tackled a number of ways to help small business owners find ways to save energy at work. Posts have included everything from energy-saving tips on heating and cooling to a checklist of ways to save on energy costs. Here, we’re going to tackle energy savings in the break room.

The “break room” — or any other communal area shared by a group of employees — isn’t always top of mind when businesses consider cost saving ideas for the workplace. After all, it doesn’t house computers (that can be shut down or put into sleep mode, which saves energy), and the heating system is likely already part of an overall plan for ways to save energy at work. But ignoring the potential energy savings in the break room is a mistake. Here are some ways you can save.

  • Use Energy Star appliances wherever possible. If your break room has a refrigerator and/or dishwasher, choosing appliances that are Energy Star-certified can provide energy savings in the break room. Energy Star appliances have been certified to use less electricity, less water (in the case of the dishwasher), and to operate more efficiently overall. If you have a dishwasher, be sure to set some ground rules for running it (e.g., when it’s full) to ensure the best energy savings practices.
  • Eliminate the water cooler. Instead, invest in a water filter cooler for the fridge. Tap water is generally less expensive than bottled water or a free-standing filtration system.
  • Switch off appliances at the end of the day. Even if they’re not running, they’re sucking up power. Connecting appliances to a power strip makes this easy, because with the touch of a single switch, you can power down everything on the circuit. If you have a microwave, toaster, coffee maker or similar appliances, this is one way to cut down on phantom energy drain when they’re not in use.
  • Use sensor-activated lights. When considering cost-saving ideas for the workplace, you might wish to think about how your space uses lights. Natural light is definitely the least expensive, so if you have windows that can offer robust lighting you’re already ahead of the game. Whether your space is made up of individual offices or is a communal work environment, encouraging employees to keep their desks near a source of natural light can be helpful; you might not need to have lights on all the time. But, energy savings in the break room presents a different scenario — although your staff might be in and out of that space during the day, chances are that it’s not consistently occupied during work hours. While it might be nice to think that each employee would turn off the lights when leaving the room, that’s probably not realistic. Instead, consider installing a sensor-activated light which can be triggered when someone enters the area and set so it will turn off after a specific amount of time. That way, you’re only paying to light that space on an as-needed basis.
  • Cut down on vending machines. Do you know how much it costs to run a refrigerated beverage machine? It could be $300-$500 per year. If you’re leasing the machine, try adding that cost to the amount you’re already paying, and it might be a more expensive endeavor than you thought. While it might be a nice perk to offer on-site drinks for employees, there might be another option if you’re looking for ways to save energy at work. If you already have a refrigerator, you could stock a few soft drinks on a particular shelf in there and have staff pay for them on the honor system. Or, you might weigh whether the perk is really worth the cost. How many employees are actually purchasing soft drinks from the vending machine? If it’s just a handful, getting rid of the machine could be a way of saving money in the break room that doesn’t impact a lot of people. You can encourage them to bring beverages from home, which could also be more eco-friendly if they are able to use reusable drink containers.

Saving money in the break room could be just a matter of making some small changes to your normal routine, and it’s one of the ways to save money at work without touching salaries, benefits or other important expenses. And this is just the tip of the iceberg — you could be saving money on heating and cooling, for example, in ways you might not have considered. Be sure to check out this roundup of ways to save on energy costs so that you can be running as cost-effective a business as possible!

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